Here at oopoomoo we have always emphasized creative vision in photography. As a photographer you should honour your interests and express those interests from your heart. In short, we try to teach photographers to be artists. Unfortunately, social media and the internet don’t reward the slow path to self discovery but instead it rewards instant gratification, easy to digest imagery and techniques of the day with photographers scurrying all over the globe to get to iconic destinations to make replica images or replicate techniques of other photographers. There is little reward for nurturing your own creative vision. We have written about his extensively before here and here.
Recently, our friend and oopoomoo photography assistant, Catherine returned from taking a workshop with esteemed photographers Freeman Patterson and Andre Gallant. Catherine has long been interested in things that most other photographers pass by. She came with me once on a Canadian Rockies ‘Glory of Autumn’ photography tour and spent her time taking pictures of rocks and sticks while everyone else was making images of mountains and lakes. The other photographers just could not figure out why she was ‘wasting her time’ shooting things she could photograph at home when she was in the Canadian Rockies! The truth was simple – Catherine was following her creative muse, sticks and stone moved her more than big mountain scenes (read about Catherine’s experience at this link). She honoured herself by not caving to peer pressure and shooting for herself. Fast forward to her workshop with Freeman and Andre. Catherine was given an assignment to make reflection shots… in cars. She took to the assignment with gusto and came away with an impressive body of work, so impressive that Freeman singled her out from the class as an example of creative vision. By following her heart, and her interests Catherine emerged as an artist.
Last October Samantha and I came up with a workshop idea in the Canadian Rockies called “Beyond the Icon”. The idea was to strip away the temptation for photographers to make or expect classic Canadian Rockies iconic photos. We went after the fall colours were over but before winter ice and snow set in. It was the season of browns and for many photographers the Rockies looked blah (if that is possible). We also purposely took our participants to unknown locations and even just stopped roadside randomly and gave out photo assignments. The results from the participants were impressive and it was fulfilling to see growth in the participants’ creative vision. Sam and I also had the opportunity to do these same assignments along with the students. And we got to spend some time before and after the workshop making personal images. After the trip I noticed that my creative vision was evolving from big vertical landscapes in theatrical light to more intimate, abstract and graphic images. Recently, I finished processing the images from this outing (finally!) and thought I would share my 25 personal faves from the trip in this post.
What is your creative vision? Have you seen it evolve over time? Are you able to be true to yourself in spite of external pressures to shoot something different from what you love to shoot? We would love hear about it in the comments on this blog or share some images with us on the oopoomoo Facebook Group.
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!
Samantha and I have had a busy spring doing photography workshops across the country. Our workshops take a lot of advanced preparation to give our participants the best experience possible. Between our heavy prep time and the fact that we don’t shoot during our workshops, we’ve had very little time to shoot for ourselves. Now that our workshop schedule is done and we have the summer for our own photography we thought it might be nice to show some of our recent work (newly shot and/or processed images). I’ll start off first with some fresh work. Watch for Sam’s new stuff in a follow up post!
It’s hard to believe but it was 10 years ago this week that my guidebook How to Photograph the Canadian Rockies was released!
In 2004, my career as a photographer was suffering because my main source of income, stock photography, had taken a big hit after the market shocks following 9/11 in 2001. I needed something to rejuvenate my career. So I came up with the idea of writing a photographers’ guide book to the Canadian Rockies, a region I knew and loved well. I pitched the idea to a publisher and in April of 2004, with an advance from the publisher in my pocket, I headed to the Rockies to shoot new images and do on-the-ground research for the book. I finished shooting and writing in September of 2004 and turned the manuscript over to publisher who released it in April of 2005. Once the publisher saw the photos I submitted for the guide book, they asked if I would also be willing to do a coffee table book as a companion piece. They called the book Dances with Light – The Canadian Rockies and it was released at the end of April 2005. Both books became Canadian best sellers and each went through three sucessive printings. I’m sure the books would have sold even more copies but the publisher went bankrupt because they expanded too big, too fast. Unfortunately, both books are now out of print. New copies of How to Photograph the Canadian Rockies now sell on Amazon starting at $250.oo! It’s original price was $14.95. Crazy.
