17 May

Spring and Summer Mentorships for Creative Photography

Here at oopoomoo HQ we enjoy helping people become better photographers (e.g. hone their craft) but what truly gets us excited and what we LOVE to do is help photographers become artists. We are all creatures born to create, and in photography the image is the conduit for personal expression. Channeling your vision through that conduit is easy if you know how to use your tools (the technical part of photography) AND if you are in touch with yourself, honour who you are and know what you have to say (the visionary part of photography). To help with both these aspects of photography, we are offering small group mentorships this summer designed to immerse you in the technical craft and artful expression of photography. Where will your personal vision take you?

Mastering the Creative Potential of the Tilt Shift Lens – June 18, 2017

For us, no other other tool in the camera bag offers as many technical and creative advantages as the tilt-shift lens. With a tilt-shift lens you can correct keystoning in-camera, make seamless horizontal and vertical panoramas, create giant, megapixel monster images, alter the plane of focus for incredible apparent sharpness independent of aperture, and manufacture dreamy, blurred and miniaturized-looking images.  And, best of all, every one of these techniques is created in-camera with nary a pixel altered by less capable software substitutes! The possibilities are almost endless. In the hands of an artist, a tilt-shift lens is a superhero paintbrush! To create art you still must master the brush, but once you do, your creativity will be unleashed and your photography will never be the usual ho-hum. This three-hour hands-on workshop will have you the master of the Tilt Shift lens so that you can use its potential to express your creative vision!

7/365 – The Mentored Photo Project

The Mentored Photo Project is a week of intense self-discovery through photography. With the guidance of us, your mentors, Sam and Darwin, you will conceive of, plan and execute a small photography project. A mentored photo project engages many different creative skills and is a rewarding way to transform your ideas into a guided, published reality. Several of our past mentored students have gone on to expand their projects in a way that has positively influenced their development as creative artists. Limited dates available! Register before May 31 and save 40%!

The Power of Composition and Light – May 27, 2017

This full day seminar in Medicine Hat, Alberta covers The Language of Light in Landscape Photography, Harnessing the Power of Tone for Compelling Images, Working Advanced Compositional Patterns in the Landscape, and Putting it all Together: Creative Landscape Imagery. We have a special announcement regarding this seminar…we’ve opened up a special offering of our popular online course,  Resolve: Discover your Creative Self for seminar attendees! We’re also pricing this informative and insightful course at $95 (regular price $150) to encourage everyone to participate in this unique course! See you at the seminar!





24 August

Iceland, Abbotsford and Beyond!

Here at oopoomoo HQ we are getting set for a busy season of teaching, talking and taking (photos of course).

First up, we are thrilled to be part of a photo print exhibition on September 8 at Resolve Photo in Calgary. The print show is called RAÐLJÓST and the show features the work of fifteen local photographers who’ve traveled to — and fallen in love with — Iceland. Inspired by the Icelandic word “raðljóst” (which translates to “enough light to navigate”) the photographs seek to show Iceland interpreted creatively by each artist. Sam and I got a sneak peak at some of the prints going into the show and we are thrilled to report that you’ll discover an Iceland unlike anything you’ve seen before. And seeing these finely crafted prints in person reminds us that a key aspect of photography is not only posting photos to the web but also the tangible pleasure of viewing them as works of art in the form of prints. Some may even argue that the pinnacle in photography is a finely created print! Rather than show off the works here on the website we encourage you to come in person and enjoy the surprising views and luscious nature of fine art photographic prints of Iceland. For more information please check out this link.

©Darwin Wiggett - Mývatn Lake, Iceland

©Darwin Wiggett – Mývatn Lake, Iceland

Second, speaking of creative vision and personal expression, we want to remind you that oopoomoo will be in Abbotsford BC on October 22 to present our new show, “The Visionary Photographer”. In this show we’ll cover topics designed to take you into the realm of photographic artistry:

  • The Confident Artist and The Art of Visual Perception
  • Creative Lens Choice and Camera Controls for Visionary Photographers
  • Advanced Compositional Patterns for the Visionary Photographer
  • Personal Style and Creative Vision: The Metamorphosis of an Artist

Early bird pricing on this show ends August 31, so be sure to register soon if you plan to go. Plus we’d love to reconnect and meet BC friends old and new.

Whaling Station Remains, Whaler's Bay, Antarctica ©Darwin Wiggett - oopoomoo.com

©Darwin Wiggett

And finally, you may have noticed the fine work coming from students completing our 7/365 – The Mentored Photo Project eCourse. We are thrilled with the inspiring work of our students and have shared their July results. Watch for more awesome projects from our August students coming soon to the blog! If you have a photo project in you bursting to be seen, we have four private mentorships available this September.

©Darwin Wiggett

©Darwin Wiggett

15 October

Light Painting for Beginners – No Calculations Required!

In advance of our Scaretography: Halloween Light Painting Event on October 25, we thought we’d have a little tutorial on light painting so that you can try some spooky effects on your own at any time. We’ll be doing more fun things with flash at Scaretography than just light painting, but this should get you started!

What is Light Painting?

