18 July

Atmospheric Haze: A Landscape Photographer’s Dream or Nightmare?

This article was first published in Outdoor Photography Canada magazine over one year ago. To keep up with the freshest content from top Canadian nature photographers we highly recommend subscribing.

The view from Bald Butte during a hazy sunset (Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park, Centre Block, Saskatchewan)

Nature photographers like their landscapes pristine; generally, we don’t want to see any ‘hand of man’ in our pictures but rather we want to present nature in her purest and finest form. So we venture forth in hopes of recording clean and crisp mountain, desert, and forest landscapes. When nature photographers encounter atmospheric haze it dampens their enthusiasm for making pictures like chores ruin the day of a kid on summer holidays. We know of many photographers who have cancelled trips to areas like the Canadian Rockies when they heard that forest fires have obscured the clear alpine skies. It’s a shame that our preconceptions of what’s good and what’s bad colours what and how we take photos. Atmospheric haze can offer up unique opportunities for stunning photography if we’re open to seeing beyond our expectations.

The low tonal contrast and scattered light of atmospheric haze kills colours so why not work with this condition and make B+W images that emphasizes the subtle gradations in tone in the scene (Lower Waterfowl Lake, Banff National Park, Alberta).

 

Forest fire haze creates scattered particulate matter that helps add drama to the sky (Upper Brazeau River Valley, Jasper National Park, Alberta).

Atmospheric haze results when smoke, dust and other dry particles accumulate in relatively dry air. Most of the time we blame human activity on atmospheric haze and consider it un-natural. For example, in the fall, activities from the harvest of cereal crops stirs up dust and particulates that results in hazy conditions. Fires burning, dust from gravel roads and particulate pollution from industry also creates atmospheric haze. But atmospheric haze has been around longer than humans. Lightning strikes burn vast tracts of forest, volcanoes spew out tonnes of particulate matter, wind storms churn up dust from dunes… the list goes on. So rather than fight or avoid haze, embrace it! Haze is a natural part of nature.

Atmospheric haze, in this case caused by a forest fire started by a lightning strike, looks blue because short blue wavelengths of light are bounced off of particulate matter in the air to be recorded by our eyes and cameras. To retain the blue cast be sure to keep your white balance set to ‘daylight’ or ‘sunny’.

 

When haze kills colours turn to monochrome.

Atmospheric haze does several interesting things that can be used by the creative photographer. First, it reduces contrast in the scene due to the scattering of light by the particulate matter. These low contrast scenes look moody, ethereal and even painterly. Second, haze selectively scatters light waves with shorter wavelengths, like blue, being scattered more than red wavelengths. This is why haze and smoke look blue – the blue wavelengths bounce off and are recorded by our eyes (and cameras). Red wavelengths tend to pierce through the particulate matter and so in backlit situations we see warm colours coming through the haze. Anyone who has seen the sun through thick smoke knows the sun appears as a reddish ball even at mid-day because only the red wavelengths of light are passing through the smoke. As photographers, we can use this natural filtering effect of light bouncing off of or moving through haze to add further mood to our photographs. Indeed, atmospheric haze creates incredible mood and ambience. Just ask anyone who has travelled to India or China whether haze has added to the mood of their travel photos. You’ll get a resounding yes!

Mid-day sun becomes an orange fireball when filtered through thick smoke.

Winter winds churn up blowing snow, ice and dust causing hazy conditions in the distance (Abraham Lake, Alberta)

And so, when it’s hazy, don’t give up. Your expectations of clear, crisp, and contrasty nature scenes has evaporated. Advanced shooters see the potential in the murky skies. Look for scenes where the blue, low contrast light works with the subject to give a dream-like mood. Or, find situations where the glowing warm backlight creates an ethereal glow. Some of my favorite images have been created when nature (or human activity) created atmospheric haze and I was open to possibilities beyond my expectations. Rather than the haze being a nightmare that destroyed my nature outing, it became a dream that allowed me to create memorable images. Happy hazy shooting!

Dust from a gravel road creates beams of light when back lit by the sun (Water Valley, Alberta)

Hazy days help add mood and atmosphere to scenes we would normally pass by (river path in Cochrane, Alberta).

13 June

Best of the League Award – Freeman Patterson

As many of you know, Samantha and I started League magazine and the League of Landscape Photographers as an outlet for photographic creativity with a conscience. League members photograph the world around them in accordance with high ethical standards and they make imagery with purpose, meaning and integrity. League photographs engage, question and challenge the viewer. League and the League of Landscape Photographers seek to raise landscape photography to a personal expressive art that comments on the world around us.

