19 March
7 March

Seven Advantages of Using Tilt-Shift Lenses

Below are seven reasons why we like to use tilt-shift lenses for nature and outdoor photography. If you want to learn exactly how to use a tilt-shift lens, be sure to come to check out our new eBook The Tilt-Shift Lens Advantage for Outdoor and Nature Photographers.

Reason 1: Center and Edge Sharpness is Incredible.

A tilt-shift lens projects a very large image circle compared to a regular lens (see photos below). The closer to the edges of the image circle, the less sharp the projected image. Any part of the sensor that captures pixels near the edge of the image circle will be softer than pixels captured from the centre of the image circle. When set to the ‘zero’ shift position, a tilt-shift lens projects a giant image circle so that even the edges and corners of the sensor are capturing the sweet spot of the image circle.

When you compare the edge sharpness of tilt-shift lenses with regular lenses of the same focal length, the regular lenses fall short. For us this sharpness advantage is huge! We love having files with corner-to-corner sharpness.

Corner sharpness of a regular 24mm lens at f8

Corner sharpness of a 24mm tilt-shift lens

Reason 2: Horizontal and Vertical Panoramas Are Easy

With a tilt-shift lens, panorama photography is super easy. For a horizontal pan, mount your camera in landscape mode on a tripod and make three images: one with the lens in center position, one with the lens shifted to the right and then one with the lens shifted to the left. All three images will overlap perfectly and merge seamlessly in software. For vertical panoramas, the camera is in portrait orientation and the lens is shifted up and down vertically. Small sensor cameras give 3:1 ratio panorama images while full-frame cameras come in at about a 2.42:1 ratio. We cover some of the finer points in making panos from tilt-shift lens in our talk including exposure and software concerns.

Some sample vertical panoramas

Reason 3: Shift for Megapixel Images

Wanna make giant megapixels images with your camera? Well then just shift the lens in the opposing orientation to your camera to make megapixel rectangular images. For example, if your camera is in landscape orientation but you shift your lens up and down, you’ll get a big rectangular image that will increase your megapixel count by almost 100% (more with small sensor cameras). Shifting with a wide angle tilt-shift lens will also give you the coverage of an extreme wide angle lens but without the extreme distortion. For example, in the photo below using a full frame body and a 17mm lens, I increased the pixel count by 92% and the coverage of 17mm has increased to something in the 10-12mm range on a full frame camera!

Megapixel, mega-wide captures!

Reason 4: Shift for Perspective Control

Any time you point a wide angle lens up or down, things will start to distort; building and trees will look like they are falling over. With the shift function, perspective control is super easy if you know how to do it!

No perspective control

Perspective control using shift

Reason 5: Tilt for Miniaturization

We see this one a lot. It seems most photographers think tilt is only for making things miniature-looking. You can use it for that but tilt is really about altering the plane of focus to where you want it in the photo. The miniature effect happens when the tilt is opposite of the subject plane.

Miniature effect using tilt

Reason 6: Tilt for Infinite Looking Focus

Sam and I love tilt best for matching the plane-of-focus to the subject plane so that we have photos that are super sharp from foreground to background. Tilt allows us to control the plane of focus independent of aperture. Tilt for plane of focus is the most useful feature of these lenses but it can be super tricky! We’ll be discussing at our talk the Most Common Mistakes photographers do when tilting for focus (are you guilty of it?)

Both photos were taken with a 45mm tilt-shift lens at f2.8; the left without tilt, the right with tilt into the plane of focus (notice how sharp the entire subject plane becomes once the lens is tilted so focus matches the subject plane)

Reason 7 – Tilt and Shift Together for the Ultimate in Image Control

In nature photography when we use tilt-shift lenses, we are almost always using the tilt and the shift together. We might use shift for perspective control while tilt is for control of the plane of focus. Or maybe we are using tilt for focus but shift to make a panorama. The combinations and benefits are truly astounding! These lenses, while offering incredible creative opportunities, may not be for everyone. If you own a tilt-shift lens but haven’t been satisfied with results, or if you are thinking of purchasing one (they’re not cheap!), then come out on March 10th. If you have a tilt-shift, bring it along (if you don’t, no need to fret as we’ll have ours there). We plan to release a new eBook on these lenses in May, but we find there is nothing like a hands-on, guided discussion for fast and easy learning!