Light painting is a photographic technique in which pictures are made by moving a hand-held light source onto a subject while taking a long exposure photograph. The results are unpredictable and different each and every time which adds to the joy of discovery! I use a few simple steps to set up for light painting.

©Samantha Chrysanthou - Here I used a flashlight to skim over the Limber Pine during this 25 second exposure at dusk.

©Samantha Chrysanthou – Here I used a flashlight to skim over the limber pine during this 25 second exposure at dusk.

Back in the good ‘ole film days, getting around the reciprocity problem (the degradation of the film’s sensitivity with loss of light during exposure) required more advanced knowledge of exposure calculation. With today’s digital cameras, you can “guesstimate” your exposure and adjust as needed without having to expertly calculate exposure. Although knowing more about exposure will always make you a better photographer, here is your cheat sheet for easy light painting.

©Darwin Wiggett - Back in the film days you often had to double or triple the normal exposure time required when you had exposure longer than 30 seconds. This is a four-minute exposure at dusk with Velvia 50 slide film.

©Darwin Wiggett – Back in the film days you often had to double or triple the normal exposure time required when you had an exposure longer than 30 seconds. This is a four-minute exposure at dusk with Velvia 50 slide film.

There are only a few simple steps I follow to set up for light painting. First, determine an appropriate subject. You will have to visualize how it will look lit up at dusk. It’s often best to select a single, prominent subject with a clean background. The point is to highlight the lit subject, not to capture a full landscape! Old vehicles in a grassy field, a lone skeletal tree, or a small barn work well for light painting. Often, I will only subtly paint the subject or select certain parts of the image (old tail lights on vehicles work well for this) to bring to life with the flashlight.

©Samantha Chrysanthou - A skim of light over the grass and truck and a directed beam of light on the head lights of the truck make this old truck come alive in the dusk light.

©Samantha Chrysanthou – A skim of light over the grass and truck and a directed beam of light on the head lights of the truck make this old truck come alive in the dusk light.

Second, buy appropriate flashlights. You will need at least one, and often two is better. Click the flashlight on and evaluate the type of light it provides. Is it a hot, small white light from a compact handheld? Or is it a yellow, larger, less focused light from a big tungsten flashlight? I like to shoot with warmer hued lights with one-million candle power or more. With newer LED lights take a yellow or orange gel and tape it over the light to give a warm glow against the cobalt blue dusk. Having your white balance set to ‘daylight’ or ‘sunny’ will also return a pleasing warm/cool contrast. Ensure that your flashlights are fully charged! (Everyone makes this mistake at least once.)

©Samantha Chrysanthou - You need lots of battery power to light bigger subjects!

©Samantha Chrysanthou – You need lots of battery power to light bigger subjects!

Third, head out to your subject in the evening before it becomes dusk. You want plenty of light so that you can walk around your subject and determine the most interesting composition. Usually, depending on how early you start and on how light the sky stays during the shoot, only one or two compositions will be taken. It is very difficult to compose and focus as it gets darker, so determine the best composition and set up your camera before it’s dusk. Once focus is achieved, switch to manual focus so your camera will not hunt to focus in the dark. Use a polarizer to help darken the sky. A polarizer will also allow you to start shooting a bit earlier as they remove one to two stops of light. Your camera must be on a tripod for such long exposures, and using a cable release will help prevent any camera movement. If you want to blend parts of several exposures of the light painted image into a final image, then don’t move the camera or tripod during the session!

©Darwin Wiggett - Tungsten flashlights (or gelled LED lights) give a warm subject glow against a dusky blue background.

©Darwin Wiggett – Tungsten flashlights (or gelled LED lights) give a warm subject against a dusky blue background.

How do you know when to start taking pictures? Ideally, you will want to take pictures when the ambient light is the same intensity as the sky. But what does this look like? First, determine which direction you are shooting. If your camera is pointing away from the sunset, you may notice that the sky in that direction is darker than the sky just above where the sun went down. This means that you will be able to start shooting sooner if your camera is pointing in that direction than if your camera was pointing toward the sunset. If you have no sky in your picture, then you will need to evaluate the ambient light compared to the sky in general. One trick is to look at your subject and squint your eyes a bit. If the light on your subject seems as bright as the sky, then it’s time to take your first exposure. If the light around your subject still seems a bit brighter than your subject, it may still be too early for a light painting.

©Darwin Wiggett - We like to shoot when the light on the subject is just a bit brighter than the surrounding light.

©Darwin Wiggett – We like the results best when the light on the subject is just a bit brighter than the surrounding light.

When the ambient light and the sky seem about equal in intensity, set your camera to bulb function so that you can have exposures longer than 30 seconds (the longest the shutter will stay open on a camera on shutter or aperture priority setting). Leave your aperture at f16 or f11 to start, although you may have to select a wider aperture like f8 later as it gets darker. Take an exposure at 30 seconds, and press playback to check your histogram (if you don’t know how to view the histogram of the image, refer to your camera’s manual). A histogram is a graph that shows the tonal values of a photograph. Knowing how to read the histogram is the most important part of light painting! You want the image to be properly exposed so that you have enough data when you process the image to avoid noise that results from an underexposed file. A ‘good’ histogram should have most of the data in the centre or centre-right of the graph without any data jamming up against either end of the graph. This is because digital cameras record more information in the brighter tones of the spectrum (represented by the right hand side of the graph) and record less data in dark tones. If your histogram shows data jammed at one or both ends, then data is being lost through clipping: the tonal range of the exposure is too great for the camera to record. If all the data is in the graph, but appears to be concentrated on the left side of the graph, the image is likely slightly underexposed. The actual shape of the graphed data does not matter for our purposes, and it also does not matter if data spikes through the top of the histogram.

