17 August

The oopoomoo Print and Photo Accessories Garage Sale – August 22, 2015

Many of you know we rented out our house for a year starting last July. We did a six month stint as artists in residence at Aurum Lodge, traveled to Antarctica for one month and then did house sitting in various locales in the Calgary area for the last five months. We lived with a minimum of personal effects for the entire year and we loved the simplicity. Frankly, most of the stuff we left at home we rarely missed (but Sam did really miss her food dehydrator and her cast iron pot in oopoomoo blue).

Now that we are back home we see that much of what we own just clutters our life. The most cluttered area of all is in our hobby and business of photography. So to get rid of the clutter we are having a photo garage sale to help clear our photographic excesses (there must be rehab for this problem). And joining us in clearing the clutter will be our friends and Outdoor Photography Canada magazine columnists, Mark and Leslie Degner. It seems they have also accumulated too many photo goodies over the years.

So here is your opportunity to help us clear our clutter – and increase yours! You might actually find some of this stuff useful! We’ve got some rare and interesting photography gear that might just be what you are looking for at really low prices. Below is a overview of the things we are selling or giving away. Even if you don’t need anything, come by and say hi. We hope you can make it out!

Where: 22 West Terrace Close, Cochrane, Alberta

When: 9:00 am to 12:00 noon, Saturday Aug 22, 2015 (rain or shine – the garage door will not open before 9 AM – sorry early birds!)

What: See list below:

  • Original sleeved prints from us and from other respected nature photographers from our collection (5x7s – 3 for $5.00, 8x12s – 2 for $10, 12x18s – $10 each). Great for xmas presents!
  • Matted and sleeved prints of various sizes ($5 – $40).
  • Canvas, metal and matted and framed prints ready to hang (starting at $10)
  • Studio lights, soft boxes, lighting umbrellas, light stands, light modifiers, reflectors – everything you need for studio work or natural light portraiture!
  • Film fanatics, pay attention, we have bulk film loaders and film accessories
  • We have darkroom stuff galore including 35mm, medium format and 4×5 film development accessories for developing slides (E6) colour and B+W negatives.
  • We have enlargers for 35m to 4×5 format (we even have a free one to give away)
  • Camera filters and filter holders (Lee and Cokin)
  • Lots of camera bags from small to large to waterproof and everything in between
  • Cotton carrier system
  • Unused fine art digital print paper packets
  • Instructional photo DVD’s
  • Photography books
  • And maybe even a camera or lens or two!
Leslie and Samantha will be selling their photo accessories,come see what is for sale!

Leslie and Samantha will be selling their photo accessories, come see what’s for sale!

I'm selling my custom photo bags.

I’m selling my custom photo bags. You too could look this cool 😉

This plexiglass print is for sale!

This limited edition of one only plexiglass print is for sale!

Don't miss out or you'll be sorry!

Don’t miss out or you’ll be sorry!

23 October

Real Life Review – Rokinon 85mm f1.4 Lens – A fast prime for under $350?

Rokinon/Samyang 85mm f1.4 Lens - photo courtesy of B+H Photo Video

Rokinon/Samyang 85mm f1.4 Lens –  available mounts for Canon, Nikon, Olympus, Sony and Pentax.

Here at oopoomoo we believe the best way to test a lens is to actually use it in the field to see what is does in real life. So I took along a Rokinon (Samyang) 85mm f1.4 mm lens on this year’s Glory of Autumn in the Canadian Rockies workshop and below I share my results and a few observations on this budget 85mm lens.

Why an 85mm f1.4 Lens?