Tilt and Shift together

1 March

The Minimal Upgrade

©Samantha Chrysanthou and Darwin Wiggett

Photography is a gear-centric craft. We often measure the mettle of another photographer not by his pictures but by his gear. Watch two male photographers as they first meet in the field:  each casts an appraising glance at the other’s equipment, weighing who has the best gear. This dance of the photographic peacocks is won by the photographer with the biggest, brightest and newest gear. No wonder the camera manufacturers love guys as customers–they’ll always jump at buying ‘the latest’. Having the ‘best’ is a sign to others that you are the greatest warrior in the tribe. Pictures?  Who needs pictures?

©Darwin Wiggett

I have to confess that I am as guilty as anyone. I’m often seen sporting the latest camera model or trying out a new lens. But lately my peacock feathers have gotten a little tattered and tarnished (and a few have even fallen out). Maybe I’m just a little older and wiser, but the gear matters to me less and less when I am out shooting these days.  I find I am more moved by the process, creation, experience and joy of photography. Probably this is just an evolutionary stage in the development of the photographer. I have finally moved on from an obsession with gear to an obsession with creating (hey, that process only took 25 years!)

Here are a few observations I have made that might help you keep your upgrades to the minimum and your pocketbook healthy.

  1. It’s not the gear the matters, it how you use it. Ok, we have all heard this before, but that’s because it is true. I can’t tell you how often I have seen ‘over-geared’ photographers. They have top end cameras and a suitcase full of lenses but barely know how to turn their camera on. There is no point upgrading to a new camera unless you truly know how to use your old one. Trading in your Toyota for a Lamborghini means nothing if you can’t even get out of first gear!
  2. Only upgrade your camera or lenses if your current gear is somehow limiting your ability to translate your vision into pictures. For example, if you have become interested in sports photography but the camera and lens combination you have has glacially slow auto-focus (and it’s not user error on your part) then maybe it might be time to consider an upgrade.
  3. Don’t be fooled by the megapixel war! Just because a newer camera model has more pixels than the one you currently own does not mean that it’s a better camera. On the contrary, I have seen a number of ‘new’ cameras with large megapixel counts produce fairly disappointing results. Personally, I don’t really see why most photographers need anything more than 12-16 megapixels. You can make amazingly big prints with cameras in this range. Unless you literally are planning on papering your grandmother’s attic, anything more than 16 megapixels is probably overkill. Don’t buy pixels you’ll never need.
  4. Buying high quality lenses and a good tripod is more important than a top end camera. Glass is where it’s at. To get the best out of today’s digital cameras you need top glass. The lens is the limiting factor to quality images. Most camera sensors can capture more information than lenses can resolve, so buying the best lenses means better quality images. A great lens on a low end camera will give better photos than a mediocre lens on a top-drawer camera. Digital camera bodies are essentially expensive disposables. New upgrades to an existing body happen every 6 to 18 months. Good lenses are the long term investment. And a tripod (and solid tripod head) just ensures top quality performance from your lens because blurring is minimized when you use a tripod properly.
  5. Consider buying second generation bodies. I recommend not jumping in and buying the latest release of any camera. More and more, there are bugs and firmware issues that need to be resolved with new cameras. Wait before upgrading until at least six to nine months into the life of a camera model because by then prices will drop a bit and any issue with the camera will be well known and hopefully resolved. Better yet, as soon as a new camera is released, the predecessor to that camera will be available on the used market (or even new) in droves at crazy low prices. That is where you’ll get great bang for your buck!
  6. Go out and use the gear you already own. The more you practice, the better you will become both at the craft and art of photography. Buying new gear won’t make you a better photographer (sorry) but using the gear you already own will.

