11 June

Alive and Well : Update from Iceland

Sam and Darwin might be able to take off for a vacation and unplug from the world but it’s not something I can do and two weeks is too long for a blog to go in silence. Since I just happen to have a password, I can abuse this privilege and post some behind the scene photos of Sam and Darwin hard at work in Iceland.

Still one week to go.

Darwin and Sam in Iceland

Darwin and Sam in Iceland

(more…)

26 May

Food Photography Can Be Easy!

In preparation for our photography Destination Photography workshop at Island Lake (remember, we’re experimenting with pricing and this workshop is now ‘Pay What It’s Worth’!), Darwin and I decided to cook up something from the Island Lake Lodge cookbook. Here is an image of the appetizer on page 60, Wild Sockeye Salmon Tartare with Spicy Guacamole and Taro Chips:

Salmon Tartare Tower appetizer

© Samantha Chrysanthou - Salmon Tartare Tower appetizer

I cheated a little since I couldn’t find any taro root (what is that, anyway?) so yams had to do. And I swear I thought we always had a jar of capers lurking in the fridge but darned if the little caper-goblin didn’t get to them first! My attempt of this recipe lacks the artful touch of the chef; my salmon tartare is a dumpy, sullen hill of goop rather than the artful tower it’s supposed to be. But blame me, not the recipe! Luckily, on Wednesday, June 27 we’ll be learning how to quickly and easily photograph delicious appetizers prepared by the talented chefs at the Lodge (who will do a better job at food styling than me, I think). You can download the schedule for the workshop here. The good news is, although stacking guacamole and raw fish takes skill, we photographed this tasty snack in just a few minutes with minimal gear. And that will be the focus of the talk on June 27, “Basics of On-Location Food Photography” because you want to eat your delectable delight before it collapses! Or, if you’re at a farmer’s market or bazaar, you need to be able to capture quick moments on the fly. For this shot, I mounted the camera on a tripod but with a high ISO you can often get enough shutter speed to hand-hold in well-lit areas (especially if your lens has a setting that reduces vibrations). And that is one secret to appetizing food photography: sit by a bright window and work with natural light to eliminate all manner of problems photographing indoors. We bounced a little light into the shadowed side of the appetizer by holding up a raincoat with a white, plastic interior to the left of the dish. (If no one is looking, and your spouse isn’t glaring at you yet, those little side plates also make good reflectors!) Here is the same scene but shot with a polarizer to reduce some glare off the saucy juices  (and without the napkin for a cleaner comp):

 

Salmon Tartare Tower

© Samantha Chrysanthou - Tartare Tower with Polarizer

Easy-as-pie! And the appetizer was deee-licious! Did I mention workshop attendees receive a complimentary copy of this beautifully photographed cookbook? If you can’t join us in Fernie for this workshop, we’re pleased to announce that the Foothills Camera Club has invited us to teach a special workshop created just for the Club in September, 2012. The Club has kindly opened the doors to this workshop to members of the public — and we’ll be in Cochrane at the historic RancheHouse! Check out the weekend schedule here; it’s an intensive weekend with class time balanced by practice in the field. Dates are September 7 – 9, 2012, and the price for Club members is $300 and for non-members only $350! If you can’t swing the cost of the Destination Photography workshop — even at a Pay What It’s Worth discount — then this is your chance to catch a great program here at home. The Man in Charge is Dana Naldrett so please email him (dana@mountainladdiephoto.com) for more information or to register. Limited spots!

Now, what else can I cook up from that cookbook….

 

 

 

16 May

The 2012 Cochrane Guitar Show

Here in the ‘wee town by the Bow’ we are blessed with probably the most guitar players per capita in Canada. Almost every night somewhere in town there’s a jam going on. After playing guitar off and on for numerous years, I finally got brave enough to join a little jam band that practices out of Legacy Guitar House every Friday night. There’s a bunch of us middle aged guys strumming our hearts out and it’s pure fun. Sometimes we even sound pretty good! Our fearless leader is Larry Kostyniuk and he guides us through hundreds of classic pop, folk, rock and blues songs.  As the photo below shows, Larry loves playing and sharing. Anyone interested in joining our group of merry men (where are the women?) just call the Legacy Guitar House.

