25 November

Glow Little Glow Worm, Glow – Fun in the Dark with Catherine!

Last week, I was given a photography assignment, from a SAIT (Southern Alberta Institute of Technology) instructor, which sounded rather ordinary until we were told to “be creative”.  Ohhh, I like being creative and thinking outside the box. The assignment was to make one image which conveys motion.

I was not interested in photographing the typical car tail lights, cats pouncing on a toy, trains zooming by, or a football game. I thought back to the workshops and tours I have done with Sam and Darwin. I had a great time particpating in their Extreme Saskatchewan Tour in 2010. One day the rain just would not surrender and we were all “sent to our rooms” to do an assignment. “Be creative in your hotel room….photography speaking!” we were told.  I chose to photograph the ‘ghost’ in my room. Thinking back to that day, I thought for my SAIT assignment, I would make an image of a ghost walking in my house. Since I don’t have a strobe flash (I was using a flashlight)  my images were not showing a moving ghost, just a blurry mess. Now what?? After a few minutes of brainstorming I decided to play with glow sticks in a dark room. Off I went  to our local loonie (dollar) store to purchase a bag full of glow sticks.

Before supper I set the livingroom up for the shoot. Furniture was pushed aside and everything was taken off the fireplace hearth and mantle. A black sheet was hung in front of the fireplace (don’t worry, the fire was not ablaze!). This sheet covered all the shiny bits and pieces of brass and glass which might reflect in my images.

The camera, a Canon 50D with a 50mm lens, was on a tripod and placed approximately 10 feet away from the fireplace with a clear ‘running track’ made for me back to the camera. I manually set focus and then set my camera to an 8 second shutter speed, ISO 400 and aperture of f1.8. All that was left was to wait for it to get pitch dark and  for me to finish supper (the latter being most important for my ‘creative juices’).

With all curtains drawn, ceiling lights turned off and the hallway night light unplugged I was ready to compose! OOOOOO it’s dark. Tread carefully Catherine! Crack, crack, crack went the first glow stick as I bent it in several places. One click on the cable release and off I went! Quickly making my way, on the left side of the camera, to the fireplace, I waved the stick in front of the black cloth for about five seconds. Excited to see my results, I made my way back to the camera via the track on the right side of the camera. THUD!  Zerrin, our Golden Retriever, decided to have a snooze where his blankie USUALLY is. What a kerfuffle! Both of us trying to get up and out of each others way! Me flailing in the dark to grab a tripod leg so that Zerrin wouldn’t knock it over during his frantic escape. Zerrin doing a hind leg split on the wooden floor and me laughing so hard I could hardly get up off the floor!  Dog, photographer and camera all survived!

I spent over two hours playing in the dark. Pink sticks. Green sticks. Orange sticks. Short sticks. long sticks. Tri color circles.  Numerous speeds and fancy movements with the glow sticks. Check out the images below and let me know what you think. Remember to put your mouse arrow on the images for the image title!

By the way, this would be a fun project to do when the snow is blowing,  the wind is howling and it’s just too darn miserable to do outdoor photography.

©Catherine Byram

©Catherine Byram

©Catherine Byram

©Catherine Byram

©Catherine Byram

©Catherine Byram

©Catherine Byram – I’ll be baaaack!


14 October

The Manyberries Challenge – Photographing an Albertan Town

So this post is going to be a long one, but the good news is, it’s mostly pictures! On October 7, a group of photographers descended on the sleepy little town of Manyberries in southeastern Alberta.

Post office at Manyberries, Alberta

T0K 1L0 – © Samantha Chrysanthou

The town didn’t know what hit it! Luckily, though, no one seemed to be at home (except for the bugs…those teeny black dots on the post office building are beetles. There was some kind of hatch-and-bug-party going on). Ed and Catherine Byram, Parnell Legg and Darwin and I embarked on the Manyberries Challenge. We were all given an assignment to photograph in a way that was contrary to how we usually shot a scene. Each photographer had one hour. Their assignment and reaction to it is listed below…at the end of the post, ask yourself: would you be up to the Manyberries Challenge?

