22 July

Turning Point – Susan Cater-Pelley Discovers Upon Reflection Her Personal Style

Susan Cater-Pelley shares with us how her Turning Point showed itself on reflection during a photography workshop:

©Susan Cater-Pelley

©Susan Cater-Pelley

Choosing a “turning point” photograph took plenty of thought. Is it the first sunrise I took that made me fall in love with photography or simply the autumn leaves reflecting in the cold fall waters? After a great amount of pondering, here is my turning point. This may seem like an odd choice for a landscape/waterscape photographer.

This is a recent shot, taken during a 12 week workshop in Montreal with N-Dimensions. The projects you are given during the workshop are used to unlock your own personal style. While at first glance this picture tells the story of a landscaped photographer turned urban, it is not the case. Upon examining this picture it brought to my attention my love of texture and reflections. I found out it was never about the leaves and trees reflecting in the water. So, has this workshop and this picture changed my style? Not in the least. In many ways it has confirmed it. I am still out there taking pictures of the land and water. What it has changed however, is the intent with which I shoot and the attention given to the details before clicking the button.

Six years ago, starting out on my photography adventure, I had one goal. I wanted to become a professional photographer and make money. This picture has taught me about my style, myself and my goals. While making a living at something you love is great, in photography as in life, it is the journey not the destination that makes the ride so spectacular. So, with my camera in hand, I will continue to explore and grow. Before you know it, I may be back here with another turning point in my photography career.

17 July

Turning Point – The Importance of Photography

Ever since Darwin started this series two months ago, I have been thinking long and hard about when my turning point was on this roller coaster of a visual arts career. I was a painter and designer who did not buy my first camera until digital was affordable. A thousand dollar 3MP camera roughly 12 years ago but it was not until late 2005 when I made the decision to take photography more serious. This was my first turning point and the moment I started dedicating every moment of available time towards becoming better.

Photography has done many things for me and has opened my eyes to much of what I use to take for granted. Looking through the eyepiece of a camera, it has never been more visible how the landscape is always changing. Without purpose, it can be super easy to ignore the every day, and I don’t know if my turning point can be pinned on any single photograph. For me, my photography turning point was the gradual realization on how important a photograph can be as a record in time.

Covehead Lighthouse in PEI National Park

©Stephen DesRoches – Covehead Lighthouse in PEI National Park.

The photograph I have decided to contribute to this series was my first published image in a landscape dedicated publication. This publication was also the results of a contest from Darwin’s original blog and our first introduction that eventually paved the way to my involvement here behind the scenes at oopoomoo.

On an additional note, while my goal of this image was to tell the story of the lighthouse, this image also came shortly before the Canadian Government discontinued their support – placing all lighthouse’s at risk of demolition by abandonment. Although I believe that this lighthouse in particular will been saved, it was a very real possibility that this coastal view could have been lost forever. Something that never occurred to me as possible on the day I made this image.

I will continue to explore the artistic side of photography but photographs are much more than just a pretty picture of something random. And although I will always have fun photographing festivals, concerts or sportings events, it has been the changing landscape and the contrast between nature and man that interests me most. Stop by and say hi on Facebook.

15 July

Turning Point – Douglas Keech Discovers There is More than just Landscapes

Douglas Keech shares with us two Turning Point Images

©Douglas Keech - Early Start

©Douglas Keech – Early Start

At some point I suppose every photographer tries to define themselves by putting their work into some kind of category they call a personal style. My evolution as a photographer has lead me in multiple directions. And for the most part I don’t think that’s a bad thing because it has allowed me to grow as an artist and carry what I’ve learned from one area into another, and figure out how I can apply it.

I started out as many people do, photographing landscapes. It didn’t take me long to realize that there was a lot to it. I was fortunate enough to be able to accompany Darwin on one of his fall photo bootcamps a number of years back. It was an incredible experience, and I learned what it meant to photograph consistently well and to make every photo count. The camaraderie I shared with Darwin and other photographers from all parts of the continent was fantastic. Many, I still keep in touch with today, and landscape photography will probably always remain my first love.

Although I’d been photographing for a number of years, this image I took back in 2009 really stood out for me and resonated in my gut. I photographed “Early Start” along the shoreline of Maligne Lake just after sunrise. Each time I look at the image I still hear the sounds echoing across the lake and can smell the cool misty air. As I positioned the two fishermen in the frame, my visualization of an old antique mountain photo came to be. I suppose you could say this image was a turning point for me as it got the attention of many and still continues to be one of my most popular images.