A fast 85mm is a favorite for portrait and wedding photographers because the 85mm focal length is flattering to the human face and the fast f1.4 aperture is great in low light and gives a wonderful dreamy out-of-focus background. I wanted to use the 85mm for landscape shooting on the fall workshop. Why? First off, the 85mm focal length is great for intimate and extractive landscapes. The angle-of-view is perfect for eliminating busy surroundings and pulling in just the right amount of detail so that the landscape looks natural without looking compressed and artificial. We think of the 85mm focal length as a perfect story-telling lens. Combine that with a full range of apertures from f1.4 to f22 and you have a lens capable of a wide variety of depth-of-field effects from ultra thin slices of focus at f1.4 to large areas sharply rendered at f16 and f22.

©Darwin Wiggett - Old Car in Banff NP - Rokinon 85mm lens at f1.4 for a thin slice of focus

©Darwin Wiggett – Old Car in Banff National Park – Rokinon 85mm lens at f1.4 for a thin slice of focus.

©Darwin Wiggett - Two Jack Lake detail, Banff NP, Rokinon 85mm lens at f16 for a large slice of focus.

©Darwin Wiggett – Two Jack Lake detail, Banff National Park, Rokinon 85mm lens at f16 for a large slice of focus.

What’s with the Price?

The Rokinon 85mm f1.4 can usually be picked up for less than $350 new. In comparison 85mm f1.4 lenses from other camera and lens manufacturers range in price from $900 to over $1600! Why the difference? Simple. Rokinon simply left off the autofocus motor and circuitry. As well, the lens uses an old fashioned aperture ring that manually stops the lens down as your turn the aperture ring. What that means is that you are back using manual focus and doing something called stop-down metering. Put your camera on aperture priority and turn the aperture ring on the Rokinon and your camera will figure out the correct shutter speed. As you dial the aperture ring from 1.4 to other apertures, the lens stops down the aperture and so your viewfinder will go dark and your depth-of-field will increase. To use this lens you need to first set it at an aperture of f1.4 for precise focus and then dial in the aperture number you want to use for depth-of-field effects. Regular 85mm lenses not only autofocus, they always show you the view wide open at f1.4 no matter what aperture you have chosen. Only when you press the shutter button does the aperture you have picked engage. So… in practice the Rokinon requires a 3-step workflow. First set your camera to Aperture Priority mode and set the lens to f1.4 on its aperture ring. Then you manually focus the lens (either looking through the viewfinder or by using live view) while the aperture is at f1.4. Finally, if you want to use a different aperture than f1.4, turn the aperture ring on the lens to that aperture and then take the photo (the viewfinder will darken if you use anything other than f1.4). If you are in Aperture Priority mode, the camera will automatically adjust the shutter speed. If you are in manual mode you will have to adjust your camera shutter speed dial to get the right exposure.

©Darwin Wiggett - Rokinon 85mm lens at f16 with a Gold-n-Blue Polarizer

©Darwin Wiggett – Rokinon 85mm lens at f16 with a Gold-n-Blue Polarizer.

Compromises for Price?

The price is a bargain but you lose autofocus and automatic exposure control. Can you live without these features? It depends. If I were a portrait photographer I would want the fast working of autofocus and automatic exposure control. For landscape photography neither is important and in fact the slower workflow was beneficial in making me carefully consider my compositions.

Was there as price to pay in sharpness? For me there wasn’t. The lens was not as sharp at f1.4 as my beloved Sigma 85mm f1.4 and there was more chromatic aberration than the Sigma but when you are shooting soft dreamy photos even moderate sharpness looks really sharp in contrast to all that sharpness (see photo below). The lens gets pretty darn good at f2.0 and is tack from f4 to f11. The lens suffers from diffraction and a loss of sharpness at f16 but is still very usable. I don’t recommend f22 because of loss of sharpness due to diffraction but then again I do not recommend f22 for any lens no matter what the brand! Bokeh (the quality of the out-of-focus areas) was dreamy and creamy at f1.4 through f2.8 but there was some fringing of high contrast edges (correctable in a RAW software converter).

©Darwin Wiggett - dreamy Bokeh with the Rokinon 85mm at f1.4

©Darwin Wiggett – dreamy Bokeh with the Rokinon 85mm at f1.4.

