We are so lucky to get the best participants every time we do a photo workshop. Maybe our weird name and informal teaching style attract like-minded people. Whatever the reason every workshop we have so much fun, have a lot of laughs and are so keenly inspired by the work of our participants. Check out the great work by our Glory of Autumn participants photos below – great stuff! Next up is our Beyond the Icon Workshop starting October 21, 2014.
Johann Van Der Merwe
We just wrapped up our Glory of Autumn photography workshop in the Canadian Rockies. We had a great group of photographers with diverse interests – watch the blog for a sampling of their photos from the workshop coming soon! Here are a few shots that Darwin and I made during the workshop.
A little scouting before the workshop began seemed a good idea.
Abraham Lake was full! The shoreline scattered with leaves made for unique shots.
We had fun playing with the glorious aspen colour.
We each tried to shoot beyond the ‘classic’ landscape image.
Anyone who has seen light painted images is keen to try it themselves. I know the first time we saw images that used flashlights at dusk to sweep warm light over the subject we were intrigued. How is that done? In this article we’ll tell you how we do it.
First a confession; we’re lazy! If we can get away with not bringing arithmetic into our photography—or our lives—we do. (Maybe that explains the puzzlement in our household when it is budgeting time!) Back in the good ‘ole film days, getting around the reciprocity problem (the degradation of the film’s sensitivity in dim light during exposure) required more advanced knowledge of exposure calculation to make light painted images that worked. 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 light painting at dusk.
We aren’t going to spend much time on what makes the best subject to light paint here. If you are interested in learning more about composing a subject to light paint, check out our Fire and Ice In the Canadian Rockies Workshop where we will add some ‘fire’ to our scenes with some man-made light (in case the sun does not cooperate!) One quick tip is, if you are a beginner, it is often best to select a single, prominent subject with a clean background that is the size of a car or smaller. The point is to emphasize the lit subject, not an entire landscape! Old vehicles in a grassy field, a lone, skeletal tree, or a small barn work well for light painting. But be creative.
Another preliminary consideration is the kind of flashlight you want to use. You will need at least one, and often two is better. For landscape work, we prefer to shoot with warm toned tungsten based lights with one million candle power or more (cheap ones can be had at Canadian Tire). But tungsten lights are rare and now most flashlights are halogen bulbs. Take a piece of yellow or orange plastic and tape it to your halogen flashlight to make the colour of the light warm to contrast with the cobalt dusk sky. Or use any colour of gel you want to add numerous colours to the scene. The more powerful the flashlight the bigger the subject you can handle. Ensure they are fully charged! We have seen many a photographer happily painting their masterpiece only to witness their light fade to a dismal glow. That has never happened to us, of course.
Head out to your subject before it becomes dusk. You want plenty of light so that you can walk around your subject and determine the most interesting composition. Also you want to start early because it is very difficult to focus as it gets darker! Your first job is to get your composition and focus in place. Once your camera is set up (on a tripod with a cable or remote release) you are likely going to leave it in place as you light paint. So this means generally you only get one composition per session, so make it a good one! Once precise focus is achieved, switch to manual focus so your camera will not hunt or change focus as you take pictures in darker and darker conditions. 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 in Photoshop, then do not move the camera or tripod during the session. And remember if you do move the camera you will need to re-focus which can be hard in the dark even if you use the aid of a powerful flashlight.
How do you know when to start taking pictures? You’ll need a long enough exposure to skim light across your subject using a flashlight. For small subjects like a boulder or a small tree you may need 15 seconds or longer to light paint (depending on the size and power of your flashlight). A quick method we use to know when to start light painting is to set our camera to aperture priority and pick an aperture of f8. Once we get a meter reading of 15 seconds at f8 we’ll try our first light painting.
For our first attempt we’ll skim the flashlight over our subject in several strokes making sure we try to get the whole subject covered. We often like to paint the subject from the side (side-lighting) to give some texture to the object. Once the shutter has closed, go over and look at your LCD. If the light-painted subject is too dark, then you need to spend more time painting the subject with the flashlight. If you were unable to pass the light of the flashlight over the subject for the full 15 seconds, then try again. If you are finding you are still short of time, then you are going to have to wait until the exposure on your camera indicates a longer exposure time like 30 seconds at f8.