So get out, use and understand your gear, and forget about the dance of the peacock. While everyone else is out strutting around, you’ll be making art. In the end, that is what it should be about. Happy shooting!

©Darwin Wiggett - Canon Rebel T2I, Sigma 17-55mm lens




28 February

Little Landscapes on the Prairie

To follow up on Samantha’s previous post, Mating Cars and HDR, here are some freshly processed images from the landscapes we’ll be visiting during the Badlands, Buicks and Old Buildings: The Prairie Tour. These are the kinds of agriculture landscapes we will see on this workshop that also covers an old scrapyard, a historic town, and a stunning badlands natural area. Stay tuned for more to come.

©Darwin Wiggett

Photographed using a Canon EOS-1ds Mark III and a Canon 24mm tilt-shift lens tilted into the subject plane for infinite looking focus (1/15s at f14).

©Darwin Wiggett

This image was made with a Canon EOS-1ds Mark III and a Canon 24mm tilt-shift lens tilted into the subject plane for infinite looking focus (1/30s at f11) and then two exposures were made: one with the lens shifted down for the foreground and a second exposure shifted up for the sky. The two shifted images were stitched together using photo merge in Photoshop CS 5.0. To learn more on shifting and tilting be sure to come to our talk on March 10, 2012 on The Tilt-Shift Lens Advantage for Nature and Outdoor Photographers.

©Darwin Wiggett

This image of a canola crop at dawn was taken using the Canon Rebel T2i and a Sigma 70-200mm lens at 137mm (2s at f16) and a Singh-Ray LB Warming Polarizer.

©Darwin Wiggett

I made this image using a Canon Rebel T2i with a Sigma 70-200mm lens at 80mm (1/5s at f11), a Singh-Ray LB Warming Polarizer and I used photo merge in Photoshop CS 5.0 to stitch the two separate images together.

As you can see, there is a huge variety of subject matter on the prairies, from wind turbines to crops to old barns. The beauty of a small workshop like this is you won’t have hordes of photographers hanging over your shoulder or crowding your view. In fact, probably no one will be up at dawn when the pale pink sky contrasts with a land just kissed by the sun. Remember that we will be learning a lot on this workshop too with topics such as Ten Tips for Photographing Prairie Landscapes, Working the Intimate Details, Creative Lens Choice, and The Art of Light Painting all on the menu! We still have a few spots left; we hope to see you there!


21 February

Noise Free, Natural Looking HDR Images

Samantha and I just finished our talk, Raw versus JPEG: Which one is Right for You? on the weekend, and participants asked some really great questions. One of the topics we covered in the presentation in detail was how to get great HDR images no matter what format, raw or JPEG, you choose. The first question we were asked was,  “What software do you recommend for natural-looking  HDR (High Dynamic Range) images?” The answer to that question is easy. Out of all the software for HDR that we have tried, we find Oloneo HDRengine to be the easiest and fastest to use for natural looking results. If you want the ‘Pro’ version of the software then choose Oloneo PhotoEngine, but really HDRengine will cover most everyone’s needs and at $59 it’s affordable! (BTW, we make no commission nor gain any benefit from Oloneo for this recommendation; we just think it’s a great product). Mac users: sorry, but this software is only available for Windows for now. For Mac users we recommend Photomatix.

3 image HDR processed in Oloneo PhotoEngine

The second question was whether it’s better to use JPEG or raw to make HDR photos. In the talk, we went over the reasons why we prefer raw for our HDR imagery, but you can use JPEG format and get great results if you expose the images correctly. We find that most people don’t expose their images correctly for HDR and as a result get noisy, chunky and un-natural looking images.

The most common approach when shooting for an HDR is to make at least three different exposures based around the camera’s meter reading of a scene. So, you would have three shots: one for the mid tones, one for the highlights and one for the shadows. The HDR software takes these three images and blends them all together into a single exposure. An easy way to get three quick exposures is to set your camera to auto-bracketing and have the camera snap the different photos. A common bracketing sequence used by photographers is 0 EV, -2 EV, +2 EV as shown below:

This histogram is typical of a high contrast scene. This mid tone exposure (0 EV) records the mid tones in the middle of the histogram but the shadows and highlights are clipped on the left and right side of the histogram.