©Darwin Wiggett - Very sharp images from f4 to f11, here shot at f8

©Darwin Wiggett – Very sharp images from f4 to f11, here shot at f8.



  • no autofocus
  • no automatic exposure (stop down metering only)
  • not good for action photography
  • 1/2 stop clicks between apertures on the aperture dial but only a full stop click between f1.4 and f2.0 and f16 and f22
  • bokeh fringing
  • strong exposure vignetting at edges of frame at f1.4 and f2.0 (but not much worse than other 85mm lenses and most people like the effect to enhance the dreaminess of the photo)
  • lower contrast images when shot wide open
  • does not focus close enough  for my tastes (see images below)


  • price, price, price!
  • really nice build quality (felt sturdy and well made)
  • 140 degree focus throw (love the smooth focus ring with a big throw for precision focus – would be great for video)
  • surprisingly good image quality for the price

I had a lot of fun with the lens. The biggest negative for me was that the lens did not focus very close. It would only focus close enough for a head and shoulders portrait. I did add a 12mm extension tube to solve that problem but that means one more piece of gear to bring along. The sharpness was really good given the price and I had no issues with the lens in that regard. I got professionally sharp images. The slight fringing, low contrast and edge vignetting was similar to other 85mm lens and was easily fixed in software. Frankly, I like the effects of all three and mostly left the image uncorrected. For anyone that does photography where the slower workflow is not an issue (landscape or still life), then this lens is a great buy and a wonderful creative tool.

Thanks to Amplis Photo for lending us this lens to review.

©Darwin Wiggett - Rokinon 85mm lens at f16 with Vari-N-Duo filter

©Darwin Wiggett – Rokinon 85mm lens at f16 with Vari-N-Duo filter.

©Darwin Wiggett - Two Jack LAke - Rokinon 85mm lens at f8

©Darwin Wiggett – Two Jack Lake in Banff National Park – Rokinon 85mm lens at f8.

©Darwin Wiggett - Rokinon Lens at f16 with Vari-N-Duo filter

©Darwin Wiggett – Bow Falls, Banff National Park, Rokinon Lens at f16 with Vari-N-Duo filter.

©Darwin Wiggett - Mistaya Canyon, Banff National Park, Rokinon 85mm lens at f1.4.

©Darwin Wiggett – Mistaya Canyon, Banff National Park, Rokinon 85mm lens at f1.4.

Rokinon 85mm lens closest focus, left image. Sigam 85mm f1.4 lens closest focus, right image.

Rokinon 85mm lens closest focus, left image. Sigma 85mm f1.4 lens closest focus, right image.

7 October

Vote for Your Favourite Green Business — Maybe oopoomoo?

Did you know that oopoomoo is a member of REAP, a non-profit organization of local businesses committed to making ethical business decisions and operating in environmentally sustainable ways? The photo industry is not exactly known for being a visionary when it comes to conservation, moderation and reducing impact so it’s important that we all use our skills as photographers — and businessmen — to set an example and share what we value. As nature photographers, we value nature. We try to reduce the impact of our work by investing in wind power for our home, recycling like crazies, and refraining from buying the latest and greatest gear that is released. (That last one can be hard.) We also shoot a whole lot locally so we can bike or walk to photo shoots. We base our workshops out of sustainable lodges where possible and reduce out impact by treading lightly where ever we go.

reap awards

As a way to showcase the great things that local, conscientious businesses are doing, and to prove that the profitable way forward is to work within a community context, REAP is having a little competition where you can vote on your favourite local business. Be sure to peruse the REAP members listings…I’m sure if you live in the Calgary area, you’ll see some familiar faces! Take a little time to share your opinion by voting for your favourite (here’s our link, hint hint) and share with friends.

Tell us what you do to make this world a better place!