Once the publisher went out of business, I bought the remaining copies of How to Photograph the Canadian Rockies (HTPTCR) and sold them through my website – sales were brisk! Once those books were gone, I asked Stephen DesRoches to help me update and design the content as eBooks for specific regions of the Canadian Rockies – we called these eGuides. I took the original content of HTPTCR, added new locations, more photos and updated the descriptions and sold the eGuides by park and by season. Later, when Samantha and I formed our joint company, oopoomoo, we added new locations (the Kootenay Plains) that were not in the original book. And finally, we asked John Marriott, the premier wildlife photographer of the Rockies, to write a title on wildlife photography for the HTPTCR series of eGuides. The result is our eight title library on the Canadian Rockies. Many, many photographers have used our eGuides over the years and our inbox is full of high praise from photographers grateful to us for saving them time and getting them to awesome locations in the right light. In fact, we know of several photographers who have used our eGuides to help them take people on Canadian Rockies photo tours. You know you did a good job when others can take your information and successfully design a photo tour!
To celebrate 10 years of guiding photographers to the right place at the right time either through our eGuides or through our tours and workshops, we are bundling our complete collection of Rockies eGuides into one specially priced package. To buy these eGuides individually costs $80, but now you can buy all eight eGuides for only $60 (basically, you get two eGuides for free). Happy Anniversary!
Stay tuned to this blog because Sam and I will be celebrating this milestone by sharing some of our unpublished Canadian Rockies photos. It’s still a place that makes my heart swell with happiness. We would only add one little plea to this post…please, as Albertans, Canadians and passionate photographers from all over the world, let’s take care of this region and treat it with the respect it deserves.
We were very fortunate to have been invited on an 18-day cruise with One Ocean Expeditions to the Antarctic Peninsula with stops at the Falkland Islands and South Georgia as part of a Photographic Symposium. We thought we would share with you some lessons learned from this adventure to the bottom of the world.
Nature is Awe-Inspiring!
We all need nature in our lives and the more we connect with nature, the more we feel whole. We could see the impact that this wilderness had on people… many were moved to tears by the overwhelming enormity of the place or by the interaction they had with the wildlife. While we were not to approach wildlife, if we were quiet and still, it would eventually pass close by. Even the most hardened among us will melt when a penguin waddles up for a face-to-face encounter or an elephant seal pup snuggles near your leg. For most people, Antarctica is one of the most intense direct encounters with nature they will ever have. This place leaves its mark!
Yet the World is Smaller than We Think
For modern humans, traveling to the end of the world is really no big deal. What used to be epic and dangerous and scary is now just a little inconvenient. The hardest part of the journey is waiting in lines at airports and deciding what movies to choose while you jet across the stratosphere at 600 MPH. Even in Antarctica, where one might think travel is extreme, our toughest choices were whether we should skip the bacon for breakfast and eat the healthy selection of fruit instead. Excursions ashore were safely negotiated in zodiacs with rarely a drop of water splashing us in our expedition wetsuits. The only danger we really faced was that of our own making when we got so carried away with photography that we forgot to watch our step and slipped in some penguin guano. We were impressed (or depressed) by just how accessible the Antarctic wilderness is. Humans are everywhere on this small planet and you can see our ‘footprint’ no matter where you go. Can this wilderness survive the sheer demands and impact that humans have on this planet?
When it Comes to Gear, Less is More
Big cameras, big lenses and travel just don’t mix. This trip was full of photographers with the latest full-frame dSLRs and large, fast telephoto lenses. The amount of camera gear weighing down the zodiacs was astounding. Giant bags of gear and bulky expedition wetskins meant most photographers’ walks on shore maxed out at 100 meters. Hauling all that gear made people tired and soon they had no energy to be creative. Some of the best photos we saw on the trip were made by the spouses of more ‘serious’ photographers: with just a point-n-shoot in hand, the spouses could be more spontaneous in the changing conditions and grabbed great photos while their gear-laden partner fiddled with their equipment. A small lightweight and responsive kit is the way to go. It wasn’t long into the trip when photographers with two systems (e.g. dSLR versus small mirrorless camera or a point-n-shoot) were leaving the big guns behind in the boat for the joy of a small camera.
Speaking of Cameras, They Sometimes Get in the Way
This trip was full of photographers. They take pictures, constantly. A camera is always in front of their face. Some photographers never really saw Antarctica except through the filter of the camera. They interacted more with the box than the environment. In fact several of the staff who have done dozens of trips to Antarctica told us that this group was the most disconnected from nature of any group they have ever seen. Nature photographers disconnected from nature? But it was true – to really appreciate this place, we learned that you had put the camera down and just look and be in the moment. In our busy lives, we have forgotten how to just take things in… we are so programmed to do and to produce. Some of our favorite memories are not the photos but the quiet moments of observation.
Speaking of Observation, Fur Seals are Scary!