©Samantha Chrysanthou - Be sure to judge your exposures based on the histogram and not how good the image looks on your LCD. In the dark, underexposed images look really bright on the LCD!

©Samantha Chrysanthou – Be sure to judge your exposures based on the histogram and not how good the image looks on your LCD. In the dark, underexposed images look really bright on the LCD!

The biggest mistake most photographers make when light painting is to take the image, look at the back of their LCD and determine that the exposure is fine because the LCD display looks good. But don’t be fooled! The display you are seeing is not the actual photograph you just took; it’s your camera’s best guess, represented in a small jpeg image, of what your final image will look like. This is why it’s critical to look at the histogram to determine if you have not underexposed your dusk image. On the LCD, the image may look too bright, but ignore this. When you process the image, it will come out looking as your eye saw it at the time.

©Samantha Chrysanthou - You can always darken a slightly bright picture to make it look more dark but making a dark image brighter will cause increased noise and degradation of image quality.

©Samantha Chrysanthou – You can always darken a slightly bright picture to make it look more dark but making a dark image brighter will cause increased noise and degradation of image quality.

If at 30 seconds, the data is jammed to the right on the histogram, wait until it gets darker and take another test shot. If the data is contained within the histogram and centre or centre-right, then you are ready to start light painting. Take another exposure of 30 seconds but this time aim your flashlight on your subject. You will want to pass the beam of the flashlight in an even manner over the areas you wish lit up in the 30 second time frame. (If 30 seconds is not enough time for you to pass the flashlight over the areas you wish to cover, wait until it gets darker for a longer exposure time). To avoid hot spots where the flashlight was held too long in one spot, twist your wrist in small circles as you paint and wiggle the beam over the entire surface to be painted. When your 30 seconds is up, check your histogram to ensure all the data is in and slightly balanced to the center or center right without going off either end of the graph. If the subject is too brightly lit by the flashlight, then paint for less than the full exposure time. Continue a few exposures at 30 seconds to get a variety of images to work with back home. The beauty of a light painted image is that no two are the same!

©Splotchy uneven lighting on the subject is part of the charm of light painted images.

©Samantha Chrysanthou – Splotchy uneven lighting on the subject is part of the charm of light painted images.

©Darwin Wiggett - Each frame will have different looks because you can never move light over the subject in exactly the same manner.

©Darwin Wiggett – Each frame will have a different look because you can never move light over the subject in exactly the same manner.

As the light dims, you will quickly find that 30 seconds is not enough time to expose your subject properly. Since you are on the bulb setting, you can keep the shutter open as long as you like (either on timer or with a locking mechanism on a cable release). As soon as 30 seconds produces a histogram that is becoming biased to the left (that is, underexposed), you will need to let in more light. A handy rule of thumb is to double your exposure time. Try a 60-second exposure and check your histogram. As the light continues to dim, double your exposure time if needed for the next photograph. There is no hard and fast rule; the trick is to interpret the histogram and adjust your exposure time as the histogram shows the image is becoming underexposed. When you are up to 4 minutes exposure time, you may wish to dial your aperture to f11 or f8 (if depth of field is not critical) to let even more light into the camera. You can keep shooting as long as you like, but keep in mind at some point the ambient light will not be strong enough to record behind your subject and separate it from the background. This is why light painting works best at dusk or dawn and not when it’s dark out. For long-exposure effects, look for wind-blown grasses or moving clouds. With this easy method, I get consistent results without having to bother with calculations (math is nasty!) or lugging around extra gear.

©Darwin Wiggett - Four minute exposure with northern lights in the background

©Darwin Wiggett – Four minute exposure with northern lights in the background


©Samantha Chrysanthou - Darwin goofing around on Halloween night.

©Samantha Chrysanthou – Darwin goofing around on Halloween night.

winking pumpkin

©Samantha Chrysanthou – Happy Halloween!


25 May

Debunking the Myth that Gear Makes the Photographer: Part II – Level the Playing Field

(This is Part II; click here to read Part I first!)

In this article, we discuss why classroom seminars AND field sessions are synergistic learning tools – don’t skip one in favour of the other! Remember we are using our upcoming Montreal weekend event as a case study to exemplify our point.

Level the Playing Field

So you arrive at your photo destination. As you come into the present moment, you tune into your senses and your mind is engaged. Photographic possibilities start to jump out at you. You take out your camera and begin exploring.

Or…you arrive and have no idea where to start, what to shoot. If this is you, make sure you read Part I and get thee to a seminar on Learning to See, like the one we are giving in Montreal on June 6! Taking a course on perception is your top priority. Don’t register for any field session photography workshop until you practice learning to see!