The -2 EV exposure captures the highlights without any clipping.

The +2 EV exposure captures the shadows without clipping.

An HDR image can be made from these exposures but the file likely will end up being noisy and a bit crunchy looking.

We are firm believers in the idea of ‘expose right’ or ‘expose to the right’ as it is sometimes called. In this scenario, you push the histogram as far to the right as possible without clipping highlights. Doing so gives you better data that can be manipulated in software without getting noisy. The trick, though, is to apply the principles behind exposing right to HDR images. To get better HDRs without noise, you simply need to make three exposures where the mid tones, highlights and shadows each get shoved, in separate exposures, over to the upper right half of the histogram where the best data resides.

The darkest exposure should place the highlights into the upper right of the histogram without clipping (this is a -1 EV exposure).

The mid tone exposure should move the mid tone information over to the right side of the histogram (this is a +1 EV exposure). The red areas show highlight clipping but we aren’t concerned about them as we already have the best exposure for the highlights in the -1 EV exposure.

The exposure for the shadows should push the darkest area of the photo into the right half of the histogram like we see here. This is a +3 EV exposure. Most people would think this highly washed out image is of no use at all!

The HDR software maps the well-exposed information for the mid tones, the highlights, and the shadows into a final noise-free and natural image.

The final HDR

Shadow details

The idea here is to make your darkest capture no darker than is needed to expose for the highlights in a scene. Then expose the mid tones and shadows in accordance with the ‘expose right’ maxim, pushing this data to the right side of the histogram as well. Looking at washed out, extremely over-exposed photos is kind of tough to take, but once the HDR’s from these files are made you will be surprised by how clean and natural the final results are. Try it for yourself and see if it works for you! See you on the ‘light’ side!

A big thanks to Royce Howland who introduced us to Oloneo software and to this expose right technique for HDR photos!

17 February

Tilting on Abraham Lake

As many of you know, I am a huge fan of tilt-shift lenses. There are so many advantages to these lenses for outdoor photographers that I couldn’t image photographing without them! Indeed, my landscape photography kit is currently made up of four Canon tilt-shift lenses (17mm, 24mm, 45mm, and 90mm). Last week I was out on Abraham Lake in the Kootenay Plains and I was a tilting and shifting fool using all four lenses equally! To illustrate one of the benefits of tilt (altering the plane of focus) check out the sample photos below:

©Darwin Wiggett

The photo on the right was taken with the Canon 17mm tilt-shift lens at a wide open aperture of f4. The leaf was only inches from the front of the lens. As expected, there is only one, thin slice of focus in the photo (the near foreground). Traditionally, I could use an aperture like f22 to extend the depth-of-field to a wider slice of apparent sharpness but with the leaf this close to the lens and the mountain so far back even at hyperfocal distance there would not be enough depth-of-field to render both the leaf and the mountain sharply.

Enter tilt. With tilt I can simply bend the plane of focus so that it falls on the leaf and the top of the mountain simulataneously — cool eh? Image taking a giant piece of cardbard and laying it with one end touching the leaf and the other end touching the top of the mountain. Everything in the plane of the cardboard will be rendered sharp when the lens is focused on this plane. So in the photo on the right, also shot at f4,  both the leaf and the mountain are sharp because I have tilted the lens so they fall in the same plane of focus. Some things are still out of the plane of focus (like the base of the mountain) but here is where traditional depth-of-field can come in and sharpen up the stuff that does not fall into the plane of the tilt. For the final shot below, I used f11 to give me just the depth-of-field I needed to get the entire scene sharp.

The final photo which was a raw capture was processed using Camera RAW in Photoshop 5.1 and Nik Silver Efex Pro 2.0 (to add some contrast and snap — more on how to do this in a future post).