We admit it’s hard to concentrate on photos or quiet nature observation when you are fearing for your life! Fur seals love to charge and bite humans. We can’t blame them, we are passing through their territory and they want to chase us out. But dodging fur seals can be stressful. Take us back and put us in the Canadian Rockies with a few grizzly bears and we’ll feel much safer!
Being Offline was Awesome!
We were offline for over three weeks and we loved it. The constant barrage of email and social media is just so much noise in the modern world. Being disconnected so we could fully connect with nature was just so great! We highly recommend at least one sabbatical away from the internet per year!
And Finally…You Don’t Have to Travel Far to be Inspired
For us, our trip to Antarctica reinforced something we already know. Here in Canada we live in a country of awesome natural beauty. There is a lifetime of inspiration here… let’s not take what we have for granted. No matter where you live there is little need to travel far if inspiration is what you crave.
Before there was the crazed hunt for candy, Halloween was a celebration of life before the dark and decay of winter. Like all good ancient holidays, its a nuanced tradition which reminds us to keep close and treasure our loved ones and while remembering and honouring the spirits of our ancestors – lest they become peeved and spoil our morning cereal milk. In a world of uncertainty, it’s a good idea to hedge your bets (you never know who may be lurking about). So, in the sense of paying a little homage to that which we don’t always understand, we are sharing a couple of images made on public lands of the prayer flags ceremoniously placed by the First Nations people in the area. Without knowing the prayers behind the placement of the strips of cloth, we can still appreciate and respect the haunting and lovely nature of the objects themselves.
Happy Halloween, everyone!
Samantha started it all off on May 22 when she gave herself until June 30 to tackle her horrendous backlog of unprocessed raw files gathering digital dust on her hard drives. Sam said that whatever was not processed by June 30th would be deleted forever. Wow, harsh eh?
But after thinking about it for some time, it sounded like a good idea… and so with some fits and starts and hesitation, I opted to join Sam on the Ultimate Clear the Clutter Challenge. And even Stephen, our eBook designer and website guru was inspired to join us albeit without the big bad ‘delete’ part of the equation.
And so what’s the progress? Sam started with 89 folders. As of today, she only has 13 folders of images left to do! Two or three more days of concerted effort and Sam will be done – yahoo! For me it’s so great to see Sam’s images come to life. She was ruthless and many images did not make the cut and hit the trash bin but the ones she kept I find really inspiring. Good job Sam!
For me progress has been much slower. I had to deal with my thousands and thousands of slides from the film days first. What to do with those images? How should I store them for our one year creative sabbatical? In the end I have them in a cool dry place all packaged up safely but that took many days. Progress on the digital front is much slower. I started with 199 folders to edit and process and I am still at 149 folders left to date. Yikes! But as I look over my folders I am going to take Sam’s lead and delete ruthlessly keeping only top drawer stuff to process. If I already have stuff that is better, delete it. If the image is just more of the same, delete it. If the image is flawed in any way compositionally, delete it.
And If I do get my images done, then what should be Sam’s punishment for losing the bet? I am open to suggestions ; )
CD’s Won’t Open,
Hard Drives Crash,
Flash Drives Get Corrupted.
Cloud based businesses close.
The only thing that works every time is…
The message varies slightly but it’s a message that is shared over and over again, week after week. Excluding the fact that it might be scare tactic marketing to sell prints, I can sometimes appreciate the intention of these tongue-in-cheek quotes. However in my humble opinion, the message is often too extreme and misleading.
A print is still one of the best ways to enjoy a photograph but lets not ignore the fact that as quickly as a hard drive will crash or a business will close, that print will suffer from light, water or fire damage.
And I want to reprint again and again.
I want to be able to create new prints of today’s images 25 years from now when technology is much better. I want to see it on paper, on canvas, on metals. I want the freedom that is not limited to that of a single print.
We should all enjoy, print and celebrate our work; but we should also be paying specific attention to the files in which a print is born from. The negative is everything and by ensuring that we all have a strong backup solution of our priceless files, there should be no need for print restoration services when we have all the tools necessary to maintain the files necessary for reprinting.
Would you rather a 25 year old print or a 25 year old digital file? It horrifies me that I have relatives who print from the memory card and once a print is in hand, proceeds to delete because they are making room for more.
When our ultimate clutter challenge comes to an end this month, we must ensure that we have a safe storage solution for the remaining image files.
Either it be prints or files — images are moments in time you can never have back. They simply can’t be replaced once lost and ensuring that you have a proper archival plan will ensure your life’s work will never be lost.
So the real question is: When was the last time you backed up your image files?