Are you ready for the field? Have you honed your ability to 'learn to see"?

Are you ready for the field? Have you honed your ability to ‘learn to see”?

©Darwin Wiggett - There are alwys photos beyond the obvious if you know how to see.

©Darwin Wiggett – There are always photos beyond the obvious if you know how to ‘see’.

Ok, you’ve arrived, you’re starting to get in the photographic groove…and you’re struggling with the assignments we’ve given you after our seminar. That’s good! We believe in helping cement the information provided in the full day seminar with targeted assignments designed to develop the three key skills that make a good photographer. Since we concentrate on field technique over digital darkroom work, we ask everyone to shoot JPEG (either raw + JPEG or just JPEG). This levels the playing field in that everyone is working on the same skills at the same time. We want to know if you’ve understood everything we discussed about seeing the nature and quality of light and how it affects tone in, for example, our Montreal seminar Harnessing the Power of Tone. And we want to see you build advanced compositional patterns to convey your photographic idea as demonstrated in Montreal’s Working Advanced Compositional Patterns talk (we are also giving this seminar in Black Diamond, Alberta, May 31). There’s usually a bit of whining when we make photographers hand in their JPEGs without benefit of digital processing. But the danger to be aware of is that ‘fixing’ your images on the computer makes you lazy. If you do most of your creative work on the computer, then you’re a digital artist, not a photographer. There’s nothing at all wrong with this. But we are teaching a photography course, so we want to see your field skills. You might be surprised and invigorated after a session spent focusing on your field skills! And the good news is that when everyone is shooting in-camera JPEGs it really shows that equipment does not matter; great images are often made with the simplest and least expensive cameras.

©Samantha Chrysanthou - Shooting JPEGS is hard, you need to get everything right in the camera - are you up for the challenge!

©Samantha Chrysanthou – Shooting JPEGs is hard; you need to get everything right in the camera. Are you up for the challenge?

There’s a reason why we encourage photographers to attend our seminars as well as our associated field sessions and that is because it’s a two-part strategy to learning. You receive the information and then you head out and test your learning. Attending just a field session without the benefit of the Saturday seminar puts you at a disadvantage. This is true for all our workshops, and we structure them this way because we’ve found that people learn the most with this format.

©Darwin Wiggett

©Darwin Wiggett – You learn most by stretching yourself!

So if you have registered for a field session in Montreal but are saving money by skipping the seminar (you know all that stuff, right?) we strongly advise you to register for both. Did you take the quiz in Part I? Seriously, compared to what most photographers spend on their gear, this seminar costs pennies compared to most photographers’ gear expenditures but will give you more than a year’s worth of education.

And this goes for any photo educational offering you’re considering…how much instruction is offered? How large are the class sizes? The field sessions? Is there a constructive feedback session afterwards to review your learning? Does the instructor build upon concepts taught in class or does the instructor just ‘show up’ to the field sessions? Does the instructor actively engage with you after the seminar either through social media commentary or answers to your email questions? Also, remember photo tours are about location and being guided to photogenic spots, whereas workshops should teach you to be creative no matter where you find yourself. Are you up for being creative?

North Saskatchewan River, Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada - Rokinon 85mm lens at f11

©Darwin Wiggett – Always evaluate your instructors in terms of their care in follow-up.

Nourishing Feedback, not Pablum, Please!

Speaking of feedback, let’s make it count. While it can be gratifying to get ‘likes’ on social media, these are vague and unhelpful. What did the viewer like? What did the viewer even think the image was about? What could be improved?

In our field sessions, we always try and schedule a feedback session after each outing. This not a time of criticism but rather a chance for you to see your work on the big screen and receive suggestions from your peers as to ways to improve and what they liked about your image. We also provide our comments but encourage class participation. Many students have told us that they learned the most during this constructive session. It’s a perfect way to cap off a full and fun weekend of photography!

Investing in a photo event like Montreal’s Learning to See: Developing Your Creative Vision is about you getting the best value for your buck. It’s about truly becoming a better photographer. So consider your educational options the next time you are thinking of upgrading your gear.

©Darwin Wiggett

©Darwin Wiggett – Sam says Get yer creativity on June 5-7 in Montreal!

21 May

Debunking the Myth that Gear Makes the Photographer: Part I

We’ve probably all heard it at some point when showing our images, that insidious insult dressed up as a compliment, “Wow, you must have a really good camera!” Why is it that people think a good photo is the result of good gear? And why do photographers rush out to upgrade to the latest camera body yet drag their feet when it comes to investing in photo education?

©Darwin Wiggett - Is Frans Lanting a great photographer because of the gear he uses?

©Darwin Wiggett – Is Frans Lanting a great photographer because of the gear he uses?

We think it’s a big fat myth that buying more and better gear will make you a better photographer, and yet that myth is alive and well out there. We are going to try and debunk this myth using our final photography workshop this spring, Learning to See: Developing Your Creative Vision in Montreal, June 5-7 as a case example. Tell us if we’ve convinced you. So here goes.