To learn more about processing raw photos, be sure to check out our talk tomorrow (Feb. 18, 2012) on raw vs JPEG. And to learn more about using Tilt and Shift (which can be tricky!), be sure to sign up  for our talk on that subject March 10, 2012.

©Darwin Wiggett - The finished image of Abraham Lake

13 February

Raw vs. JPEG: Take the Quiz!

In general, advanced photographers are pretty confident about which file format, raw or JPEG, to use when making images.  But does that confidence have any foundation?  Listening to some shooters spouting off on this topic makes us cringe; there are so many myths and misconceptions around these two settings that beginner photographers must feel overwhelmed.  Well, we’re going to sort through this mess on Saturday at our oopoomoo Talk, Raw vs. JPEG:  Which One is Right for You? This talk is for both beginners and advanced amateurs.  In fact, this talk is for anyone who has told another shooter, “shoot in raw format if you want to be a good photographer”.  Take the quiz below to see if you know as much as you think you do!

Q: Professional photographers only shoot in raw format, and everyone should aim to photograph in this format.  True or False?

©Samantha Chrysanthou - Is this scene better captured in raw or JPEG format?

A: False on both fronts.  Knowledgeable pros photograph in the format that works best for the occasion; part of being a pro is knowing how to get the most out of your camera.  For example, wedding photographers often photograph in raw + JPEG format because this allows them to quickly send hundreds of proofs, the JPEGS, to clients for review.  The pro then processes those raws that are the final selects.

We know numerous pros who only shoot in JPEG format because the images are finished in-camera, and the final results of the shoot are instantly ready to send to the client (who always seems to have a pressing deadline!) Most photo journalists only shoot in JPEG, not only for concerns about immediate deadlines, but also for veracity — the image was captured in-camera and not subjectively massaged in raw conversion software.  Like many pros, we shoot in either raw or JPEG format depending on the context.  When we are shooting for ourselves and want the flexibility to process our images according to our artistic vision, we shoot in raw format. When we are shooting for clients who need fast delivery of accurate results of their products, we shoot in JPEG format. Rarely do we shoot both at the same time because each format requires very different approaches behind the viewfinder.

©Darwin Wiggett

The photo above is from the Talyn Stone photo shoot and Darwin shot in raw format. A large part of the creativity in this shot is done at the time of capture (model pose, lens, location and lighting choices) as most good photos should be, but the flavor of the image has been enhanced in the processing of the raw file (see the unprocessed photo below).

The RAW capture of Talyn

Q: Raw is a superior file format to JPEG. True or False?

A: It depends. There is a myth floating in photography cyberspace that raw is a ‘superior’ format and that only amateurs shoot in JPEG format.  It’s time to leave behind this kind of ego-stroking mentality.  The fact is that there are pros and cons to both formats.  Whether you shoot in raw or JPEG is going to depend on your personality, your interests, your skill level with the camera, your skill with processing software and the final output or goal of an image.  In other words, it’s a lot more complicated than it appears on the surface. For example, even if a raw capture gives you more and ‘better’ data to work with, if you captured poor data to begin with, then you’re still going to have a poor output even if you shoot raw. If your processing attempts can’t rival your in-camera jpeg, then why would you shoot anything other than JPEG?

©Darwin Wiggett - JPEG capture

©Darwin Wiggett - raw capture of the same scene

Q: You should bias your histogram to the right to get the best data possible no matter what format you shoot.  True or False?

A: False. The ‘expose right’ guideline is very helpful when shooting in raw format and trying to capture the best data possible. But always ‘exposing right’ for JPEGS is just a bad idea. The reason to shoot JPEG in the first place is to have the camera process the image so you don’t have to do so later at the computer. So, shooting JPEG means you have to capture the best possible data in-camera so the camera can use its processing algorithm to deliver a great result that needs no more processing after the fact. If you are post-processing your JPEGs, then you are not doing all you need behind the lens to give your camera the best data possible. JPEG shooters should not have to do image manipulation after the fact.