If on the other hand your subject is lit like a nuclear explosion, then you need to spend less time light-painting your subject. Maybe you only need one or two strokes of light across the subject to illuminate it. For example, maybe you only need 4 or 5 seconds of flashlight exposure to light your subject but the background needs a full 15 seconds to properly illuminate. The key here is that you control the brightness of your subject based on how long you light it with the flashlight. The brightness of the background is controlled by the overall camera exposure. If your background is too bright, try setting your exposure compensation to -1 EV. If your background is too dark try changing your exposure compensation to +1 EV.
It won’t take long in the dimming dusk until your camera’s exposure is at 30 seconds and soon thereafter your camera will flash a warning about underexposure. What if you want to keep shooting? Simply set your camera to Bulb mode (refer to your camera manual if you are unsure how to do this), set your aperture at f8 and then use your cable release to lock open the shutter for a one minute while you continue light-painting. Some camera releases can be programmed to give precisely timed long exposure but you can get by with the old fashioned method of mentally counting out the seconds while you light paint. As it gets darker and darker you will need to double your exposure time to properly expose the background (e.g 2 minutes, 4 minutes, 8 minutes etc.). But the exposure time for your flash lit subject will remain constant because the brightness of your flashlight is constant.
Take advantage of the flexibility of digital cameras and experiment until you get the perfect balance. Delete the ones that don’t work and keep the magical images. This cheat sheet is just the beginning to the fun you can have with light painting, and there are many more things to consider in light painting like varying the aperture for depth-of-field effects, checking your histogram for optimal exposure, and finessing your light-painting technique to create an ethereal look. To learn more about these advanced techniques come out to our Fire and Ice Workshop in November.
Summer is flying by! In Alberta, there’s already a nip in the air — autumn is basically here! The brisk winds and unsettled skies always seem to indicate that change is in the air…and for us here at oopoomoo, we’ve decided to continue with the spirit of exploration that we’ve created by beginning our creative sabbatical. In 2015, we plan to pursue some exciting opportunities to learn and grow and continue our quest for ‘the good life’.
This means we will be taking a hiatus from the whirlwind of workshops we’ve been organizing or involved in over the last few years in order to continue with the spirit of our creative sabbatical. We will share our adventures from time to time with you on our blog, but for those of you who have always wanted to come on an oopoomoo photo workshop, now is your last chance for a little while! Outside of photography events organized with Camera Clubs, we will not be running our usual slate of oopoomoo workshops in 2015.
While there is still plenty of opportunities to get involved this fall, space is limited! Click on a link below to learn more and for info on how to register:
Workshops out of Aurum Lodge in the Canadian Rockies
Glory of Autumn, Sept. 23-28 – This popular workshop was sold out, but one opening has just come up due to a cancellation! We explore the grand vistas as well as the secret nooks of this stunning region during a season when nature dons her most beautiful colours. One spot left.
Beyond the Icon, Oct. 21-26 – Tired of taking the same old shots? Do you struggle to express your own creative ideas or ‘see’ photo opportunities in the field? In this field-intensive workshop, we dig deep, encouraging you to develop your creative vision through the study of one of nature photography’s most challenging styles – intimate landscapes. Four spots left.
Fire and Ice, Nov. 4-9 – Devoted photographers visit the Canadian Rockies in late fall/early winter. They know that they’ll have the quiet roads to themselves yet still experience the charm that this season of flux can bring. From snow squalls to shorts weather, the variability leads to exciting photo opportunities. Oh, and did we mention the fiery light? Six spots left.
Artists in Residence (until Nov. 15) – Can’t make any of these dates? Now is the perfect time to take advantage of our presence at Aurum Lodge as Artists in Residence. Customize your learning! We work with you on your personal learning goals in these value-packed sessions.
Watch for these oopoomoo photography workshops in 2014 and 2015!
Edmonton, September 2014 and May, 2015 – The Creative Landscape Photography course we delivered this past spring at the Burwell School of Photography was a smash hit! Two more dates have been added to this popular workshop and one is just around the corner, starting September 19. Offerings with other Clubs and schools are the best bang for your buck since you can save on accommodation costs when we’re in your neck of the woods – so check ’em out and support local education!
Toronto, April 2015 – More details coming soon!
Winnipeg, May 2015 – More details coming soon!