The Camera vs Your Brain

A camera is really just a black box made up of plastic, glass and metal. Your brain, on the other hand, is a marvel: coils and folds of squiggly grey matter are infiltrated with a network of delicate neurons that charge and fire and create – thought! Your life experiences shape your thoughts and interests, and your interests and thoughts create your images. A camera is by nature inert. It takes you, the photographer, to point the camera’s eye to something you deem worth photographing. It is you who decides which settings to use to portray your subject and it is you who pinpoints the split second to press the shutter.

©Darwin Wiggett - Its the grey matter behind the camera that matters most.

©Darwin Wiggett – It’s the grey matter behind the camera that matters most.

In other words, the camera is like a helpful slave that carries out your bidding. True, a camera can help the photographer by ‘guessing’ at some of the settings required to make certain photos such as is found with certain program modes, but even if you shoot on Auto Everything, you are the one who decides what to photograph. There is always a mind behind the shot, so insinuating that it is the camera that makes a good photo ignores the mind behind the photo.

©Darwin Wiggett - Where you point the camera and what you decide is worth photographing is not up to the camera!

©Darwin Wiggett – Where you point the camera and what you decide is worth photographing is not up to the camera!

Three Things Make a Good Photographer

What then makes a good photographer if not gear? Essentially, there are three skills that make a good photographer, and we’ve built our Montreal seminar around all three. First, a skilled photographer is one who can translate his thoughts, interests and experiences about a subject matter into an image. Remember that squiggly grey matter perched atop your spine? The germ of an image starts there, in those firing synapses. For example, in Montreal this June, our first topic in the Saturday seminar is Learning to See: The Art of Perception. This talk covers that crucial skill of being able to quickly perceive photographic potential in a moment in time. If you sometimes think there’s nothing to shoot here, then this is the skill you need to work on. Quite frankly, in our experience teaching photography for years, this is an area where many photographers are weak. No amount of gear is going to tell you what is a good moment to capture. In fact, we sometimes see an inverse relationship between the amount of gear a photographer carries and his ability to see! Gear can be a barrier in the way of true seeing.

Too much gear limits your ability to 'see'.

Too much gear limits your ability to ‘see’.

Second, not only do you have to be able to recognize the photographic potential in a split second, but you also then need to use every tool at your disposal to churn that moment into a final, complete image. This means understanding the creative power of camera controls such as aperture and shutter speed, and are fluent in the language of photography – composition. Do you know what the elements of visual design are? If not, get thee to an educational seminar! And guess what we teach in Montreal…you guessed it: Harvesting the Power of Tone for Compelling Images and Working Advanced Compositional Patterns in the Landscape.

©Samantha Chrysanthou

©Samantha Chrysanthou

Third, photographers need to understand themselves, what makes them tick. This is the key to developing personal style. If you don’t know and understand what motivates you to shoot, how can you follow your own creative vision? Do you find yourself copying other photographers’ work? Or are you comfortable with your own way of looking at the world? Creative Vision and Personal Style, our final talk on Saturday, addresses this important topic. By the way, in this talk, we reveal which is more important, vision or style, and why.

©Samantha Chrysanthou

©Samantha Chrysanthou

Take the Quiz

We’re going to end Part I of this topic with a little test. Grab all your camera gear and accessories and lay ‘em out. Make a list of your gear and its retail value at time of purchase. Now make a list of any dedicated computer equipment and software (e.g. special, high resolution monitors, photo processing software, extra hard drives etc.) and note the cost of this equipment at time of purchase. Tally it all up.

How much camera stuff do you own?

How much camera stuff do you own?

Now think back to this year. What photography talks, seminars or workshops have you attended? Write them down and note their cost. Write down any educational eBooks you’ve purchased and their cost – but only if you’ve read them! Unread educational material does not count nor do photo tours with no educational component. What about the year prior? Tally up the amounts you’ve spent on photo education in the last several years.

How much do you invest in your photography education?

How much do you invest in your photography education?

Compare the two columns. Does the gear/software column greatly outnumber the photo educational column? Have you spent more than $2000 in gear over the last year or so? More than $5,000? $10,000? If so, perhaps it’s time to invest in yourself, and stop lining retailers’ pocketbooks. The only way to be a better photographer is to invest in quality education. The Montreal weekend ranges from $75 – $95 per event. That’s a steal, folks.

Stay tuned for Part II where we level the playing field in our outdoor sessions and get serious with photo feedback.

©Samantha Chrysanthou

©Samantha Chrysanthou

29 April

Updated Spring Workshop Schedule – oopoomoo Photography Workshops Across Canada!

We just returned from a 3-day photo seminar with field workshops in Toronto where we met wonderful people and received some very positive feedback about our content, presentation and teaching style. John Weatherburn, past president of the Toronto Digital Photography Club related this to us:

Thanks again for spending the weekend with us. It was a very informative seminar and set of workshops. I have received very positive feedback from our members. I would say more so than with any other speaker!
The two of you working together works perfectly. Your complimentary interests illustrate clearly that there is no wrong way. Even using different equipment works well (always a debate in the club: Canon vs. Nikon!).

We love it when we can impart the oopoomoo values of create, inspire and educate to photography. The great thing is we learn just as much from our students as they do from us; it’s truly a collaborative adventure. Thanks, Toronto, for your hospitality and warmth and open hearts!