Samantha and I always acknowledge and reward those in the photographic community who are doing exceptional work and who inspire and teach others to do the same. We can think of no other photographer in Canada (or the world, for that matter) who has done so much to raise landscape and nature photography to an art form and to encourage photographers to express their creative vision than Freeman Patterson. Many of you will know Freeman and will have been influenced, inspired and moved by his work. Freeman’s influence weaves through both Sam and my work and our teachings. Indeed, we think that subconsciously Freeman’s influence germinated the seed which became League. So who better to honour with the inaugural Best of the League Award than Freeman Patterson?

For those photographers not familiar with Freeman’s work, we highly recommend you head to your nearest library or book store and pick up at least one of his many books on photography, creativity and seeing. Our three personal favorites and a must read for all expressive photographers are Photography and the Art of Seeing, Photographing the World Around You – A Visual Design Workshop and Embracing Creation. We also highly recommend any of his life-altering (no exaggeration) workshops – anyone who has been on a Freeman workshop will talk and talk and talk your ear off about how amazing it was!

Talking creative expression is all the rage in photography right now especially in the wake of all the fascination with the gear of digital capture. But Freeman laid the foundation long ago by teaching photographers to embrace their creative self. So much of what is in vogue today by those teaching ‘creative vision’ is based directly or indirectly on Freeman’s early teachings. Thanks to Freeman we can all finally move away from gear and technique into what truly matters, create self-awareness and develop personal expression.

For all of Freeman’s influence, his respect for people and the environment, his tireless sharing and mentoring of photographers, and for his lifetime body of artful, thoughtful images, we are honoured to award Freeman the Best of the League Award! We are thrilled that Freeman shared with us a moving story and portfolio of images that will be published in League this September. Subscriptions to League end June 30 so if you want this collectible magazine on your book shelf subscribe now!

 

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3 June

oopoomoo May Photo Challenge Results – Juxtaposition

For May 2017, we challenged oopoomoo Creatives to photograph and interpret the theme of Juxtaposition. Below are some of our favourite entries. Our photo challenge for June will be released in the next oopoomoo newsletter (sign-up here and get our Born Creative eBook for free!).

©Tracy Riddle

©Pam Jenks

©Michael Greenlaw

©Mandeep Bal

©Kristof Lauwers

©Keith Walker

©Keith Walker

©Kathy Stinson

©Janice Kretzer-Prysunka

©Janice Kretzer-Prysunka

©Janice Braud

©Janice Braud

©Jan Clark Lyall

©Henrik Fessler

©Connie Quinton

©Christian Van Schepen

©Christian Van Schepen

©Bernice MacDonald

©Alan Garner

3 May

oopoomoo March Photo Challenge – Emergence from Henrik Fessler

In our last blog post we showcased images on the theme Emergence (#emergence) submitted though our oopoomoo Creatives Facebook group. In this post we want to highlight an image we received via email from Henrik Fessler. We love the photo and wanted to share it here on the blog. Henrik says of the image:

Every spring I feel the urge not to miss out the bloom of things after a long gray and dull winter. After a short blossom phase of 2-3 weeks everything is switched back to “normal” spring mode. That way, I have the sense of emergency to not miss the phase of plants’ emergence phase (-;  To celebrate this magic period, here’s my submission (It’s a magnolia tree in our small city park taken at Bruchsal/Germany). On a technical note: it was taken with a 60 year old GDR lens -Carl Zeiss Jena Biotar 58mm F2-, with an APS C Camera and a cheap focal reducer … I do not want to bother with a bulky full frame camera any more (-;

©Henrik Fessler

2 May

The Results of the March 2017 oopoomoo Challenge: Emergence

For March the monthly challenge over on the oopoomoo Creatives Facebook Page was “Emergence”. Below we present our favourite submissions posted to the Facebook group. Congratulations to everyone who participated. Stay tuned for the April challenge which will be sent out shortly in the oopoomoo monthly newsletter (sign-up form in the side-bar to the right).

©Chris Baird

©Chris Bone

©Chris Greenwood

©Cindie Fearnall

©David Klautt

©Drake Dyck

©Janice Kretzer-Prysunka

©Janice Kretzer-Prysunka

©Kathy Stinson

©Michael Gay

©Monica Schimanke

©Pam Jenks

©Pam Jenks

©Phyllis Fitzsimons

©Riana Vermaak

©Riana Vermaak

©Robert Skoye

©Shooting Earth Naresh

6 April

Janice Kretzer-Prysunka: Non-iconic Images in Iconic Locations

Each month we send out a newsletter to our oopoomoo newsletter subscribers with an assignment for the month. In March, we wanted photographers to show us a non-iconic view of an iconic location. We themed the assignment #league_landscape in honour of our new publishing project League magazine (which is now open for subscriptions and submissions). There was a lot of fabulous non-iconic assignment images shown by photographers in our oopoomoo Facebook group but one photographer, Janice Kretzer-Prysunka, really stood out with her portfolio of personal takes at iconic locations. Great work Janice!