And to all of you who said you would visit us at Aurum Lodge…come see us already!
Samantha and I love to help people unleash their creative vision. We all have our own unique visual voice but sometimes we unwittingly tamp it down with barriers to seeing. In our workshops we try to point out these barriers and get people to release themselves to allow creativity to flow. We discuss the barriers to seeing extensively in our eBook, Learning to See, but in our workshops it’s our assignments to our participants that really kick start personal expression. We are always blown away by the great images produced by our students on assignment. Below is a small sampling of images made by our talented students on our Buicks, Badlands and Old Building Workshop held in August.
If you are interested in challenging yourself to be more creative we would love to have you come to one of our remaining workshops in 2014. We have our weekend Creative Landscape Photography class in September, Beyond the Icon, Intimate Landscape of the Canadian Rockies in October, and Fire and Ice in the Canadian Rockies in November.
And now onto the student photos!
From time to time, we receive inquires about what is included in our instructional photography workshops and what a participant can hope to achieve by attending. Actually, I made that up. Hardly anyone asks us those questions (see here for why). But since each workshop is different, we have started this new series to go into a little more depth about a particular oopoomoo workshop. If you’ve been considering one of our current workshop offerings, here is a little more information that should help you make your decision.
Not all workshops are created equally. Choose wisely.
So, if you didn’t click that link we provided in the first paragraph, may we gently suggest you take the time to do so now. oopoomoo photography workshops aren’t the usual run-of-the-mill, ‘everyone line up and shoot’ event; our focus is on you and your learning. We also throw in some helpful criteria to evaluate any workshop. Past participants have told us that oopoomoo workshops are special. Read this article first to discover why.
Getting Bad in the Badlands
Whether something is worth visiting depends not on where it is, but your interests and goals in heading there in the first place. Yes, we are about to make the argument that the Alberta prairie is just as exotic and extreme a place as the Amazon (and interestingly, just as endangered from climate change). Just think: if you were so unfortunate as to have lived your entire photographic life in the tropics, caressed by warm breezes and drinking coconut milk all day, well, things would be pretty boring!
Ok, maybe that’s a stretch. We could all enjoy more coconut.
But what the jungle doesn’t have is that herby, sweet, clean, crisp prairie spirit. You haven’t really felt insignificant until you’ve looked to the horizon and seen nothing but a strip of rippling grass bending under a sky at once benevolent and maleficent. Everything under that sky gets stripped to its basic compositional elements of bone, wire, steel. Under a sky like this, a photographer finds out what he or she is made of.
So if it’s location you’re after, this is it. As Darwin frequently puts in his blog posts (and Sam frequently edits out) it just doesn’t get any better than this! In this case, we both agree. The prairie is the bomb. During this workshop, we dream the nights away in a family-owned, treasured, historical mansion. We journey to Dry Island Buffalo Jump Provincial Park to photograph the sun cresting (or descending) the lip of a cliff so sudden and unexpected it was used as a tool to trap stampeding bison to their deaths so that First Nations tribes could survive the harsh winter to come. (Did we mention this workshop is in August during some of the prairies’ most clear, beautiful skies, and NOT during the stark, harsh winter? Jus’ sayin’.)
Sure, you can find an old car or two, hulking in the grass near a back road somewhere. But have you ever approached the property owner for permission to photograph said vehicle? Can be scary. Rest assured you are welcome at this junkyard delight! Wander at will for a few hours in the autowrecker’s boneyard (just avoid the crushing machine).
Old Buildings (Not Just any Old Stuff)
Along with staying in an historic (and possibly haunted by a friendly ghost??!) mansion, we are also situated on the grounds of the old Trochu townsite complete with a handful of preserved buildings (including a hospital and school – not haunted to our knowledge). Explore these during your downtime, but save energy for our trip to an historic town east of Trochu to lightpaint the train station and character buildings of this unique gem of a town! Bring your flashlight to experiment with light painting these period structures.
Meet Your Fellow Participants!
This all sounds pretty good so far, but a key benefit to oopoomoo workshops is the learning opportunity available to participants from each other. With such a small group and two photo instructors, you get the benefits of private mentorship with the bonus of feedback from your fellow shooters. No two photographers see and experience the same location in the same way. How do you quantify the value of your peers’ feedback during the workshop? We don’t know, but we have heard time and again how helpful it was to see another photographer’s interpretation of the same place. With such an intimate group, you won’t have shooters in your way but you’ll still have new friends to be able to share your work for constructive feedback and creative inspiration.
oopoomoo Workshops – Join the Crew!