I also enjoy photographing wildlife and nature. Back when I was 10 or 11 years old, I can remember wanting to be a wildlife photographer. It’s something that has stuck with me all these years.

And along the way, I discovered that I had other photography interests as well. During the long, dreary winter days when huge snowfalls made it difficult to get out and treacherous road conditions made it impossible to travel, I began to explore the world of portraiture. I learned studio lighting and a whole new set of skills related to camera technique, flash photography, posing, and processing.

Today, I spend my holiday time going back to the mountain parks and photographing landscapes and wildlife in my own territory – the Great Bear Rainforest. Otherwise, almost all of my spare time is spent doing everything from personal portraiture to newborns. I find a tremendous satisfaction in working with somebody to get them a portrait that sees right into who they are, and one that they’ll cherish many years from now. And although I never would have believed I’d be photographing newborns, my wife Paula really enjoys it, and we make a good team.

So exactly where my photography will go next, I’m not really sure. But as long as I keep improving at what I do, and can give people images that are meaningful and personally valuable to them, I’m happy.

©Douglas Keech

©Douglas Keech

5 July

Turning Point – Kevin Boyle asks “What inspires you?”

Below is Kevin Boyle’s Turning Point Image and his description of making the photo

©Kevin Boyle

©Kevin Boyle

This photograph was taken on an old abandoned homestead in the area of Virden, Manitoba, a couple of hours outside of Winnipeg. I have been photographing criminals in all their criminal glory (I’ve been a cop since 1998 and undercover since 2002) for the better part of a decade. I decided to make the shift away from “action” photography and started to move back to landscapes about four years ago. I have talked before about the technical specs of this image (MIller Farm & Coach House… Canon 5D Classic, EF 20-35mm at 20mm and F11 with a Circular Polarizing filter with two images hand blended in CS5), but I haven’t really mentioned why it is that I decided to pick up my camera in the first place.

I grew up in a middle class home, the second son of an Irishman and a Filipino. To stereotype my background, I often joke that I have a strong propensity to want to feed you and take care of your kids, but I’ll probably drink all of your booze and beat up your neighbour. My Dad was considerably older than my Mom and I was born when he was 53 years old. As a youngster, I never really thought about age. I guess it was just nice having my Dad around all of the time. He retired at 63 so from the time I was 10, he was always there. My Mom was a nurse in ICU and even though she worked full time, she still came home on no sleep and made sure that we were clothed, fed and loved. My dad, as he liked to say, had 20% vision in his right eye and was 80% blind in the other… an injury he received fighting in Europe during World War Two. He never complained about his vision and I still have the memories of him reading the Free Press with a magnifying glass and muttering about the stupid politicians, while listening to CJOB news radio over toast and coffee.

My Dad, even though he was 91 years old, maintained his character. I remember one night a couple of years ago, hearing the floor creaking and rustling around in the kitchen at about 2AM. I went out to see what was going on, and found my Dad’s walker in the middle of the kitchen. He was in the pantry munching away on cookies and he turned around and with a mouth full of crumbs said, “Uh oh… better not tell your mother!” He looked like a raccoon looking for treasures. I told him it would be our little secret (that everyone in the family knew about) and I put him back to bed.

In late September, 2011, my wife and I went back to Winnipeg to spend some time with my family for my birthday. My pops’ health was declining and he had been pretty much bed ridden for the previous 3 years. My Mom, in a true show of devotion and love, never left his side, never complained about not being able to travel because she wouldn’t leave him alone and cared for him night and day until the day he died. On the last night of our trip, my wife woke me up in the middle of the night and said, “Did you hear that? The whole house just shook.” I sat up and listened, and my heart sank when I heard my Dad calling for my Mom. He had tried to get up to get some cookies, lost his footing and fell. I ran in and found him on the ground in obvious pain. After we got him back into bed, I sat with him for awhile, and even though he was in excruciating pain, he joked about those damn cookies. I didn’t sleep for the rest of the night.

Back in Vancouver, I hoped that my Dad just bruised himself and that he would be okay, but deep down I feared the worst. My Mom updated me frequently in the next few days, telling me how she hadn’t seen him have the appetite he had and even though he was sore, he was in good spirits. Then it all changed. One day he turned blue and starting vomiting. My Mom took him to the hospital and our worst fears were realized when we found out that my Dad’s hip was shattered. She told me that she didn’t think he had much time left and that I should come home right away. I was in Winnipeg the next morning.