©Janice Kretzer-Prysunka – Mount Robson

©Janice Kretzer-Prysunka – Horseshoe Lake, Jasper

©Janice Kretzer-Prysunka – Medicine Lake, Jasper

©Janice Kretzer-Prysunka – Mount Rundle, Banff

©Janice Kretzer-Prysunka – Athabasca Falls, Jasper

©Janice Kretzer-Prysunka – Tangle Falls, Jasper

©Janice Kretzer-Prysunka – Three Sisters, Canmore

9 March

Announcing…The League of Landscape Photographers!

We’re excited to share with you something we’ve been working on for awhile now. Introducing the League of Landscape Photographers! It’s a new community of like-minded photographers drawn together by similar interests, beliefs and values such as:

  • the belief that photography is an art form not a craft, and that photographers are artists and not mere technicians
  • a passion for the workings and integrity of the natural world which is expressed not only through artful, mindful photography projects, but also adherence to a personal code of ethics
  • the belief that photography should be valued at the same level as other arts when it achieves high quality expression – photographers should be paid for their work

It’s too easy to look around the world and only see destruction and displacement. It’s much harder to focus on all the positive efforts that are being made to counter and contain some of the huge problems of the day. It’s too easy to engage in trophy travel in pursuit of social media ‘likes’. It’s much harder to turn your lens toward capturing changes happening in your own backyard. And it’s too easy to throw up your hands, shrug helplessly, and declare nothing will ever change when photographers, especially landscape and nature photographers are out there on the land, cameras in hand…making a difference with their art!

What the League is Not

The League of Landscape Photographers is a bit different from other groups.

The League is not a charity, society or non-profit but a grassroots, self-identified, loose collection of people who have posted their own code of ethics or value statement about how they conduct themselves. To join, you post to the world your own code of ethics and a statement that you are a member of the League of Landscape Photographers. That’s it. There’s no gate-keeping based on your level of photography skills. There is no one collecting fees from you to join. You are a League member when you act like a League member.

The League is not a conservation group. Political agendas of all stripes have pushed public discourse into simplistic, zero-sum debates. The world is not black and white – it’s full of colour. Similarly, while League photographers may engage with environmental issues, they do so to challenge attitudes and push assumptions not provide either/or documentaries or knee-jerk reactions. The League of Landscape Photographers is a group of artists who use their art as a window into their personal landscape.

The League is not a calendar publishing company. One thing landscape and nature shooters have done well is bring to us stunning photos of the most glorious, enchanting and pure places on earth. The internet is crammed full of beautiful images with scenes apparently untouched by man. It’s gotten to the point where such images are almost dismissed, and the pursuit is on for the next best ‘wow’ image. But how helpful is this parade? League of Landscape Photographers dig deeper by directly addressing how humanity intersects and connects with the landscape. Instead of sanitized scenes devoid of reality, League members open their hearts to the realities in their communities and share with the world what their eyes are seeing.

It’s a Movement

We believe photographers, and especially nature and landscape photographers, are uniquely placed as artists to add thoughtful dialogue about contemporary woes. But they need a reputable platform for their work. Enter Part II of this announcement…we will be crowdfunding this spring to publish a high quality, art magazine featuring photography portfolios and projects of League members. This is it! This is the Big One for League members! Simply called League, this annual will be the vehicle of expression for many aspiring artists who have something to say about the world with their photography.

League magazine cover

A potential cover…

Learn More

  • Visit the League of Landscape Photographer’s website to learn more about the League, League magazine and for ideas on creating your own code of ethics.
  • Post your code of ethics and join the League! Then get involved in the community by joining the League Facebook group or sharing on Instagram.
  • Attend one of the upcoming events to help fundraise for League – or organize your own and donate to the campaign.
  • Tell your friends! While not everyone is a photographer, we all love art. Be a patron of the arts by donating to the campaign. You can read more about the cost of publishing a magazine here. Join the League Newsletter for news and announcements – like the date sales open for League! Only a limited number of copies will be printed of the inaugural issue…make sure you get yours.

The League logo




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28 January

Photography with Meaning – What Do You Do for Exposure?