23 January

Using Photography for Healing

We live in a very visual world. Every electronic gadget is now capable of recording images and millions of photographs are taken every minute. We are overwhelmed with the noise of new gear announcements every other week — full of marketing specifically designed to lead us into believing buying XYZ will make us better. The volume of this noise can often cloud our better judgement and quickly distract us from the real values and rewards of creating photographs.

I am very much guilty and I routinely ask myself… Why do I do this? Why do I care so much? Why do I spend so much time in this world of photography?

By it’s simplist definition, photography is an art that freezes time. We are recording history. We are documenting. And we are preserving memories. Photography is huge within my family and there is no denying that we all love to share, remember and tell stories. Photography is social. Photography is archival. And photography is priceless because when something is destroyed from flooding, fires, natural disasters — after life itself, it’s always the lose of photographs that stand out as significant.

So why am I writing about this now?

Every once in a while I talk with another photography who is capable of summarizing what photography is all about in a beautiful way. I first met Maurice Henri in his hometown of Moncton a few years ago and have since been pushing to have a venue for him to come to Prince Edward Island and speak. Last night was that night and he delivered a powerful presentation with more impact than I could have ever hoped for that kept me awake most of the night thinking.

Since 2005, Maurice has been building a personal project called Cameras for Healing. Starting with the west African country of Sierra Leone, Maurice set out on the incredible journey to emotionally heal through photographic arts those living with pain, grief, fear, poverty or stress. All in a country that has nothing we can so easily take for granted.

As I feel the need to write this, I also realize my words can’t do his presentation any good. Maurice’s stories were incredibly powerful. Everything from his 28 adopted children through sponsorship, buying equipment for the women to start a sewing business, or his role in building a school for a village. All of his actions, support and most importantly results were started by providing cameras, teaching photography, and giving victims a voice to speak out, express themselves by telling their own stories and finding hope.

I wish everyone interested in photography could have attended last night. From the violent stories of the sexual abuse of minors, aggressive killings, and the recruitment of child soldiers — the horrific stores in these dangerous locations were countered with positive ones. For a better understanding of Cameras for Healing, consider watching the following video:

Now that Sierra Leone is well established and on it’s way with a self-running Cameras for Healing program, Maurice has started introducing Cameras for Healing into Hati and Columbia with additional countries also asking for his help. I am already looking forward to hearing a future presentation.

Cameras for Healing Founder, Maurice Henri believes that the power of the photographic image can open the heart and change people’s view of the world. It also tells a story of the relationship between subject and photographer. It conveys what the image maker sees, feels and believes. Using his methods of art for healing, Maurice has helped many children and adults process stress, illness, and grief. He initially developed the Cameras for Healing method of Art & Creativity for Healing in his home province of New Brunswick, Canada in 2002 as an art workshop to help cancer patients and survivors deal with stress. Giving people validation and hope through my photography is what my life’s work is all about.

Either it be Cameras for Healing, Help-Portrait, or major film projects, the art of photography and story telling is incredibly powerful and rewarding.

Which brings me full circle to ask again, what does photography mean to you and why do we do it? If you have spent any amount of time reading anything on the web or in magazines — you might be tempted into believing that it’s about who owns the most or newest equipment.

16 December

Catherine’s Ah Ha Moment – It’s a Wiggly World!

I can hear you all saying, “Another post from Catherine so soon?!” Well, there are several reasons for this post.

First, Sam and Darwin are trying to take some time off this month. As you read in Kennel Boy’s post, he was crazy busy while at Gone Wild Kennels.  Sam slaved over the computer most of the time except one day when we both toodled off to Canmore. We spent some time strolling down the main street, stopping for a nice creamy latte and then heading to the deli to purchase a turducken for the festive season.

Christmas Dinner

©Catherine Byram – What do you mean, “Guess who’s coming to dinner?”