One of the fondest memories that I have of my Dad was from when I was 19 and playing football for the St Vital Mustangs. I was a running back, and after juking and spinning, I broke free for a long touchdown (don’t worry, this isn’t an Al Bundy story about my athletic prowess). As I trotted off the field, I looked up and saw my Dad talking to one of the other parents. I could see him mouth “What happened?”. The other parent must have explained what happened and pointed my Dad’s vision in my direction. I had never seen my Dad so happy. He couldn’t actually see what I had done, but it was the proudest I ever saw him. I wished he could have seen me and from that day on I never took my vision for granted. It wasn’t until many years later that it all started to make sense to me. My inability to express myself, my repression of feelings… they needed an outlet. I started to see the world in a different light, and I found that I was able to capture feelings and moods through a lens and a digital sensor.

I guess I am fortunate. I had a chance, before it was too late to thank him for being the best Dad I could ever hope for. Before he slipped too far into pain killers and dementia, he weakly reached over, searched for my hand with his and puckered his lips. I took his hand and moved my cheek to his and faintly… barely understandable he told me he loved me and gave me a kiss. That was the last thing he ever said to me. We sat there holding hands for an hour until he finally fell asleep. Two days later, while sitting in his room with my brother and sister, listening to him labouring to breathe, I saw a single tear roll down his cheek. I told my brother to wake up my Mom and tell her it was time. A couple of minutes later, with his wife and children holding him, he died. It was unceremonious and inescapable.

As I stood in an abandoned field taking this photograph, listening to the The National “About Today”, I was completely caught up in the moment.“Tonight… you just…. close your eyes…” Click “and I just watch you…. slip away…” Click “hey… are you awake? Yeah, I’m right here, well can I ask you…” Click “about today…how close am I…. to losing you?” echoed behind me from my rental car and I realized that there were tears streaming down my face.

This image represents more than just a photograph that I like to look at. It isn’t the best resolution, it isn’t the best location and it isn’t the best composition that I’ve done. But it forced me to understand that you can leave no regrets, live your life to the fullest, chase your dreams no matter what they are and ask yourself….

What inspires you?

3 July

Turning Point – Heather Simonds on “From Eureka to Defining Moments”

Heather Simonds sends us her Turning Point Image and a great observation about how a eureka moment can slide up into a defining moment:

©Heather Simonds

©Heather Simonds

From Eureka to Defining Moments

Eureka moments happen often enough but not so for Defining moments.

Sometimes a Eureka moment strikes as events unfold before you. The rapidly changing and dramatic sunset colours have the prepared, latched to a camera, hoping for one outstanding image in the pack. Darwin and Sam give each other the old high five, as one more impressive sunset folds into darkness, handily captured in their boxes.  Sometimes you know you hit the H*** S*** button when you check your camera back and zoom in for detail. “That old geezers discerning eye is in focus, hurrah!” More often than not, it is when, cozied up at home, you perceive images on the big screen with all their glory, surrounded by reams of software bells and whistles, clicking and sliding and zooming until one jumps out and you “Eureka” yourself into a frenzy yelping “Bagged a winner!” to Fido (who is definitely not amused).

 With macro photography, an image, combining soft, supportive background elements and a complementary mini world, does not usually warrant a heartfelt “Eureka” outburst until this latter stage. You just can’t tell what that bokeh stuff is doing, lurking around in the carefully selected but shifty depth of field. Is it too much, is it too little? At the same time, fear presides over that testy front subject; such a thin slice in focus, suppresses an otherwise joyous eruption. Alas, it just might not be dead sharp in all of the critical areas.