The funny thing about shooting JPEGs over raw is that JPEG format demands that you be a better photographer than a shooter using raw format. In short, shooting decisions  such as white balance, picture style, choice of lighting, and use of filters are more critical when the image is finished in-camera than when the data is simply harvested (raw) to be processed later.

Getting a great in-camera, finished JPEG means the photographer actually has to know the fundamentals of photography; raw shooters, on the other hand, can get away with knowing less about basic photographic principles. (We’re not advocating for photographic laziness though!  The more you know, the better your file quality regardless of file format.) So who says JPEG is for amateurs! If you don’t know just how differently you need to expose raw versus JPEG images, then come and learn more at our talk!

©Samantha Chrysanthou- Middle-toned scenes should have an average exposure, right?

Q: If you are just learning how to process raw images, you should shoot in raw + JPEG mode.  True or False?

A: By now, you should guess the direction we’re heading here by debunking these rumours.  This is also false.  Yet we hear photographers advising the hapless beginner to shoot in both modes as a ‘hedge your bets’ kind of mode.  The argument is that, if you shoot in raw + JPEG, someday when you are skilled at processing raw files, you’ll be glad you had that raw file from a year ago because now you can go back and rescue it from the bowels of your hard drive, process it, and win a contest!  There is an exception that proves every rule, so we won’t say that having just this situation happen is an impossibility.  But, realistically, as we’re learning, most of our early efforts are crap…or worse.  (Some of our early images make great instructional slides on what not to do!)

There are some big disadvantages to shooting raw + JPEG when you aren’t skilled enough to process a raw file.  For example, you’ve increased your file storage costs in this duplicate system and, unless you have a very organized file numbering/naming system, you run the risk of de-coupling the raw and JPEG files and losing one or the other of them.  Not only have you increased the cost of storing your images, you’ve also given yourself a headache after spending hours trying to find that darn raw file of your favourite JPEG image!  And how often do we actually go in and play with a raw file after the fact?  For most of us, the answer is probably ‘not often’.  Shooting raw + JPEG also acts as a crutch:  if you really want to learn the control of raw processing, then kick away the JPEG crutch and get processing.

©Darwin Wiggett - raw capture processed in Camera Raw and Photoshop

©Darwin Wiggett - the unprocessed raw file

Q: If you do HDR (high dynamic range) imaging, then raw is the only format to use. True or False?

Of course false. JPEGs captured well in-camera will make great HDR photos. Raw images not exposed well or processed poorly can look terrible:  just check out the garish HDRs polluting Flickr, for example. We constantly see ‘advanced’ photographers who tout the ‘quality’ of raw format yet feed their HDR programs terrible raw captures resulting in noisy, banded, and artifact-laden HDR outputs. Garbage in is garbage out no matter what format you orginally started with!

©Darwin Wiggett - 10 image HDR/Pano from raw files

Finally, there are very different considerations to be made in the field when shooting in raw vs. JPEG format.  The big issue is:  are you exposing for the raw file or the JPEG file?  What is the best capture in the field for one is often not ideal for the other.  Shooting both formats at the same time is problematic. As we mentioned in question 3, if you’re shooting in raw format, you’re going to try to bias your exposure slightly to the right.  But this may leave your JPEG image looking bleached and over exposed.  Yech!  Sure, you can try to darken the picture a bit on the computer, but you won’t be able to play with it too much before seeing a loss in quality.  And if you expose for the JPEG image so that it looks good on your LCD (which is what most JPEG shooters do), chances are the raw image is either underexposed or metered to an ‘average’ of the tones in the scene, and this is non-optimal for a raw file.  Why shoot raw when you come away with poor data?

These myths above are only the most common.  On Saturday, we’ll be discussing:

  • how to figure out which format will work best for your style of shooting and skill-set
  • the pros and cons of raw and JPEG formats
  • how to obtain optimal capture for each format
  • how to best expose for high contrast scenes for both raw and JPEG
  • how to shoot for the best data for HDR images

So if you are puzzled by the raw vs. JPEG debate, then come out on Saturday, Feb. 18th when we will set the record straight!  Please help us spread the word if you know of anyone who would be interested in this topic.  (And if you got any of the quiz questions wrong, come along too so that, next time you hear a photographer spreading these vile rumours, you can correct them!)