Keep your eye on the oopoomoo posts because I can see a story here!!! One day last week,  Sam and Darwin went out into the forest just to have FUN. No further explanation was given.  I don’t believe cameras were involved, so I guess we will leave the definition of ‘fun’ to our imaginations! They deserve some time off so I’ll  help them out by doing this post.

Reason two for this post is that I had one more assignment to complete for my Instructor at SAIT (Southern Alberta Institute of Technology). He told us that he was so impressed with our creativity that the doors are wide open for our last assignment. The one restriction is that we cannot do any post production. While working on my assignment I came across  a ‘discovery’ that I thought I would share with all of you.

The third reason is that I am not running around buying chocolate, marshmallows, candied fruit, dates and all the other goodies needed for the Christmas sweets. I am not out in the woods looking for a six foot tree which, by the time it gets into the house, is ten feet!!!! (it looked so much smaller in the forest!)  AND…I am not fighting off crowds of people, listening to crying babies who are all bundled up in strollers like wee  cocoons, or standing in line for one hour only to find out that the 2012 Christmas gift fad is all sold out!! Don’t get me wrong. I LOVE Christmas!!! We celebrated ‘Christmas in July’ because it’s so difficult to get all family members home in December.  Yep, this year we had our Christmas Polar Bear on our front lawn, some strands of lights in the trees, our Christmas tree dressed in its best, presents waiting to have their outer skin ripped off,  stockings hanging and the wonderful, delicious smell of ……………barbequed hamburgers. Hey! It’s too hot in the middle of July to have the oven on for five hours while the bird cooks!!! We enjoyed our meal on the back deck with family and friends and some even enjoyed a soak in the hot tub! Our neighbours thought perhaps Ed and I had really lost it when we were decorating the front yard with Christmas decorations on July 10th .  They were convinced we belong in the loonie bin on July 14th when we were on the deck unwrapping Christmas gifts !!!

Soooooooooooooo, I have some time on my hands. What better way to spend some of that time than writing an oopoomoo post?

Now, to my AH HA moment. The pressure is on. Twenty Continuing Education Students need to be photographically creative. We are a competitive group, in a friendly way, and this is our last chance to  ‘show our stuff’. However,  I don’t know if I can top the RED BRA in a snow covered  tree image shown last week in class. NOOOO, I did not submit that photo.

I should work on my Portrait Challenge Sam and Darwin have given me and kill two birds with one stone. The challenge is to be finished by the end of the year and the portraits are to be of strangers. I need to develop a rapport with them prior to ‘shooting’ them. But, I’ll tell you a secret if you promise not to mention it to Sam or Darwin…….They neglected to tell me how many portraits I am required to hand in. Ha ha ha! I know I can grab one image of a person before New Years Eve so I’m not in a big panic.

For my SAIT assignment I decided to do some water droplets on glass photos. I have never done this before so I knew there would be some trial and error happening.

The first step was to find a small piece of glass. Downstairs I went. After rummaging through some boxes I saw just what I needed – an 8×10 piece of glass from a broken photo frame.

The second step was to get my tail over to the local ‘tires and everything else store’ to buy some Rain X  which causes water beads to form when water contacts the glass.

After washing, drying, Rain-x-ing and dropping little droplets of water on the glass it was now time to set things up. Camera was attached to the tripod. Small items to put under the glass included a lizard figurine,  red and green confetti, a red and white card shaped like a mitten  and one of Ed’s  treasured collectors matchbox cars (this is another secret, okay?)

©Catherine Byram

I held the glass between the mitten shaped Christmas card and the lens and  played around with distance from the card. I focused the camera on the droplets. Not bad…… good depth of field and you could see part of the card in some of the droplets. Snap. Ummm, what are those funny lines all over my image??? Okay. I need to keep the glass absolutely still.  Out come four small boxes. With the glass carefully placed on top of the boxes I snapped away again. Still wiggly lines! Wash, dry and a super polish this time. Snap. Nope! What the heck!?!? Must be poor quality glass!