Manyberries, Alberta

Manyberries…the sunniest place in Canada with 2,567 annual hours of sunlight! © Samantha Chrysanthou

Ed Byram

Ed wasn’t allowed to take any photos of something he loves – machinery. His wife, Catherine, came up with this assignment for beginner-photographer, Ed. Catherine is a retired teacher. She soothed Ed’s disappointment and helped him get into the spirit of things with her words of advice: “Don’t pout, there are lots of other subjects to capture!!”

PS: Ed says that snowmobiles are toys – not machines.

Manyberries Hotel

The Manyberries Inn – © Ed Byram

Street signs of Manyberries, Alberta

Street signs of Manyberries – © Ed Byram

Snowmobiles in grass, Manyberries, Alberta

Waiting for winter – © Ed Byram

The end of the road in Manyberries, Alberta

The end of the road in Manyberries – © Ed Byram

4 participants of Manyberries Challenge

Topping up after a grueling assignment! – © Ed Byram

Catherine Byram

Many of you have met Catherine at our workshops and talks, or maybe you’ve ‘met’ her here on the blog. The great thing about these kinds of assignments is they really rely on your photo skills (not your processing skills) – you have to capture something in the field. Catherine did a great job! And we didn’t make it easy on her…. Darwin came up with her challenge.

Darwin: “Catherine, you have so many cameras… but can you shoot for an hour with just one camera and one lens? No smartphone!”

Catherine: “But, but…I can’t go on a photo outing with just my Canon 50D and 17-50mm lens! I’d better check with Sam.”

Sam: “Well, actually my original idea was for you to photograph only people, but since we can’t find any people here in Manyberries during lunch hour, you’re going to have to suck it up and just use the one camera and zoom lens. At least we didn’t restrict you to one focal length! Oh, and by the way, you have until the end of the year to do that people-only photo challenge you’re supposed to do.”

Catherine (under her breath): “Man, you guys are tough cookies.”

Dandelions, Manyberries, Alberta

Roadside attractions – © Catherine Byram

Manyberries signage

Town spirit – © Catherine Byram

Old red tractor, Manyberries, Alberta

Maybe he can’t photograph ’em, but he can still check ’em out! – © Catherine Byram

Goodyear tire, Manyberries, Alberta

Golden Rims – © Catherine Byram

Manyberries signage

Manyberries signage – © Catherine Byram

We met Parnell at the ill-fated Destination Travel Photography workshop this past June. In fact, this assignment originated during that workshop. Beer may have been involved. In any case, we’re glad that Parnell is up for Further Fun Times with Darwin & Sam! I came up with Parnell’s assignment which was to shoot just one, single image in the hour allotted. Parnell says he usually takes many images, so slowing down seemed a great way to torture him. Here is what he says about the assignment:

My initial reaction to my one photo challenge was to try and capture the essence of Manyberries in one fantastic shot. One photo in an hour was like I was hamstrung and it railed against my better judgment. Looking around there was a plethora of opportunities to be captured at every turn and it was agonizing to choose the best to represent it all.  The Manyberries sign with the twinkle of the sun, the complacent church alone in the field, the overgrown asphalt leading to nowhere. I struggled to see the best composition of the scenes that caught my eye but instead I became aware they were much the same. Looking through the viewfinder I saw echoes of similarity in the way I was interpreting the scenes. I then tried to look objectively and consider better angles, reject common ideas and push past a few personnel barriers. The exercise then became self-enlightening to a degree and I was able to step back and let myself react to the scene with thought rather than reflex. By the end did I feel that I captured the best scene I could? I ended up with a photo of dirt, which speaks for itself, but it is a photo I see merit in. More importantly it was a surprisingly useful tool to refine my eye and will be something I will try several more times. The old adage aptly applies here: short term pain, long term gain.

Way to go, Parnell! Here is Parnell’s single image.