©Darwin Wiggett

This past weekend Legacy Guitar House put on the first annual 2012 Cochrane Guitar Show, and there were lots of special musical guests playing, displaying, jamming and doing workshops for budding musicians. I was on-hand to learn a few things, try out some instruments and of course I took a camera and made a few images and videos (mostly I used my Rebel T2i and my ‘nifty fifty’ 50mm f1.4 lens for the low light indoor stuff). All in all a great time. Below are a few shots and some video clips from the weekend.

©Darwin Wiggett

Tim Williams teaching us blues, bottleneck and finger picking guitar moves.

©Darwin Wiggett

Mark Bretherton can play anything but he truly is an amazing Spanish-style guitarist. Mark was the guy who taught me guitar.

©Darwin Wiggett

Matt Blais and Joel Fraser did a rocking job of Matt’s song I’m in Love.

©Darwin Wiggett

Jay Semko of The Northern Pikes gave us some lessons on songwriting and breaking the rules of songwriting successfully.

©Darwin Wiggett

Micah Turchet blew us away with his amazing classical guitar skills!

©Darwin Wiggett

Will Hamm, an amazing Luthier and talented player really helped us understand what goes into making a great instrument.

All in all I had a great time — I look foward to next year’s event!

©Darwin Wiggett

10 April

Winter Photo Tour III Results

Darwin and I have finally gotten around to processing the results of Winter in the Canadian Rockies Photo Tour (March 1 – 4, 2012). Below are three photos from each of us, but if you want to see more images from this tour head on over to our Flickr set. While we were at the Aurum Lodge there was a film crew there making a  new TV series. Darwin was interviewed about the photo tours and I made a little video footage with my Nikon D300S of the proceedings. As you can see from the video below, I got a little bored and thought I should get in on the action as well. It goes downhill fast after that! Look closely at the end of the video to see the expression on the producer’s face when she discovers our little antics. I don’t think we’ll be receiving a casting call anytime soon! 😉

Pine tree, Bow Summit, Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada

©Samantha Chrysanthou

Columbia Icefields, Jasper National Park, Alberta, Canada

©Samantha Chrysanthou

Athabasca River, Mount Gargoyle, Jasper National Park, Alberta, Canada

©Samantha Chrysanthou

©Darwin Wiggett

©Darwin Wiggett

©Darwin Wiggett

2 April

My (Nearly) Perfect Point-n-Shoot Pocket Digital Camera

Darwin has long been a fan of digital point-n-shoot cameras and, when he still had his Canon G11, he took it with him nearly all the time. I wasn’t so keen on that camera. Although I really liked the tilt-swivel LCD screen which made low and high angle photography easy, I wasn’t a big fan of the controls on the G11. I found there was no good place to grip the camera without accidentally bumping a button (especially with gloves on) resulting in constantly having to readjust settings. Also, some of the features that I like to use required pressing multiple buttons or pressing the same button multiple times — and that means missed shots! Perhaps if I could’ve pried the camera out of Darwin’s fingers more often I would have become more familiar with it, but I do appreciate a camera that not only has intuitive ergonomics (so I don’t have to memorize where a particular function is) but also ‘gets me to my shot’ as quickly as possible. No more did I feel the pain of a slow-handling camera than on a summer backpacking trip; by the end of that multi-day trip, I wanted to pitch the camera into the lake.

