11 March

Never Give Up

I think with shame that it has been more than two years since I first posted my Pressed Landscape project on this website.

©Samantha Chrysanthou

How could this happen? Am I not passionate enough about my project? Is it not worthy of my time and care? Should I just call it quits and get on with more meaningful things? These kinds of questions rumble through my caffeine-deprived brain when I get up to do my ‘work before work’, my photography job here at oopoomoo, before I truck off to my day job. When time and resources are scarce, you are forced to question what is worth your time. Why should a personal project with no expected monetary outcome (just expense) justify my attention?

Back when I was in school, my Mom gave me a cool present. It was a photocopy of a cartoon struggle. A long-necked bird with a pointy beak was in the process of swallowing a frog. The frog’s head was engulfed in the beak, it’s legs dangling. But damn it, that frog had reached its arms out and was trying to strangle that bird’s neck for all it was worth! The caption was: “Don’t ever give up!” And that little cartoon, which I coloured in and hung in my locker during tough school times, has stayed with me all these years.


So, perhaps we should spin this debate around. Darwin and I are photographers and educators. There’s that first part…photographers…. To be a photographer, one must photograph. In other words, there would be no oopoomoo without me and Darwin pursuing and nurturing our creative talents in ourselves just as we do for other photographers through our talks, eBooks, workshops and the oopoomoo Creatives Facebook group. It’s an imperative, not an option. So I must not give up but continue with this project which in truth means a lot to me. What photo projects dear to your own heart must you never give up on?

You’ll be reading and seeing more of Pressed Landscapes as I try once again to prioritize and get this baby off the ground. The good thing with procrastination is that sometimes you refine and improve an idea…more on that later. For now, I have to go to work!

1 July

oopoomoo Celebrates Canada day and the Importance of Water

Happy Canada Day!

Happy Canada Day from Cochrane, Alberta!

Happy Canada Day from Cochrane, Alberta!

Samantha and I have been lucky enough to travel to many different parts of the globe and every time we come home to Canada we realize how fortunate we are to live in this amazingly diverse country. We are blessed with stunning natural beauty and vast areas of wilderness. Our friends don’t believe us when we tell them, but it’s true – no place we have visited compares to Canada!

Canadians have a unique opportunity to preserve, nurture and embrace the bounty of nature bestowed on Canada. We could be world leaders and celebrate our abundance before it is gone forever. Many other countries have learned this lesson, the hard way… they don’t appreciate what they had until it’s gone. Rather than mourn what we had, let’s work hard not to lose it in the first place. We need to think bigger picture and longer term than just the immediate future. The election of the NDP in Alberta is a signal that people want more than just “business-as-usual” short-term economic riches. Most Canadians want an ethical social fabric, a diverse economy that rewards quality of life over quantity of goods, and we want to keep the awesome nature that we all benefit from and enjoy.

One of the best ways to preserve natural habitat and the species that live there is to preserve watersheds. Thinking watershed is thinking holistically… we all need water to live and saving water requires saving large chunks of habitat (which saves many species at once)! A common statistic flaunted about Canada is that we have 20% of the world’s fresh water.  But according to Environment Canada:

…less than half of this water — about 7% of the global supply — is “renewable“. Most of it is fossil water retained in lakes, underground aquifers, and glaciers.

For Canada’s 30 million people — about half a percent of the world’s population — this is still a generous endowment. But, more than half of this water drains northward into the Arctic Ocean and Hudson Bay. As a result, it is unavailable to the 85% of the Canadian population who live along the country’s southern border. That means the remaining supply, while still abundant, is heavily used and often overly stressed.

This blog post is part celebration and part exhortation. Let’s call upon our governments  (and ourselves) to take action and protect our water and riparian habitat.

And so in celebration of Canada Day, I present images from across Canada showcasing our water (both fresh and salt water).

Samantha and I will continue to vote with our ballets, our wallets, our conservation habits and our time to do our part to keep Canada biologically and socially diverse. Canada, we toast you (with a cool glass of fresh water!) Happy Canada Day!

Waterton River, Waterton Lakes National Park, Alberta - ©Darwin Wiggett - oopoomoo.com

Waterton River, Waterton Lakes National Park, Alberta – ©Darwin Wiggett – oopoomoo.com

Mountain stream in the British Columbia Rockies - ©Darwin Wiggett - oopoomoo.com

Mountain stream in the British Columbia Rockies – ©Darwin Wiggett – oopoomoo.com

Hecla Prov. Park, Manitoba - ©Darwin Wiggett - oopoomoo.com

Hecla Prov. Park, Manitoba – ©Darwin Wiggett – oopoomoo.com

Cape Enrage, Bay of Fundy, New Brunswick -  ©Darwin Wiggett - oopoomoo.com

Cape Enrage, Bay of Fundy, New Brunswick – ©Darwin Wiggett – oopoomoo.com

Gros Morne National Park as viewed from the Trout River Lighthouse Trail - Trout River Newfoundland -  ©Darwin Wiggett - oopoomoo.com

Gros Morne National Park as viewed from the Trout River Lighthouse Trail – Trout River Newfoundland – ©Darwin Wiggett – oopoomoo.com

Fall Colours, Mersey River, Kejimkujik National Park, Nova Scotia -  ©Darwin Wiggett - oopoomoo.com

Fall Colours, Mersey River, Kejimkujik National Park, Nova Scotia – ©Darwin Wiggett – oopoomoo.com

Nahanni Range, Laird River, Northwest Territories -  ©Darwin Wiggett - oopoomoo.com

Nahanni Range, Laird River, Northwest Territories – ©Darwin Wiggett – oopoomoo.com

Lake Huron, Bruce Peninsula National Park, Ontario -  ©Darwin Wiggett - oopoomoo.com