Luckily, on first observation of this image, I discovered in a small world, intriguingly upside down and perfectly in focus, and the background complemented in tone and colour spread, prickly stems contrasting with painterly blends, and thus, a long forgotten Eureka reaction. However, it was a realization that elevated it from the Eureka standard up to a Defining moment. I had just returned from a once in a lifetime Tanzania safari, the type of trip that has you graduating from irrationally shooting everything the first few days to much wiser selective clicking. Shooting elephants and lions and zebras and warthogs daily takes its toll and there is some relief with safari ending and tired trigger fingers taper off into relaxed mode. Ho Hum to the Big Five, give me a new animal to shoot! A snake, maybe… The first morning back home in Canada, jetlagged, I lingered in my garden, fuzzy borage everywhere dripping with droplets recently soaked by an early morning shower, inhaling the freshness that only comes from a recent downpour on the foothills, pondering the goodness a Canadian summer morning offers. I stood surrounded in a haze of sparkling, intriguing water droplets, their magic reinforcing “there is no place like home” yet weary from travel, especially punching the shutter. With hesitation, but newly inspired by what was calling attention and curious as to what could become of it, I grabbed the magic box and sticks and my trusty canine and headed out on my own safari in the backyard.

How does a Eureka moment slide up into a Defining moment? Perhaps, when an image gives you insight into your emotions and subtly teaches you a truth if you are willing to observe.  Images await everywhere, you just need to explore with purposeful determination, ever mindful, and, often you don’t have to venture far from the familiar on your own doorstep.

1 July

Turning Point – Lori Maloney Shows us Life is Beautiful

Lori Maloney gives us the backstory of the making of the Turning Point Image of her career.

©Lori Maloney

©Lori Maloney

In the fall of 2010 a fitness model hired me for a studio style session.  My client wanted images taken on the day of her then upcoming competition, when she’d be in ultimate form.  This was my very first shoot with only one woman in front of my lens and, afterward, I realized that everything about the session appealed to me.  I loved that she was as interested in making great images as I was, I loved that I could concentrate on just her, I loved that she was celebrating all of her hard work and dedication and TOGETHER we were preserving it for all time, and I loved the laughter and ease of it all…it was THE shoot that planted the seed of desire in me to specialize in women. After a number of subsequent sessions with women my resolve to specialize was fortified and I announced my company’s change in direction in a blog post on March 21, 2012. 

Interestingly, prior to that 2010 session, I already had the idea of providing portraiture to women facing serious illness; my mother had died years before from complications due to Breast Cancer and I’ve always been sad that we don’t have a beautiful, professional portrait of her.  It was an idea that my lack of confidence kept firmly and safely tucked deep down inside; it was something I longed to do but knew I ‘couldn’t’.  I accepted it as a niggling thought; one that I neither knew how to execute nor felt ‘good enough’ to pursue.  I mean, it was one thing to invite a healthy and vibrant woman into my studio for beauty/glamour/boudoir but, in my head, it was quite another to say, “I know you are going through what is probably the hardest challenge of your life but you should trust me.”  I always knew that I meant well and would do my very best, but who was I to market to such a vulnerable group?  However, after three years of contemplation and soul searching, together with my experience of photographing women and meaningful encouragement from women I admire, it dawned on me that instead of feeling like ‘Why me?’ I should instead be thinking ‘Why not me?’  And, with that, I finally felt ready to launch Bella Forza Portraits, a division of Bella Faccia Photography, on March 21, 2013.

I have grown in knowledge and skill since that day back in late 2010, but I will forever treasure this image as it represents the shoot that helped me realize my path.

Our journeys are varied and what I am fast learning is that we shouldn’t ever squelch a dream we have for fear of failure; indeed we must press on past our comfort zones and act on our most genuine passions.

My two tag lines are Life is beautiful! and Strength.Beauty.Grace. …I wish both for each of us as we pursue our own photographic paths.

30 June

Turning Point – Stan Masters Gets Addicted to Photography and Never Looks Back

Read on as Stan Masters explains his Turning Point in photography:

In June of 2012, I was a “newbie” to photography and had registered for a workshop with Sam & Darwin in hopes of them being able to help me understand all those mystical buttons on my new Canon Rebel T3i.  My brain was a sponge, sucking up all the info they taught us to the point that it seemed a bit overwhelming – but delightful!  But it was at this point, when I was focusing on capturing movement in a stream, when Darwin approached me and asked me if I wanted to try his warming polarizer to see what the difference would be in my photo.  I was blown away by not only the optical difference, but also by the mood it created!  This for me was truly a defining moment for me in my new found world of photography.