Maybe it’s too much to ask for a point-n-shoot camera with user friendly controls, raw file capability and passable file quality. I was even prepared to settle for a camera without a tilt-swivel LCD! I decided to not give up (or drown the G11) and started searching for a point-n-shoot that would meet my needs. Darwin and I tried out two compact digital cameras; the Fuji X10 and the Panasonic GX1. Both were wonderful cameras and we were impressed by them (see our review here), but neither fit my needs for a small pocketable camera (they were both too big for my needs). Several people wrote to us here on the blog and suggested we try the Panasonic LX-5 since it might fit the bill for a user-friendly pocketable point-n-shoot with raw file capabilities. Although the camera was introduced over two years ago, it is still widely used by many photographers especially more advanced photographers who appreciate the raw files and level of manual control.

Our good friend Alan Ernst of Aurum Lodge has owned and used a LX-5 for nearly two years. He swore by it not only for ease of control and logical layout but also because he loved how fast it was to switch formats from 16:9, 3:2, 4:3 or 1:1 ratios. Alan lent us his LX-5 to try and I gave it the ‘Sam’ test. If there is something that does not work well with a camera, I’ll find it!

I was pretty stoked to find that the controls make sense and I could access them quickly.  The camera makes fairly nice files with natural colours. Like Alan, I also came to appreciate the ability to quickly change formats so I can frame the scene with a format (square, rectangular or wide screen) that makes sense for the composition. The exposure compensation is fast and easy to use and the camera is small enough to take anywhere. The only think I didn’t like and apparently all point-n-shoot digital cameras suffer this problem is the fact that macro mode works best when the lens is at its widest setting. In macro photography I rarely want a wide angle view! I wish point-n-shoot digital cameras allowed macro focus even when the lens is extended to its longest telephoto setting. I don’t design ’em, I just use ’em, I guess.

In the end we bought the LX-5 from Alan (he replaced it with a GX1) Not only did we follow our own advice about the minimal upgrade (waiting and buying an older, used and proven camera model), I now have my own little pocket camera that I am happy to use. Now if I could just get Darwin to stop stealing my camera!

Pathway in Cochrane, Alberta, Canada

© Samantha Chrysanthou - Pathway in Cochrane

Aspen forest in Cochrane, Alberta, Canada

© Samantha Chrysanthou

©Darwin Wiggett - Samantha hamming it up for the camera.

©Darwin Wiggett - Foggy morning in Cochrane

1 April

Thinking about Grace

Lately I have been thinking about my grandmother Grace Wiggett who passed away last November. Today (April 1st) is her birthday. Grace was spirited, witty and and sharp as a Leica lens right up to the end.

But the Grace I have been thinking about the most is the grandma of my youth. The one that took me on long nature walks on the Kootenay Plains and taught me the names of all the flowers. I remember how we would spend hours  ambling with no destination in mind except for the next rock, knarled stump or ant hill that captured our attention. We poked sticks into the river, watched the sparkle of light on the water, and craned our necks to look at the eagle fly overhead. Animal tracks fascinated her, the rattling sounds of blowing grass grabbed her attention, the distant howling of wolfs thrilled her. In short, she was tuned into nature and she taught me to tune in as well. She would have been a fine photographer or painter. She had the eye, and she knew how to see. One of the reasons I am a nature photographer probably had much to do with Grandma’s nature walks.

So today I am going to be a small boy once again. I am going to amble and shuffle and look and listen and let nature show me her intimate little worlds. I am going to slosh about in puddles, get my knees dirty and let the world fill me with wonder.  I am going to celebrate grandma with a nature walk with no destination or plan or goal or time limit. I am going exploring for my grandma. She would approve and she’ll be there with me. Thanks, grandma! You’re forever in our hearts.

©Darwin Wiggett

©Darwin Wiggett

©Darwin Wiggett

©Darwin Wiggett

©Darwin Wiggett

©Darwin Wiggett

©Darwin Wiggett

©Darwin Wiggett

©Darwin Wiggett

©Darwin Wiggett

©Darwin Wiggett

©Darwin Wiggett

25 March

Fishin’ w’ the Wiggetts

What is the fun activity that comes to mind when the first day of spring rolls around? No, not THAT activity — why, ice fishing of course! We live in Alberta, a land of almost perpetual winter (or so it feels when you are ice fishing on the first day of spring). So when Darwin’s parents invited us up to their place for a bit of sport, we didn’t hesitate. You’ve met Darwin’s parents, Reg and Clara, in the ‘What is oopoomoo’ video where they kindly shared their thoughts on our new company’s name. We were looking forward to some quality time with honest folk and honest-to-goodness home cooking from Clara!