Next up on our schedule are the following events – we’d love to meet you and help you take your photography to a new creative and artistic level. To learn more about each event just click on the title for the event that interests you.

Creating Story and Mood in Photography
Winnipeg, Manitoba – May 2 and 3, 2015
©Samantha Chrysanthou

©Samantha Chrysanthou

Camera Controls Made Easy – From Confused to Creative in Four Hours!
Black Diamond, Alberta – May 9, 2015 – Sold Outwait list only
©Darwin Wiggett

©Darwin Wiggett

Creative Landscape Photography Weekend Intensive Workshop
Edmonton, Alberta – May 22 – 24, 2015 – Sold Outwait list only
©Darwin Wiggett

©Darwin Wiggett

NEWWorking Advanced Compositional Patterns in the Landscape
Black Diamond Alberta – May 31, 2015
©Samantha Chrysanthou

©Samantha Chrysanthou

Learning to See: Developing Your Creative Vision
Montreal, Quebec – June 5 – 7, 2015
©Samantha Chrysanthou

©Samantha Chrysanthou

29 March

Creative Camera Controls Workshop – Are You Ready to be the Boss of Your Camera?

Hot off the press! Bluerock Gallery in Black Diamond, Alberta, has asked us to teach a photography course at their gallery. We are flattered they approached us since we think Bluerock Gallery is one of the best venues showcasing amazing art – many from talented locals. For our topic, Samantha and I decided on one of our most popular and requested topics: camera controls. All too often, photographers vastly under utilize the power of aperture, shutter speed and ISO and the impact these humble settings have on the look and feel of your image. Camera controls are commonly taught by people who love jargon and math…we don’t really care for either, so we teach you how to get creative with camera controls in a simple, intuitive way.

So, want to go from confused to creative in just four hours? Even advanced shooters have told us they see the world in a fresh way after we explain the magic of camera controls! There are two dates to choose from, April 12 or May 9. See this link for more. These are our only local workshops scheduled so far for this year, so locals, grab your camera, and a tripod if you have one, and come out to our hands-on, informative and fun workshop!

Below are a few photos illustrating the creative power of camera controls!

©Darwin Wiggett

©Darwin Wiggett

©Samantha Chrysanthou

©Samantha Chrysanthou

©Samantha Chrysanthou

©Samantha Chrysanthou

©Samantha Chrysanthou

©Samantha Chrysanthou

©Darwin Wiggett

©Darwin Wiggett

©Darwin Wiggett

©Darwin Wiggett

©Darwin Wiggett

©Darwin Wiggett

©Darwin Wiggett

©Samantha Chrysanthou

©Darwin Wiggett

©Darwin Wiggett

8 April

Passion for Photography presents The Advanced Grand Landscape

Please note: the organizer, Dave Pattinson has suffered a stroke. Please send him your well wishes for a speedy recovery! In the spirit of Dave’s ‘passion for photography’ the show will go on!


Samantha and I will be giving a two hour presentation on The Advanced Grand Landscape this Thursday April 11 at 7:30 PM in Calgary for the Passion for Photography groupCost is only $20 for members and $30 for non members. To register go here or contact naveedshariat@gmail.com for further information

Grand landscapes can be beautiful to view, but tough to compose well. We’ll be discussing lighting considerations, construction of panoramas and stitches and processing to enhance story among a whole swack of other timely tips. To see a detailed outline simply click on this link! We hope to see you there!

©Darwin Wiggett

©Darwin Wiggett

©Samantha Chrysanthou

©Samantha Chrysanthou

©Darwin Wiggett

©Darwin Wiggett

©Samantha Chrysanthou

©Samantha Chrysanthou

©Darwin Wiggett

©Darwin Wiggett

©Samantha Chrysanthou

©Samantha Chrysanthou

©Samantha Chrysanthou

©Samantha Chrysanthou

©Darwin Wiggett

©Darwin Wiggett

14 February

Interview with Photographer David duChemin

Happy Valentine’s Day, everybody! We thought we’d share the love with you (I know, groooaan) by having someone else speak on our blog. So we asked David duChemin, a respected world and humanitarian photographer (and a cool guy in his own right) to be our Valentine today and answer some questions. David dishes on his fave travel gear, the tough work/life balance in his job, and leveraging social media to build your business. David is also our guest speaker at the Persistent Vision photography event March 15-17, so if you would like to meet him, catch him in Alberta between his journeys around the world! There’s still space in the Saturday portion of this exciting weekend photography event.


Antarctica – ©David duChemin

Personal Stuff

oopoomoo: For our friends who haven’t met you yet, how long have you been a professional photographer? What is your area of interest in photography?

David: I’ve been a photographer since I was 14, but it’s been my vocation for about 8 years. I’m most interested in landscapes, and the people that live on the land. Commercially I’ve been serving the humanitarian community for 8 years, with clients like World Vision, Save The Children, and The Boma Project.

oopoomoo: How did you learn the art and craft of photography?

David: I’m self-taught, by which I mean I directed my own learning and didn’t go to school, but I think none of us are really self-taught. We learn from all kinds of sources. In my case it was largely distant influences like Ansel Adams, Yousef Karsh, and Canada’s own Freeman Patterson who was an early hero of mine.

oopoomoo: As a world and humanitarian photographer, you must be on the road a great deal. How do you balance the demands of travel photography with running the everyday components of your business and maintaining friendships and relationships?