Cracked earth in Manyberries, Alberta

Eloquent Dirt – © Parnell Legg

Speaking of torture, Parnell and I came up with Darwin’s assignment which was to make images that did not have high colour contrast or high tonal contrast. Here is what Darwin had to say about it:

I am attracted to colour and contrast and my photos usually have both in abundance. Sam and Parnell came up with a ‘mean’ assignment: I was to make images that had low colour and low contrast. What the heck? How is that possible? And to make matters worse, the day was sunny when we started! I wandered around Manyberries for a full half hour before making a single photo. “Hey, guys this is hard!” All I saw everywhere was colour and contrast! Finally I made a couple of photos in the shade of a building and that got me started.

Wow, what a whiner! I thought his results were pretty good though….

Cement building in Manyberries, Alberta

Made in the Shade – © Darwin Wiggett

Detail of cement

Lines – © Darwin Wiggett

Here’s Darwin again:

Luckily it clouded over towards the end of the shoot which made my job a little easier, but it was surprising to me how well I have trained my eye to see contrast. I made an image in the overcast light of the top of a building but even then, the image relies on contrast to work. I argue that this picture is ‘low’ contrast so hopefully I am not disqualified.

Building in Manyberries, Alberta

Blue building – © Darwin Wiggett

I thought one way to help reduce the contrast was to make blurry photos either by moving the camera or by defocusing the image. I had just learned of a technique that Peter Carroll uses in the prairies. He pans his camera horizontally along the horizon using a slow shutter speed. So the next two images is me getting desperate – er, creative.

Road pan shot

Road pan – © Darwin Wiggett

Stop ahead warning painted on road

Look out ahead! – © Darwin Wiggett

Obviously, given the amount of moaning and crying going on, the assignment was pretty challenging for everyone. But I think I had the hardest assignment. Since I usually hang back and look around a lot before even taking my camera out of the bag, I was given the assignment of shooting SIXTY images in one hour. Yikes! Things went pretty well until near the end of the hour when I had to shoot 16 images in 9 minutes. Thank goodness no one seemed to be around to witness me scuttling around town trying to find decent images to make! While there are some stinkers in the bunch, I did have a handful of shots that I rather liked. It was fun to be tripod and filter-free too — there was definitely no time to fuss with gear! Here are nine of my faves (I get to show a few extras since my assignment was the hardest).

Manyberries Inn, Alberta

We’re definitely “f…ed”. And “Cl…ed”. – © Samantha Chrysanthou

Hockey rink, Manyberries, Alberta

The rink – © Samantha Chrysanthou

Stop sign in Manyberries, Alberta

Scene of the traffic jam? – © Samantha Chrysanthou

Manyberries, Alberta, Canada

Shut – © Samantha Chrysanthou

Manyberries, Alberta, Canada

Hockey Night in Small Town Canada – © Samantha Chrysanthou

Manyberries, Alberta, Canada

Windbreak – © Samantha Chrysanthou

Manyberries, Alberta, Canada

Tractor and church – © Samantha Chrysanthou

Manyberries, Alberta, Canada

Turf – © Samantha Chrysanthou

Manyberries, Alberta, Canada

Which way to the cemetery? – © Samantha Chrysanthou

So there you have it – Manyberries in one hour. Do you find yourself always photographing a certain subject matter or drawn to using the same visual elements? What would be your ‘Manyberries Challenge’? And finally, one more of my images…that Ed fella has a good eye! 😉

The end of the road in Manyberries, Alberta

The end of the road in Manyberries – © Samantha Chrysanthou


8 October

Catherine’s Beginners Tips: Sticks and Stones Are in My Bones

Hi there! My name is Catherine. I’m Sam and Darwin’s photo slave (er… assistant). If you come to a workshop or talk done by oopoomoo you’ll probably meet me. Don’t tell Sam and Darwin I told you, but I’m really the brains behind the operation over here! 😉 I will be writing some beginner’s tips here and there; I hope you enjoy them!

In September, Sam, Darwin and I spent a fantastic weekend with the Grande Prairie Camera Club. During our weekend workshop, we met lots of great people from Grande Prairie, nearby Peace River and even as far away as Vancouver! It was a great crew, and we shared many laughs (and some tears after Darwin stomped on my foot! I’m going to start asking for danger pay!)