If you’ve been in photography long enough you’ll get a request from someone to use your pictures in exchange for ‘exposure’. What that means is they want the benefits of your fine photos but don’t want to pay you. Having the privilege of them publishing your photo is reward enough… or so they say. The funny thing is whenever we get these requests they are usually from large multi-national corporations with deep pockets… and a big advertising budget… and yet they won’t pay for quality images. The promise of them exposing your work to a wide audience is often hard to resist but we have found from experience that such exposure always falls flat.

Exposure - Is it worth it!

Exposure – Is it worth it!

On the other hand, when it comes to small community groups with no budget for photography they will often bend over backwards to try and pay you and give exposure that is respectful and meaningful. These groups need great visuals and they know the value of the image. Samantha and I love working with local groups who have causes we believe in because they offer the best kind of exposure. We get to meet real people, develop friendships and feel like we make a difference in the community. And of course we are happy to provide our services for free because we feel great helping them do good work. And feeling great charges up our creative juices and we get excited about photography all over again! Now that is the best kind of exposure!

What do you do in for ‘exposure’ and how has it worked out for you? We love to hear about it!

Chef Darren MacLean at rooftop veggie garden, Calgary, Alberta

Chef Darren MacLean at rooftop veggie garden, Calgary, Alberta

Portraits of local musicians

Portraits of local musicians

Passive solar tiny home - Hereabouts B+B, Cochrane, AB

Passive solar tiny home – Hereabouts B+B, Cochrane, AB

Local CSA farm portraits

Local CSA farm portraits – Seeds to Greens

Permaculture 'permablitz' in Calgary, Alberta

Permaculture ‘permablitz’ in Calgary, Alberta

Local organic farming practices

Local organic farming practices

©Darwin Wiggett - oopoomoo.com

Portraits at the local humane society

Humane Society dog portrait

Humane Society dog portrait

31 December

Lights of the Season

For December we challenged our oopoomoo Creatives Facebook group to interpret the theme #lightsoftheseason. Below are some of their results that we liked best.

Congratulations to Drake Dyck who we think did the most creative interpretation of the theme. Drake wins a copy of our eBooks: The Icefields Parkway Winter Edition and Kootenay Plains and Abraham Lake Winter Edition.

If you are interested in participating in our monthly photo challenges sign up for our newsletter and get our Born Creative eBook for free!

©Drake Dyck

©Drake Dyck

©Barb Kreutter

©Barb Kreutter

©Barb Kreutter

©Barb Kreutter

©Carol James

©Carol James

©Dave Williamson

©Dave Williamson

©Fran Gallogly

©Fran Gallogly

©Jane Chesebrough

©Jane Chesebrough

©Jane Chesebrough

©Jane Chesebrough

©Nancy Coffey

©Nancy Coffey

©Pam Jenks

©Pam Jenks

©Pam Jenks

©Pam Jenks

©Ralph Croning

©Ralph Croning

©Robert Skoye

©Robert Skoye

30 November

The Urban Tiny House

Here at oopoomoo we are interested in people who have carved their dreams out of the impenetrable bedrock of societal structure. One local person who has done just that and who is a huge inspiration to us is Jackie Skrypnek. For years Jackie has quietly volunteered behind the scenes in the local food, environment and social sustainability movements. Jackie puts in the work because she believes a better world is possible. She is not looking for accolades or awards; she is looking for results.

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Jackie, Samantha and I all have Permaculture Design Certificates (PDCs) from Verge Permaculture in Calgary. Part of the mandate or being a “permie” is to take action and do something that makes a difference in the world. Jackie has done just that. She has transformed her backyard from lawn into an ecologically sustainable food production centre which provides fresh, organic food for her family and friends. And she and her husband, Bryan, have built a passive solar tiny home in their backyard that will operate as an educational B+B teaching people about passive solar design, smaller footprint living and permaculture gardening principles.

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The tiny home is only 247 sq feet but packs in sleeping, bathroom, kitchen, living, and dining areas. Jackie designed the tiny home and Jackie and Bryan built it themselves — it’s a work of art! Jackie battled the town bureaucracy to make the first tiny home B+B in Cochrane happen and now, through her perseverance, Jackie’s dream is ready to share with the world. On December 4, from 1 – 3 PM, Jackie is having an open house in Cochrane so you can see the tiny home for yourself and maybe even win a one night stay (there is a draw!). For details on the open house just download this PDF. If you can’t come, we’ve taken a few photos to show you this amazing little tiny home. Congratulations Jackie and Bryan! Cochrane is proud of you!

The Hereabouts Tiny Home website is now live for bookings!

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