David: I’m lousy at balance. But then I also believe you need to play to your strengths, so I’ve got a manager that does what he’s good at, allowing me to do what I’m good at. My life/work/play are all the same thing, so there’s no compartments. I stay in touch with friends by email and Skype and I’ve got a Satellite phone for more remote locations. But I also find a way to include my loved ones in what I do. I take my partner, Cynthia, around the world with me when I can. My manager, Corwin, is also my best friend, and I travel with him when I can.

oopoomoo: Do you have a particular fondness for any one country or culture that you’ve experienced?

David: It’s so hard. That’s like asking my to pick a favourite child. I adore eastern Africa. I love India too. But then I need the open spaces of places like Iceland or Antarctica for a bit too. This is an astonishing world, full of beauty. I want to see it all. But I also know I can’t see it all, so these days I tend to go back to places I love, at least a few times, so I can experience it as deeply as time allows. I’d rather experience 50 amazing places a little deeper than 300 far too quickly.

oopoomoo: In 2006, you began photography “as a vocation” (in your own words), leaving behind a successful 12-year career as a comedian. At first glance ‘comic’ and ‘photographer’ seem quite different professions. How did being a comic prepare you for life as a professional photographer?

David: To be a good comic you need to understand why people laugh, and how to communicate in such a way that they do. It’s a very intentional communication, and I think the same is true of photography. It also taught me a lot about marketing. If you think marketing yourself as a photographer is hard, try being a comedian! Both are creative fields and I think it takes some tenacity to live solely on your creativity; comedy taught me that.

oopoomoo: Why is photography a vocation for you? How has your passion for photography helped and hindered pursuit of your photographic goals?

David: The word vocation literally means “calling” and that’s how it feels to me. It’s not just my work but my life’s work. It’s a medium that makes sense to me, that feels right, and that – most of the time – gives me a feeling I call my “this is what I was created to do” feeling. I don’t think passion for something can hinder the pursuit of it. That passion nearly took me into professional photography far too early, and I think that would have killed my love for it. My time in comedy was important in helping me figure out what I wanted to do with my photography.

herding goats in Kenya

Kenya – ©David duChemin

Photography Stuff

oopoomoo: We have to ask…what is your favourite photo gear to take when traveling to foreign destinations?

David: If I could only take one kit it would be my Nikon D3s and 16-35/4.0 lens. I have bags and bags of other stuff, but this camera and lens just seems to do it for me. That said I’ve recently been playing with a compact Sony RX100 and I love it. I’m also picking up a Fuji X-Pro1 to take to Italy with me this year. One body, 2 lenses. I can’t wait.

oopoomoo: You’ve put forth the message that “gear is good, vision is better”. Can you explain what you mean by this? Can we ever love our gear too much?

David: I think it’s a question of what you want to do. If you’re a camera collector, then collect and love all the cameras you want. If you’re an optics geek, then knock yourself out with charts and tests. But I just want to make photographs. And if it’s photographs you want to make, then the camera is just a means to an end. Much more important is your vision, or intent. Photography is a visual language and for that to mean anything, the photographer’s got to have something to say.

oopoomoo: Are you a natural at approaching people to make a portrait, or is this a challenging area for you? What approach would you advocate for other aspiring world photographers in terms of photographing people?

David: I’m an introvert. I hate approaching people for a portrait. I fear the rejection, just like most people that aren’t either extroverts or sociopaths. But I fear coming home without the photographs more. And I think fear is a good compass. Often the things we’re most afraid of are the things we should be doing, not avoiding, because we tend to fear going out of our comfort zone and nothing good happens creatively in that comfort zone. The magic happens outside that zone.

oopoomoo: Who are some photographers who have either inspired you in the past or who you follow today?

David: At the top of my list is Elliott Erwitt. I adore his wit and timing. He’s like Henri Cartier Bresson, but with a sense of humour. The last photo books I bought were from Erwitt, Andrew Zuckerman, and Bruce Percy, whose landscapes inspire me tremendously. Lesser known, I recently discovered an Indonesian photographer named Hengki Koentjoro, and his work is really beautiful.

oopoomoo: Looking into the future, and the impact of technology on photography, how do you think photography will look in the future? Do you think the camera is going to be subsumed into another, multi-purpose communication device?

David: I’m not sure. But I’m really less concerned about what the tool we make photographs with looks like, and more concerned that the technology serves us in making photographs themselves. I think constraints are important to creativity, so I won’t be thrilled with advances that just layer feature on top of feature. I don’t use half of the stuff my cameras can currently do. I go on workshops all the time and a student will say, “Hey, do you use the such-and-such on that camera” and I’ll have to confess I had no idea it could even do that. Willful ignorance allows me to focus on what I love instead of the relentless learning curve, which tends to be about technology, not making photographs.

travel jeep and campfire

Jeeping Weekend – ©David duChemin

Business Stuff

oopoomoo: In your book, VisionMongers, you describe a somewhat meteoric rise from when you first set out to be a full-time pro and publication of that book. To what would you credit your success in a relatively short period of time?