If we haven’t covered your concerns in this post or on our description of the workshop, feel free to email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Or scout past participants’ work in our facebook group, oopoomoo Photography Workshops, (it’s an open group; send your request to join).
And now, to whet your appetite…the awesome work of some of our past past participants!
With all the wonderful photographic opportunities out there, it can be difficult to decide WHICH event to choose. But regardless of whether you are saving up for that once-in-a-lifetime photo trip or seeking something a little closer to home, BEWARE! Not all photography workshops are created equally. Price or location alone is not a good determination of fit for you and your creative goals. Too often we’ve heard feedback from participants about workshops that didn’t meet their needs or expectations. We’ve set out where we are coming from in terms of how we select, design and operate our photography workshops, and we hope this information will help you evaluate whether an oopoomoo workshop is for you!
Booking on Celebrity Factor
Have you ever attended an instructional photography event only to discover the photographic leader was more intent on his or her own photographic opportunities than assisting you, the paying client, with yours?
It’s tempting to book a workshop based simply on how much we admire the photographs of the photographer leading the workshop. But just because someone can photograph, doesn’t mean they can teach. Doing something very well is not the same as being able to communicate how such a thing is done. It also doesn’t mean that such photo ‘instructors’ give a rat’s hiney about you and your artistic needs and goals.
We think an entitled attitude from a photography instructor is just wrong. It pains us to hear from our workshop participants that other photographers charge exorbitant fees for sub-par instruction. No one is keeping that photographer from shooting on his or her own time, and the priority in a photography workshop should be quality leadership and friendly guidance. In short, your fearless leader should truly care about you and your learning. THAT is the hallmark of a good teacher and a basic prerequisite to hanging out the workshop shingle.
Booking for Value
In selling real estate, there’s a common saying: location, location, location. An equivalent for photography workshops should be: value, value, value. It’s a simple question, really. For the money you paid, do you feel that you received fair value for what you got? It’s a contextual question, which is why you can’t make the decision based on price alone. Good questions to ask yourself are:
Is it a tour or a workshop?
We moved from a tour format to a workshop format not because we didn’t want to do tours anymore but because we found again and again that our clients wanted more interaction with us and our knowledge of photography and the locations. In short, if you are booking a workshop, your instructor’s priority should be on helping you with your shots. During a photo tour, usually you hire a guide whose job is to show you locations where you can make your own great images. This isn’t to say during a workshop a photo leader never makes an image (having someone constantly at your shoulder is also extremely annoying), but his or her camera should be put down immediately if someone has a question.
What’s included in the cost?
Are there other costs not factored into the price listed? Often photography workshops seem cheap because there are ‘extras’ not listed, such as some meals, lodging, taxes and fees. Carefully add up all costs associated with a workshop before coming at a final price. Research comparable workshops to evaluate the market listing of the workshop.
Do I know what to expect?
Hopefully, the workshop is described in enough detail that you know what topics will be covered, what photographic opportunities await, when and how to pay, how many are attending, where you will be shooting etc. Additional info that should be available either at the listing or after registration includes how the event will unfold, any safety concerns or risks, what gear and clothing to bring and what (if any) follow up happens afterward. You shouldn’t have to ask for these details.
Booking for Fun
We admit it. We photograph rubber chickens. (Sometimes, they accompany us to our workshops.) Participants have also been known to photograph the chickens. While the subject matter of an image can be heart-rending, the act of image-making is enjoyable. You should have fun with your instructors and your fellow shooters during a workshop. Our policy is: life is too short not to play with rubber chickens.
A good workshop should:
- be client-focused: it’s about you and your creative goals
- leave you feeling you achieved value for your investment
- be professionally conducted throughout
- be taught by qualified teachers who truly care about you and furthering your artistic goals
- facilitate contact with your instructors before, during and after the workshop
- take out the guess-work: look for clear descriptions of the event, clear policies on payment, refunds, cancellations etc., clear communication with you through the booking procedure, during the workshop and afterwards with follow up
Why an oopoomoo Workshop?