It was tough to tear them away from a close curling match between Canada and Switzerland when we arrived late the night before the fishing expedition was planned. But after Canada lost, we enjoyed some consolation cognac which sent us all to bed with warm bellies. Darwin’s mom is an early riser, (“Mom, it’s five am!!!”) so we were awake in plenty of time to get fed, get ready and get going. Our destination was Gull Lake and our target the whitefish patrolling under the ice about half a kilometre from shore. This isn’t a shot from the fishing trip, but I figure the apocalyptic nature of the image is how the fish viewed suddenly being hauled up through a small hole to a dry and airless world.

Dead fish

© Darwin Wiggett

When we arrived at the lake, Reg told me it was my job to keep the maggots from freezing. The way to do this was to tuck them in under your bottom lip, like snuff. Fortunately, it wasn’t that cold out so he finally agreed that they would probably keep just fine in a coat pocket. Reg’s neighbour, Bob, came along and helped drill a bunch of holes in the ice. When ice fishing, you can’t have too many holes. With visions of Reg’s big Toyota Titan plunging through the ice, we timidly demurred the offered ride to the ‘fishin’ spot’ and instead parked our little SUV and walked our dog, Brando, out to where Bob was industriously aerating the lake with fishing holes. But we needn’t have worried: the ice was still about two and a half feet thick! Brando had a great time finding all the spots and scratching at the ice where fish had been brained on a previous fishing expedition.

Shadows on Gull Lake and Ice Fishermen

Finding the Perfect Spot © Samantha Chrysanthou

Not too much happened for the first half hour. It was strange to be hunkered down in a square, black tent staring intently into a dark, watery hole. When a fish finally did swim lazily up to inspect the maggot on my lure, it was startling; things lived down in them thar green depths! It must have been an especially ugly little maggot impaled on my hook since the first whitefish declined to nibble. Darwin and I were given the ‘honeymoon hut’: two buckets from Bass Pro served as seats in our two metre square cubicle of canvas. Darwin didn’t have a fishing license but I did, so he was my helper in the event I managed to catch anything. Reg was throwing his third fish on the ice before I had my first nibble. Luckily, at that point, Darwin had stood up to stretch his legs and was hovering over my fishing hole. We both saw the fish grab the lure at the same time. Now, the main piece of advice when ice fishing (apart from keeping the maggots warm) is that you have to set the hook in the fish’s mouth in order to keep it on your line. You do this by giving the line a good, sharp jerk right after the fish takes the bait. Jerk too soon, and the fish misses the bait; jerk too late and your drowned maggot became fish-brunch. I think it was the pressure of getting the jerk right that led Darwin to be overly helpful: just as I moved my arm to jerk the line, he made a sweeping grab for my pole…and missed, because I’d already jerked the line. Luckily, my face was there to stop his arm from smashing into and possibly damaging our fishing hut. Eager to share the spirit of the moment, I punched him back. In the ensuing chaos of tangled fishing line, overturned buckets and darkness, the fish made its escape.

Ice fishing in a canvas fishing hut

In the Honeymoon Hut © Darwin Wiggett

Well, we had a good laugh after our mouths stopped smarting as much. Reg thought, what with all that activity, that we’d either caught a fish or caught the honeymoon fever, but we did manage to fine-tune our technique and land several fish after that incident. Now they’re sitting in fillets in our freezer awaiting a warm frying pan and browned butter bath. Yum!

So there you have it! A quintessential spring day, fishin’ w’ the Wiggetts. How did you celebrate the first day of spring?

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