I know I promised a blog post about buying a tripod, but right now another topic is closer to my heart. On Sunday, during the Q&A time in Grande Prairie, the words “believe in yourself” were spoken several times, both by the oopoomoo team and the workshop participants. Here is my unabridged Believe In Yourself story I shared with the group that day.

Grande Prairie Museum Garden – © Catherine Byram

As you read in my first blog, I mentioned that I have been interested in photography for many years taking pictures of my boys, special occasion shots and vacation snaps. I have no formal photography training. That changed about two years ago when I attended a SNAP Workshop in Canmore, Alberta and was mesmerized by Darwin, Sam and John Marriott. After that weekend I knew I wanted to include ‘hobbyist photographer’ in my retirement plans.

Off I went to some photo workshops and tours. As my photography knowledge base grew, my camera bag bulged and my bank balance shrank. I participated in the Extreme Saskatchewan Tour with Sam and Darwin in 2010 and I absolutely loved all the venues our trusty leaders had previously scouted (even though everyday we had to dress like east coast fishermen on a stormy day since we experienced the worst flooding conditions in 100 years!) The prairie landscape is very appealing to me. Old buildings, rusty machinery, crumpled car relics, grasses gently bending in the breeze, a single sunflower in a wheat field, and ladybugs on flower petals are like gifts just waiting to be unwrapped and played with.

Last September I attended Darwin’s Fall in the Rockies Tour. The fall colors were at their prime. The weather and skies couldn’t be better and, with those majestic Rockies as the backdrop, I had to take time to stand on the deck at Aurum Lodge just to soak it all in. For almost forty years I have lived within one hour of the Rockies and I never fail to look to the west and soak in the view. I would observe the increasing amount of snow in the winter, the beginnings of green tinges in the spring, the golden carpet in the fall and the awesome pink skies. Before I retired, it was truly a challenge to get work done in my office since I had a window looking west with an unobstructed view of the mountains. In the summer, on Sunday after church, my boys and I would pack a lunch and drive west to have a picnic, fish, tour Nordegg or hike. I LOVE the Rockies! So why did I have so much trouble making images while on the Fall Tour?

Marsh Lake Fireweed – © Catherine Byram

Darwin took us to some astonishing places during the tour. The first morning we were at Abraham Lake waiting for the sun to show its glowing face. The clouds were playing their role perfectly. Filters were being slipped out of their covers and placed in front of lenses and cameras started to click. I was once again blown away with the sight of a sunrise in the Rockies. But I wasn’t feeling happy or fulfilled with my images. I previewed them and thought, “Yeah, they’re okay, but….” I looked around and saw that other photographers were still taking photos of the mountains. Smiles on faces, tripods being moved around, different lenses, filters and angles of view being tried out.  I hung my head and thought, ‘So what am I going to do for the next hour?’

Suddenly…WHOA! My eyes widened and a smile spread over my face. Little pebbles, twigs, sticks and yellow leaves were right under my feet and calling to me. I took my camera off the tripod and was in my glory making images of the earth’s carpet. I was moving all around the shoreline making images that made me feel good! ‘Yeah, this is neat!’ Then a photographer walked by me and said, “You’re taking pictures of sticks and stones!?!?!” and shook her head as she carried on. ‘Umm’, I thought. ‘Maybe I do look stupid doing this. Maybe it is kinda crazy making images of tiny little objects when I’m in a prime location to make images of iconic mountains. The mountains are why we are here so I better get with it.’ I reluctantly put the camera back on my tripod and tried to find images of grand mountains. My smile and good feelings were gone. For the rest of the tour I continued to make big landscape images but often went off to places where I couldn’t be seen and did ‘my thing’.

Sticks, Stones and Leaves on Gravel Path – © Catherine Byram

After working with Sam and Darwin for the past eighteen months, I hear a recurring message. BELIEVE IN  YOURSELF and make images that please you. Don’t spend time in the field worrying what you look like as you crawl along in the dirt with your nose to the ground and your behind raised in praise to the sky!   Find your style and don’t be afraid to share and display your images. Everyone may not appreciate your work but hey, differences make the world go  ‘round!