David: I think “meteoric” might be pushing it a little, but it was fast. I think it was going into it very intentionally, with a solid background in running and marketing a creative business. In show-business they say it’s 10% show and 90% business. I think in photography, to do it as working professional, you have to be 100% show and 100% business. Comedy also gave me an understanding of what it means to leverage your personality, and I’d already been blogging for several years, so my ability to write, and engage with an audience was already honed to some degree. All of that helps.

oopoomoo: When you first started out, how did you know it was time to take the plunge to full-time?

David: In my case I really had no choice. I was going bankrupt, and was at the bottom of the barrel. The bankruptcy was an accumulation of a lot of personal mistakes that finally caught up with me. So it was a good time to switch gears.  Like I said, I was already making a living, day by day, in the arts, this was just a shift from one art to another. I gave myself a year to transition, and that was all it took. Had it not gone as planned, I guess it would have taken longer.

oopoomoo: Also in VisionMongers, you give an honest assessment of the difficulties in making a living (as opposed to a life) in photography. What do you think are three, big challenges facing newcomers today, and how can they overcome them?

David: I think the challenges are the same as they’ve always been, just a little more obvious. In the past there was a sense of being a professional tradesperson and competing against peers. Now there’s a flood of people out there who feel they know how to use a camera and are glutting the marketplace with mediocrity. But there’s always been mediocrity. And there’s always been people willing to pay for excellence. Instead of looking at the challenges, I prefer to look at the opportunities and with the rise of social media and self-publishing, the opportunities to create and share our work have never been better.

oopoomoo: You have been blogging since 2005, are active on Twitter and leverage Facebook. What are your thoughts on social media as a marketing tool for photographers today? Is it essential?

David: I think if you’re not actively building and serving an audience through social media, blogs, etc., you’re insane. What a missed opportunity to share your work with the world. Sure, not everyone can write. Do a video blog. An audio blog. Do a photo-blog. But build an audience. That’s why most of us do this – to create and share. And if you want to share, this is the biggest, cheapest, most accessible way to do with a global audience. It doesn’t mean you have to do it all. I do my blog, and I interact on Facebook and Twitter. I’ve tried Google+ and I might try it again, but you can’t do it all. Or at least, I can’t do it all. Not if I also want to do it well and meaningfully engage on some level.

oopoomoo: Thanks, David!


Maasai Mara

Maasai Mara – ©David duChemin

19 January

Post Processing Your Images to Enhance Story

Our job as photographers is to capture the best possible image in the camera – an image that captures mood and the message we want to tell about the subject. Post processing of this image should always enhance or supplement the ‘story’ of the image and should not detract in any way. For example, in the photo of a leaf on Abraham Lake, I made a careful composition that showed the story of the leaf, the ice and the wind. It took me several attempts to pull out the best photo possible from this scene. Once I captured what I wanted in the camera, I turned to the digital darkroom to enhance the message. First, I converted the image to black-n-white to selectively manipulate contrast to bring out the snow and ice patterns. I then added back the original colour information in the photo from a duplicate colour image and then I shifted the colours slightly in the scene to enhance the cold mood but bring out the warmth of the leaf. In the end I think my processing choices enhanced the mood and feel of the photo. To learn how I did the processing on this photo be sure to come to our talk Enhancing Story and Mood in the Digital Darkroom to be held this Monday, January 21st in Cochrane (Note: There’s a catch to this one! You gotta be registered for the Persistent Vision Photography Seminar first!)

©Darwin Wiggett - The in-camera capture before processing

©Darwin Wiggett – The in-camera capture before processing

©Darwin Wiggett - The leaf image after processing to enhance the story.

©Darwin Wiggett – The leaf image after processing to enhance the story.

These days with all the funky software plug-ins out there most of us tend to go a little gimmicky with our processing choices adding ornamentation over function. If the processing is obvious, your story will be diluted. Samantha and I find that most people fall into the over processing trap especially with HDR photos. For example, in the first pairing of images below the left side of the frame shows one of the five exposures captured for HDR processing . The right side of the frame shows a typical ‘overcooked’ HDR image. This image was not overly exaggerated from the kind of results we commonly see! Yech!

©Darwin Wiggett - the original capture on the left, the over processed HDR on the right.

©Darwin Wiggett – the original capture on the left, the over processed HDR on the right.

Usually when we process HDR images we try to make the final result look more like our eye saw the photo (see the image below). There is a time and place for grungy, cartoonish, HDR images but we don’t think that place is with the subject above. Why? Because our ‘story’ was not a fake, shiny plastic landscape but a beautiful, natural landscape.  We’ll also be talking about our HDR processing workflow in our talk this coming Monday.

In the end, we always ask ourselves: does our processing bring out our story, or is the processing starting to become the main attraction? If our processing doesn’t add, or worse if it detracts from the story, we’ll go back to the drawing board and try again.

©Darwin Wiggett - a 5-image HDR processed with a lighter hand to tell a more accurate story of the subject.

©Darwin Wiggett – a 5-image HDR processed with a lighter hand to tell a more accurate story of the subject.