I downloaded the images on to my laptop to have a better look at the wiggly lines. Ummmm, these lines remind me of something I’ve seen before…..???  Relaxed and stretched out in my recliner (I do my best thinking in this position) I was in heavy thought and staring up at the ceiling. That’s when I had my AH HA moment! WIGGLY LINES!!! ON THE CEILING!!! The textured ceiling was reflecting on the glass and because of the lighting I was getting a perfect reflection!

I replaced the red mitten card on the table, focused on the wiggly lines and SNAP. Here is what I got.


©Catherine Byram

I put the lizard under the glass and focused on the lizard through the glass. Here is an image of the set up.

©Catherine Byram

Then I focused on the wiggley lines.

©Catherine Byram

The images I shot today were not what I was hoping for but they are kinda neat. I won`t submit any of them for my SAIT assignment but I may come back to this technique at a later date and see what else  could be done with glass and ceiling. Perhaps when I succeed with my water droplets on glass project, I will share them with you.

11 August

Why We Don’t Discount Our eBooks (and Some eBooks We Think you Should Buy!)

THE marketing strategy for selling eBooks online is the time-limited discount code. Almost every photographer or website out there that sells eBooks offers some sort of discount at some time or another. We did that back when we sold our first eBooks on Visual Wilderness and on my old blog. And it works! How many of you have purchased an eBook or set of eBooks because the offer was so attractive you simply could not pass up the deal? We have! And how many of you have actually read, used or even remember the eBooks you purchased this way? We have a library of eBooks that have never seen the light of our computer screens past the initial glance-over on purchase.

On the other hand, how many times has there been an eBook that you actually wanted but that you didn’t buy right away because you were waiting for a discount code or special to show up so you could get it cheaper? Finally, you give up only to find it selling somewhere else two days later at 50% off! We hate that too!

When we started oopoomoo, we decided not to discount our eBooks. We feel that they are already a pretty darn good deal for the quality of the images, instruction and Stephen’s design skills contained in them. We also think it kind of sucks if our friends buy one of our eBooks and then find them discounted either at a later point in time or at another site. Finally, junk is junk: even if an eBook is free, if it ain’t worth the consumer’s time to buy, download and read it, you as an author just wasted that person’s time. While nothing in business is ever set in stone (if you want to stay alive), we’re pretty happy with this one. We want you to buy our books because you want to read them and learn not because they were ‘a steal’.

Finally, we don’t offer oopoomoo eBooks on affiliate programs where others post or review our eBook on their site and then get a cut off the sales. If you see a review of one of our eBooks elsewhere you can rest assured the reviewer did not get a kickback. And same goes here: when we review an eBook we’ll give you our honest opinions and, if you buy an eBook based on a link in our review, the author gets 100% of the sale (as it should be).

Good photography eBooks are rare. Ones that are well written, have great instruction, wonderful photos and are inspiring are even more rare. So, in the spirit of this post, here are four stand-outs we have seen over the last few years that you might want to consider buying and reading:

Guy Tal’s Creative Landscape Photography

Guy Tal is one of the best writers in photography today. Period. But beyond his thoughtful writing, he is one bloody talented photographer and a hell of an instructor. If you only can afford one eBook, buy the one above! Or better yet go to Guy’s eBook page and buy any of the titles that interest you. Bang for your buck, these books are it — discounts or not. (Full disclosure: ok, ok, we’ve met Guy and we like the man. He may try to deny it, but we think he’s our friend! He doesn’t know we’re writing this so boy would he be surprised if he woke up tomorrow with a spike in sales — woot! Do yourself a favour and check out his eBooks, though — they really are the best on the market).