Therefore, for now, I am continuing to make images of sticks and stones…and leaves, single feathers, berries on the forest floor, sea shells, footprints in sand and cracks in the dirt. Guess what! I’m having a ball! Currently, I’m playing with impressionistic images of the world. If you see me shaking my camera up and down in a forest or twisting and turning my lens while it is aimed downward, don’t fret….I’m just doing my thing and lovin’ life! Impressionism is the type of art that you either ‘love it or hate it’. I have included a few of my images in this post; all effects are achieved in camera.  Let me know what you think, or if you have a ‘sticks and stones’ memory to share!

Island Lake Old Growth Trees – © Catherine Byram

Gwen’s Garden – © Catherine Byram

Always Look for the Little Gifts – © Catherine Byram


18 July

Catherine’s Beginner Tips: A Visit to Vestmannaeyjar, Iceland — DO IT!

Hi there! My name is Catherine. I’m Sam and Darwin’s photo slave (er… assistant). If you come to a workshop or talk done by oopoomoo you’ll probably meet me. Don’t tell Sam and Darwin I told you, but I’m really the brains behind the operation over here! 😉 I will be writing some beginner’s tips here and there; I hope you enjoy them!

Me and Ed in Iceland eating the yummy ice cream!

As many of you may know, a group of 14 friends of oopoomoo went to Iceland in June. Some of us headed to Iceland a couple of days prior to the start date of the photo tour. On our first afternoon, while visiting the Reykjavik Tourism store, Ed and I decided to book a flight to the Westman Islands for a day.  The Icelandic name for the group of 15 islands is Vestmannaeyjar. We were going to go to Heimaey Island (pronounced Hay May) which is just a ­­­20 minute flight  south of Reykjavik. It’s the one and only Westman Island which is inhabited. Approximately 4200 people live on the island.

Here is the link to an intro video of Westman Islands.

We left the hotel around 8:00 am, picked up our tickets at Eagle Air and were on our way in a SMALL plane at 10 am.  17 seats is small to me!!! We sat near the wing, where I could keep an eye on the right side propeller! I kept fear at bay and stomach contents contained within, by concentrating on taking photos through the teeny tiny window.

Here we go!

Flight to Westman Islands

View of Eldfell – Mountain of Fire

Our bus tour of the island did not start until 1:00. The lady who picked us up at the airport said that her husband conducts the 1 ½ hour boat tour around the island and had space for us on the next tour. Why not! Right away one problem arose. We were dressed for a BUS tour. Usually on a bus tour your hair doesn’t get blown into an uncomb-able matty mess and you don’t get DRENCHED on a bus. What I am saying is that we were not dressed for a boat tour on a windy day. Ed tucked his cap away and zipped his jacket up to his neck.  I strategically stood behind a tall, broad shouldered man who broke some of the wind. Stop laughing…..I didn’t say he broke wind!!


26 June

Catherine’s Beginners Tips – Don’t Buy a Camera for Someone Else!

Hi there! My name is Catherine. I’m Sam and Darwin’s photo slave (er… assistant). If you come to a workshop or talk done by oopoomoo you’ll probably meet me. Don’t tell Sam and Darwin I told you, but I’m really the brains behind the operation over here! 😉 

Sam and Darwin made me eat Prairie Oysters as part of my job! They are so difficult to work for!

 I will be writing some beginner’s tips here and there; I hope you enjoy them!

On Buying a Camera for Someone Else

So, you haven’t taken any photos for umpteem years and you are itching to get back into the world of photography. Yes, you have taken photos before and yes, you have some photography skills. Back in your childhood days perhaps you were given a point and shoot camera for Christmas. You proudly show  some ­­­­square, glossy black and white photos to a friend. “See, the dot in the middle of the picture, that’s a black bear!!” The next photo is of a headless person.  Still another shot is obscured by a finger which unknowingly found its way in front of the lens. Umm, you think. Maybe I could use some help. But where do I start??

Start RIGHT HERE. Follow me through several articles while I take my husband back into the wonderful world of photography.