12 January

Interview with Environmental Portrait Master Dave Brosha

We are thrilled to have Yellowknife photographer Dave Brosha coming to the Calgary, Alberta area on January 28th to give a talk for photographers entitled Mastering  Environmental Light. The talk will be held in Cochrane (just west of Calgary) from 2-4 pm on Jan. 28, 2012. We think it is much better to have the talk in small-town Cochrane rather than downtown Calgary because this way you get free parking (and when was the last time you had cheap parking in downtown Calgary!) Plus we’re just a short jaunt out of Calgary and we are minutes away from Glenbow Ranch Provincial Park for those wanting to do an outing before or after Dave’s talk.

Dave will discuss how he gets his signature location portraits. Anyone who is interested should sign up soon; we only have room for 40 people. In advance of his talk we asked Dave a few questions:

©Dave Brosha

oopoomoo – You have the rare ability to capture both story and technical perfection in your location portraits. Many professional photographers are good at technique but few capture story and mood. Any tips on how you get those great moments in your work?

Dave – I think the key is not to get so hung up on the technical that you fail to make a connection with your subject, work with them, and really… just let your creativity bubble.  Ultimately, your subject doesn’t really care if your light is diffused by a softbox, double-diffused, camera right or left, table-topped, or from a planet far, far away.  They are there to work with you, and if you’re fumbling with light and settings too long, you’ll lose them.  Aside from that, you mention “story and mood”.  That’s very important to me; once I have my technical figured out (and this is where practice makes perfect, and makes you quick), it’s “play” time.  Shoot and shoot and shoot.  Try different angles, different expressions.  Don’t be afraid to work with your subject; to ask them for suggestions.  Some of my best images have been out of suggestions from my talent/subject.

©Dave Brosha

oopoomoo – When we see any image you made we immediately know it to be a Dave Brosha photo; you have a signature style. Any advice for photographers on developing their own voice?

Dave – First of all, wow, thank you.  It’s funny, I think my style developed out of my love of landscape photography (which I considered myself first and foremost for years).  I always had a love of “The Environment”, whether that be windswept tundra or dramatic lines of a building with great architecture.  Either way, it was stuff I wanted to incorporate into my images of people.  Although I have a studio, my passion is photographing people in other natural and man-made environments.  So that’s a big part of my style, I think.  The other would be when I took it upon myself to learn and then introducing lighting to the mix.  People may not know this, but I would say 90% of my studio or small flash-lit portraits are made with one light source, and very simple techniques that I use again and again.

©Dave Brosha

oopoomoo – Living in the north gives you access to many unique opportunities but it can also be a struggle because the number of clients are small. How have you grown your business in a city (Yellowknife) with a relatively small population?

Dave –  I had a fear for a long time of plunging into the full-time world for just that reason (the relative smallness of Yellowknife).  Before I opened my studio I can remember two or three of the other photographers in town telling me that I was nuts:  that there would never be enough business to support a studio.  Luckily I had a gut that told me that it could happen, and a fantastic, supportive wife who basically forced me to follow my dream.  I think the business reason why it’s “worked” is that I haven’t been afraid to try, well, everything.  Portraiture, studio work, wedding, underground mining, aerials, headshots, various corporate shoots, advertising, magazine, creative, newborn, maternity, fashion, model, and so on.  This place is too small to really specialize, so I had the unique opportunity to photograph basically everything and everything.  And what a way to test and grow your skillset in a short time:  shoot lots and shoot very diverse.

©Dave Brosha

Aside from that, word-of-mouth is gold.  Each and every person I photograph is more than just a client that pays your bills.  This is very important for all photographers to understand.  I  subscribe 100% to the belief that if you are good to people, they will be good to you.  Care about what you do. Care about doing a good job for the people who have put their trust in you.  When people have criticism, accept it and work with the client to make it right, rather than getting defensive and potentially ruining a relationship.   While this is true everywhere, it’s especially true in a small market.