Mitchell Kanashkevich’s  Rabari – Encounters With the Nomadic Tribe

When we first glanced through this eBook we thought, “hey this is just a rip off of a David duChemin-style, Craft and Vision eBook“. But closer inspection proved us wrong in a delightful way! Here is a story of a photographer just starting out and going on a 4-month journey to India with a Canon Rebel and three inexpensive prime lenses and coming away with stunner shoots as good as anyone with high end gear and a lot of travel experience could make. Mitchell shows us his 10 favorite shots and describes the back story of making the images from concept to execution to post processing decisions. This eBook is refreshing because it shows that gear does not limit our creativity, we do! Worth the read for inspiration alone (full disclosure, we were sent this eBook for free to review — we like it and think it is worth the full price).

Pinch of Yum’s Tasty Food Photography

Speaking of refreshing, this eBook on food photography really caught our eyes. First of all, Lindsay, the author, is a newbie at photography with her start in 2010. In the short time since then, by using a dSLR with a prime lens, window light and home-made reflectors, Lindsay has learned to make mouth-watering food photography the equal of anything that comes from a high end food studio with all the best lighting gear and high end digital cameras. The eBook shows you exactly how she makes her food images with simple lighting and a strong emphasis on styling and composition. She has really great tips and tricks without all the technobabble that comes in most photography how-to eBooks. As well, we really like the fun and quirky design of the eBook and the conversational writing style. If you like food and recipes we highly recommend the Pinch of Yum blog! Thanks Lindsay for a photography eBook that breaks the mould! We bought this book using a 50% discount code. It captured us the minute we opened the PDF and this is one of the rare eBooks we feel bad that the author did not get full price!

Christopher O’Donnell’s The Art of Bokeh

Want dreamy, mystical, moody, painterly images? Well then check out Chris’ eBook on Bokeh (the aesthetic quality of the blur in out-of-focus areas of an image). Here is an eBook all about using wide open apertures like f1.4 or f1.8 to get super thin slices of focus and dreamy blur in landscape photography. But getting photos like we see in Chris’ eBook is not as easy as buying a fast lens and shooting wide open; there is much more to it than that! Fortunately, this wonderfully illustrated and well-designed eBook gives us the guidelines we need to make impressionistic-style images sure to make our painter friends’ hearts flutter. We paid full price on this one; it was worth every penny!

So, don’t waste your dollars – consume what you buy or save your bucks.

27 April

Destination Travel Workshop: Pay What It’s Worth To YOU

Darwin and I like to experiment. And we’d like you to join us in an experiment that might seem a little crazy at first (or an incredible deal!). For this year’s Destination Travel Photography Workshop June 25-28, 2012 at Island Lake, we’re going to take our professional fees out of the cost and let participants pay what they think the workshop is worth at the end of the weekend. We know times are tough, and sometimes you can’t afford to take that class or book that holiday or buy that special vacation for your significant other. Well, we still have space in this exciting workshop, so if cost has been a factor for you, now’s your chance! Here’s how it works:

Darwin and I are going to run the workshop no matter what. Participants who have already registered will get the same deal; all you have to pay are your accommodation and meals charged by Island Lake, who is giving us an great deal. You could attend this four-day workshop for as little as $433! That’s just over $100 per day and includes all your meals and accommodations plus a wine tasting event  in a luxury lodge on a private reserve. You can’t beat that! Check out the updated prices here.

The program is the same, and I’ll go into a few more details below, but this is definitely an opportunity that we can’t do with every workshop we offer, so don’t miss out. The lodge is located just outside Fernie, British Columbia, on a 7000 acre private forest. From old growth cedar to lush undergrowth, the place is very private and ecologically unique. Here are a few more images from the lake just below the resort:

The Lizard Range, Island Lake, British Columbia, Canada

© Samantha Chrysanthou

Last year when we were scouting the place and arranging the details of the workshop, we saw a black bear on this lake at the far end of the picture here. Apparently a mother moose and her calf are also frequent visitors to this tranquil scene! And fresh flowers are coming up and everything is so green and lush!