©Stan Masters - no filter

©Stan Masters – no filter

©Stan Masters - with warming polarizer

©Stan Masters – with warming polarizer

From that weekend on my thirst and knowledge for photography has become unquenchable, and my wife believes Sam & Darwin have created a monster. Shortly after this weekend, I gave my wife my Rebel and purchased my Canon 5D Mark III. During the Badlands, Buicks and Old Buildings workshop with Sam and Darwin, I took this HDR photo of “Yesteryear.” HDR was, and still is, new for me, but I loved the nostalgic feeling it created in this photo, not to mention the “flashback” those red dice give me! My passion for photography continues to grow, as does my desire to retire sooner and be able to spend more time photographing the beauty of nature we are so fortunate to have around us.

©Stan Masters

©Stan Masters

22 June

Turning Point – Marco Angheben photographs small perfections of nature

Marco Angheben tells us how he made his Turning Point Image below:

©Marco Angheben

©Marco Angheben

I started to love photography with the idea of portraying the “small perfections of nature,” small exhibitions that leave you stunned, and that too many times you are likely to trample on rather than to photograph. In recent years, moreover, besides this motto, I chose another, “See and Photograph”, which represents better than many others the way I do photography: when I think of photography as I like it, I think of a set of things, including carefully observe what surrounds me and possibly photograph it. The vision, seen as its ability to figure out how to make a photograph as the ability to identify the right subjects, it is the turning point of my photography.
As on other occasions, walking in the woods, my gaze fell on the location of this small flower, which showed its B-side from the meandering stem, representing the beauty of the little things in nature and allowing me to fully enjoy the pleasure of being able to see the subject. This was followed by long periods of careful composition, then the joy of shooting and so on all the rest: the impatience to get home to see the result, the first adjustment the final processing and the completion of a photograph from the my favorites.


20 June

Turning Point – Anna VanDemark’s “My Prince”

Below is Anna VanDemark’s Turning Point image:

©Anna VanDemark

©Anna VanDemark


I was trained as a painter.  Thus, when I purchased a DSLR three years ago, the technical aspects of photography posed the biggest challenges.  One significant turning point came when I discovered the combined use of Live View, a remote shutter release, and sturdy tripod.  Up to that point, achieving adequate focus had been a hit or miss affair.  What a pleasure it was to finally have a bit more control!

This image was made around the time I became hooked on Live View.  While photographing a picturesque waterfall, I spied this character adorned with hemlock needles.  She sat still the whole time I carefully moved closer and closer, all the while making images.  Could her thoughts have run along these lines?  “Holy Hannah, look at that giant predator…five legs and three eyes…what shall I do?…I best sit tight and maybe it won’t see me!”  Thanks to Live View and a still frog, I was able to capture this image.

Also, I would guess that my DOF choices are more of what a painter might choose and not the choices that nature photographers would make.  But, I’m following my own instincts with this new, to me, medium.  Funny, but I find getting the f/stop that suits my vision for a piece is still my biggest dilemma!

17 June

Turning Point – Olivier Du Tré Returns to Film and Never Looks Back

©Olivier Du Tré

©Olivier Du Tré

Olivier Du Tré tells us of his Turning Point:

2012 was an interesting year for me. After playing around with the idea of photographing on film –again– for 6 months in 2011, I made the decision to move back 100% to film for my work last year.

Since then I haven’t photographed anything digital anymore.At first I was moderately successful translating tones and colours to Ansel’s zone system.
But soon I found out that making a perfect exposure wasn’t the tricky part of the whole proces. The problem was that I wasn’t able to translate my vision of a scene to the negative all that well.Until the morning I saw this scene. A beautiful row of gnarly looking trees just NE of Calgary (somewhere along Highway 9 I believe). The heavy fog had created a beautiful layer of hoar frost. I was racing back and forth on this country road to find the perfect looking tree as ‘center piece’ of my composition. I had just set up my camera and decided on the focal length of the lens when the sun came out and the fog started to lift. I knew I had to be swift because the fog was disappearing very quickly.And then I made the decision to screw on the red filter to add some drama. Zone placement was pretty simple. I placed the tree trunks on zone IV (with the red filter I knew they where going to fall a little lower so that was good). The foreground snow fell on Zone VI and the illuminated tree branches on VII and VIII. Also with the red filter I knew the contrast in the sky, which was now just fog and clear blue sky would be enhanced.

After developing the negative in my kitchen a few days later I was very excited to see this negative. It turned out perfect and very little adjustments had to be made. Just a little burning on the edges and a contrast adjustment.

This image is the very first image I created where everything fell into place. It’s one of my favourites images of last winter. Since then I have a far better understanding of the creative usage of Ansel’s zone system.