©Dave Brosha

oopoomoo – Most working commercial photographers have little opportunity to leave their local community, yet you seem to be able to make several major travel photography trips a year. What is the secret to affordable travel photography?

Dave –  Honestly, I have no idea how these things happen (the continued work/travel), but they just keep happening.  I’m looking for a major piece of wood to knock upon right now.  Last year I found photography work in five countries and all across Canada and I would say, again, that word-of-mouth was key. Don’t under-estimate the power of your local clients and contacts to lead to jobs beyond your immediate vicinity.  That, and putting yourself out there as a photographer that is willing to travel through your website and the work that you show.  I picked up a great three-day job in Alaska last year because a company had Googled “underground mining photography” and I think some of my stuff came up in the results.  They liked it, picked up the phone, 10 days later I was on Prince of Wales Island.  If I had been afraid of marketing myself online, that wouldn’t have happened.

©Dave Brosha

oopoomoo – You are coming to give a seminar here in Cochrane on January 28, 2012. What can we expect to learn during your session?

Dave – Our afternoon will be a fun, fast, and furious look at the world of assessing your surroundings and choosing the right approach for lighting and photographing your subject within these surroundings.   While we’ll cover some of the technical essentials (i.e. camera settings) and gear (i.e. different light-shaping modifiers), this will more be about how we can balance ambient and artificial lighting while – most importantly – working with your subject to make a memorable image.  We’ll look at some of the differences between “small” (i.e. flash) and “big” (studio) lighting, look at the differences of quality and shape of light using different pieces of gear, and demonstrate on a (hopefully willing) model.

Bottom line, it will be about making environmental portraits that “pop”.

oopoomoo – Thanks for bringing your expertise to Cochrane, Dave! We look forward to your talk.

For those photographers interested in learning how Dave makes these great images just click here to sing up.

©Dave Brosha

3 January

Winter Blues: Enhancing Mood in Monochrome

Most Canadians long to escape the icy claws of winter and head south for sand, sea and umbrella drinks. In fact, book publishers used to tell me that they never allowed more than 10% of a picture book of Canada to be images of winter because, if they did, book sales would plummet. It seems like Canadians simply do not want to be reminded of winter. I used to be the same; I would retire to the fireplace and put my camera into a deep winter sleep. But no more! Over the last seven years, I have actively plunged into the icy cool hues of winter and have created some of my most memorable and rewarding imagery.

©Darwin Wiggett - Abraham Lake Ice Bubbles

The infamous ice bubbles of Abraham Lake in blue monochrome.


1 January

Happy New Year! Self-Improvement, Photography Style

‘Tis the season of self-improvement, and what better way to improve oneself than setting a creative goal like becoming a better photographer!  But ‘better photographer’ is pretty vague, isn’t it?  Sometimes it helps to come at these kinds of things sideways.  We often advise our students to try a project for a set period of time if they feel like their photography is in a rut.  The project should be as detailed as possible, with a finite time and a measurable goal.  You also want your project to be realistic so that it is achievable.  Many shooters were inspired by the ‘Daily Snap’ project Darwin took on at his old blog in 2010 but photographing every day may not be realistic for all of us.  A good project that is very effective but a bit less time-intensive might be to choose a nearby location and visit this spot once a week for several months, making images at different times of day, in various weather and when you are in different moods.  This kind of a project helps you learn to see by challenging you to find something worth photographing even after you become familiar with (and often desensitized to) a location.  It also improves your self-awareness of what motivates you to click the shutter and how your state of mind influences your photography.  By keeping your images, you’ll have a ‘photographic record’ of your evolution through the project…and maybe even an image or two that you are proud of taking and that is worth sharing.

How do you continue to develop your artistic skill as a photographer?

McDougall Church near Morley

© Samantha Chrysanthou


McDougall Church near Morley, Alberta

© Samantha Chrysanthou