Here at oopoomoo, we’ve always been passionate about sharing our joy of photography with other shooters. From featuring inspiring photography on our oopoomoo blog to sharing participants’ images from the workshops, our creative outlet is photography but our focus is photography education.
But in the end, what we are most proud of is the achievements of our students. We are humbled and in awe of what our workshop participants share and show during oopoomoo workshops and beyond. Our core belief is the foundational need and value in nurturing our clients’ unique perspectives on the world. The world does not need another drone. It does need you, and all you can frame up with your camera.
Why an oopoomoo workshop? Because we hope you have the same goal of discovering and improving your own photographic voice!
Sometimes during a photography workshop, when we find the photography students are happily snapping away, we may grab a few shots of them at work or the environment we’re in. On last year’s Badlands, Buicks and Old Buildings workshop, I was armed only with our point-n-shoot camera, a Panasonic Lumix LX-5, and snagged a few shots during our visit to an autowrecker’s yard. Our group gets private access to this gem of rusty relics, and we spend a good few hours in there discovering pixel treasures. For fun, I decided to work the square aspect ratio on the LX-5. Here’s the results!
We still have space in the Badlands, Buicks and Old Buildings workshop but the date is coming up fast! You can read some of the nice things past participants have said about this event here. Along with old cars, we visit Dry Island Buffalo Jump Provincial Park and tour the prairie roads winding through crops and massive wind turbines. And of course we visit old buildings and other hidden relics on the prairie.
Next up: this coming weekend’s photo workshop in Prince George, B.C.! We follow our ‘Photocram’ format and stuff in loads of learning in a short blast of photographic goodness. These workshops offer big bang for your buck ($250 for a weekend course…seriously????), so if you aren’t able to join us at one of our destination workshops, consider a Photocram event next time we’re in your area. Or maybe even see you at Prince George…? Talk to Debbie to see if there’s still space. If you can’t make it to Prince George, then maybe head up to Edmonton in September for our Creative Landscape Photography course at the Paul Burwell School of Photography.
Samantha and I am pleased to partner with Aurum Lodge in January and February of next year (2015) to offer two, small-group Winter Discovery Photo Adventures at Abraham Lake in the Kootenay Plains of the Canadian Rockies. We’ll spend extensive time in the field photographing the incredible beauty of this unspoiled region. From the iconic methane bubbles trapped in the ice of Abraham Lake to the rugged peaks towering over the quiet winter highways of Canada’s world-famous mountain parks (Banff and Jasper), there’s so much to photograph and share!
We’ve tramped around photographing this area for years and we love it so much we literally wrote the book on the area! No matter what the weather or conditions, there’s a variety of locations to challenge all creative photographers, and a few additional assignments here and there provide creative support for those interested in firing up their artistic muse. The small group size of 4 to 7 participants is a rare thing on photo workshops and tours in the Canadian Rockies, but we chose a favourable student to instructor ratio to ensure lots of elbow room at all locations and access to us for all your photography questions. Another rare thing: our packages are all-inclusive (instructor and accommodation fees including all meals, beverages and room tax) so there’s no hidden or additional fees when you get here. For those looking to extend their learning experience, NEW this year is the opportunity to book private, one-on-one instructional outings before or after the Photo Adventure at a special discounted price! Join us! Discover your own vision of the magic of winter in Canadian Rockies. Click here to learn more.
Samantha and I have spoken many times about being ruthless in editing your work. Keep only the good stuff, toss the rest. Easier said than done though!
Of course, the longer you wait to edit your images, the more likely you’ll be objective and really clean the clutter. I finally got around to editing and processing my images from The Glory of Autumn in the Canadian Rockies Workshop held in, wait for it… 2011! So after two and a half years of sitting on the hard drive it was easy to look at the images objectively. Of the 500 photos I took, most of them seemed pretty pedestrian. I narrowed the selects down to about 50 images with ‘potential’ and in the end kept only 25 photos. I wonder if I waited another 2 years if I would keep any at all! Hmmmm… I just found several folders of images from the fall of 2005, the more time passes, the more ruthless I get.
Below are the 16 images I liked the best from the 2011 workshop. It remains to be seen if any of these images make it to my top 100 list over time. It will be interesting to see if I have anything at all to share from the 2005 trip!