Forest trail, Island Lake, British Columbia, Canada

© Samantha Chrysanthou

Forest trail, Island Lake, British Columbia, Canada

© Samantha Chrysanthou - same scene, horizontal framing. It's lush in June!

You might be wondering why we’re attempting such a crazy project. Well, we’ve found that the photography industry is in a constant state of flux. New products are entering the market all the time, and it’s hard to know how to price your offerings. For example, more and more eBooks are being made by photographers teaching you how to make pictures, yet no can even agree yet on how to call them — is that ‘eBook’, ‘ebook’, ‘e-book’ or ‘E-Book’? By doing this little experiment, we hope that we’ll have a better idea at the end of this workshop how much people feel is fair value for this style of photography instruction. By the way, if it seems a bit intimidating to price your own workshop, don’t worry; we’ll put our original pricing (with percentage breakdowns like 75%, 50%, 10% etc.) at the front desk as a guideline at checkout. You pay us only what you think the value of our instruction was worth and your ‘donation’ will be anonymous to us!

Lizard Range, Island Lake, British Columbia, Canada

© Samantha Chrysanthou

So what are some of the classes that we’ll be teaching? This is a really comprehensive workshop designed to get you quickly on your feet as a photographer when traveling. We start out with Story Trumps Technique and show you why a story with impact will survive minor technical faults. We’ll also be going over practical, hands-on skills such as using your camera controls creatively, effective lens choice to tell a story and basic outdoor lighting for portraits. And because we’re at a resort with incredibly talented chefs who source a lot of their produce from nearby farms, the workshop wouldn’t be complete without a quick and dirty lesson on food photography on the fly! All this work is bound to make you thirsty, so a little wine tasting will help rejuvenate any tired energies! In all, this package of photography skills will have you bringing home memorable images from your future travels so that friends and family will be able to grasp the spirit of your adventures. Head to the information page here.

Island Lake also has a beautiful cookbook of their recipes (which you get as part of the price), and Darwin and I are going to pick a few dishes to make and photograph for the blog, so watch for that if you’re a foodie!

We hope that you will be able to join us June 25 – 28, 2012 (coming up soon!) for our little experiment. It’s a terrific opportunity to participate in an intensive, educational but fun workshop that is also programmed to be like a little holiday — and you’re in charge of the price! See you at the workshop. If you can’t come, tell a friend, this is a fantastic deal. We believe in it so much we are willing to do the event for free!

Lizard Range, Island Lake, British Columbia, Canada

© Samantha Chrysanthou

Natural spring, Island Lake, British Columbia, Canada

©Samantha Chrysanthou

Lizard Range, Island Lake, British Columbia, Canada

©Samantha Chrysanthou

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




1 December

Pimped Out Tripod For Winter Shooting

Surprisingly a lot of people ask me about my legs… I mean my tripod legs (no one asks about my athletic personal legs). They wonder where I got the special soft covering for the upper legs of my tripod that keep my hands off the cold metal.  Of course, you can go on-line and buy manufactured tripod leg coverings but you’ll spend from $30 to $50! Ouch! For less than five bucks you can make your own tripod leg covers from foam pipe insulation and hockey tape (the best tape to use ’cause it can handle the cold). I went to my local ‘hardware’ store to get what I needed. Canadians probably know where I mean and that special place even gives you their own printed money for each purchase saving you another 5 to 10 cents to boot! The only other thing you’ll need are a pair of scissors. Heck, I am the least handy of handy-men. If I can make my own tripod leg covers then so can you. Watch the video below to see how it is done!

If you are looking for more winter photography tips for cheap be sure to come to our Twoonie Talk (a twoonie is a $2 coin up here in Canada) on Winter Photography in Glenbow Ranch Provincial Park on January 21st here in Cochrane (free parking, free coffee and close to that special ‘hardware’ store so you can buy goodies for your own tripod leg coverings. Hey did you know they even carry hockey tape in all colours including the ultra chic Camouflage, Lilac and Hunter Orange)?