Lake Huron, Bruce Peninsula National Park, Ontario – ©Darwin Wiggett – oopoomoo.com

Elephant Rock, Norway PEI -  ©Darwin Wiggett - oopoomoo.com

Elephant Rock, Norway, PEI – ©Darwin Wiggett – oopoomoo.com

Riviere du Diable, Chute du Diable, Mont Tremblant Park, Quebec -  ©Darwin Wiggett - oopoomoo.com

Riviere du Diable, Chute du Diable, Mont Tremblant Park, Quebec – ©Darwin Wiggett – oopoomoo.com

Waskesiu Lake, Prince Albert Nat'l Park, Saskatchewan -  ©Darwin Wiggett - oopoomoo.com

Waskesiu Lake, Prince Albert Nat’l Park, Saskatchewan – ©Darwin Wiggett – oopoomoo.com

Kathleen River, Yukon -  ©Darwin Wiggett - oopoomoo.com

Kathleen River, Yukon – ©Darwin Wiggett – oopoomoo.com

3 July

Online Shopping. For Better or Worse?

One of my recent blog posts about having the ability to print your own accessories or replacement parts raised some more questions about its impact on the environment and how our culture is built around the shopping mall.

I have worked for two retail companies. One was a small specialty computer store and the other a large big box store. The owner of the small electronics store would display visible anger when you didn’t buy and support locally. Although I understand the logic of keeping the money locally, at what point does this argument to support local business begin to break down?

Competing on price is tough and I’ll not argue the value of having a good relationship with a small service company. It’s nice to have someone to call that you trust. Or beneficial to have a place to try before you buy. But for the purpose of this post, my focus is on the big box store model. Fifteen years ago when I was working in retail, the complaint was the big box stores moving into town. Today, we could compare to the growing popularity of shopping online.

My question is raised from a debate from guilt for having everything shipped to my door. My argument and all things considered, if they are not shipping an item directly to me, a much bigger shipment is going to a warehouse with the hopes it will be sold. If it is not sold, it will be discarded or shipped back.

Today we can have just about anything shipped right to our door but from an environmental point of view, is it better that we have buildings in every town stocking inventory, providing heat and electricity to this building, shipping back or trashing what doesn’t sell, and having thousands of visitors drive to the store every day… or is it better to have several courier trucks who will deliver exactly what you wanted from much fewer warehouses? Case in point, Amazon only needs 49 buildings spread across 8 countries — 2 of which are in Canada.

Hypothetically, if we were not required to maintain inventory in every town and city across the country with every possible product you may or may not want…

  1. Would it reduce traffic? How many drive from store to store looking for items or sales?
  2. Would it reduce the required energy with fewer buildings?
  3. Could it reduce how much is being shipped around the world? So much product is moved that will never be sold.
  4. Would it slow down the development of new buildings due to constant expansion?
  5. And would we all purchase less?

So many questions without any answers.

©Darwin Wiggett -Shopping is just a connection away!

©Darwin Wiggett -Shopping is just a connection away!

9 June

Turning the Lens to the Present to Build the Future — Wayne Simpson Photographs Phoenix of Sarnia Reserve

Wayne Simpson is a professional wedding, portrait and landscape photographer based out of Owen Sound, Ontario. Wayne’s creative work graces our home, and we feel privileged to consider Wayne our friend. When we saw his most recent project, we knew we couldn’t keep Wayne’s work to ourselves — we had to share this original series with oopoomoo readers. Wayne’s project has deeply touched us as we are about to embark on our own creative journey. Read on to discover Wayne’s personal connection to a disturbing reality for Sarnia Reserve First Nation residents in Ontario.

Phoenix Sky Cottrell at the refinery

©Wayne Simpson

Q: You are known for your landscape, wedding and family portrait shots, but this series is a little different from some of your work. Where did the idea for the project originate?

A: I’ve actually been thinking about this project for over a year and was only recently able to pull it together. There are several factors that play into why I wanted to do this shoot:

I grew up visiting my Mom on the reserve as a small kid (about 8 or 9 years old). I still remember driving through there at night and seeing all the lights and flare stacks with flames burning – it felt like we were driving through hell and it scared me as a kid. Part of me wanted to make an image that got some of that feeling across.

I still have lots of family living in the middle of all these refineries and I fear for their health and the future of the youth. Just google “Sarnia Reserve” and you will find all kinds of troubling information.

It also really hurts to see the land/water turned toxic. There are small rivers that the kids used to swim in that are now marked as toxic with signage… it’s just so sad.

Phoenix Sky Cottrell photographed at Sarnia refinery

©Wayne Simpson


Q: How did you visualize this scene/story in your mind?

A: This shot was taken on a concrete island between a major 4 lane intersection and an off-ramp. If you were to look in the opposite direction, the reserve starts about 15 meters from here.

I’ve always been amazed by the close proximity of several of the refineries, but I chose this particular spot because I liked the busy hydro lines and old cracked asphalt and also knew that the sun would be rising in exactly the right spot. Knowing the location well and figuring out the direction of light allowed me to communicate the mood I wanted with the introduction of supplemental lighting. It’s not often that I can say a shoot went exactly as planned, but in this case it did!

Q: Tell us a bit about the girl in the picture. Who is she?

A: This little girl’s name is Phoenix Sky Cottrell. Phoenix is 6 years old… but I think her soul is much older! She has a certain mature and quiet manner about her which really draws you in. We left it up to Phoenix to decide if she wanted to do the shoot at 5:30 am to use the best light and she was all in! She was actually excited about the idea! I’m 100 percent certain that she is destined for great things!

Phoenix and her mother have taken part in several Idle No More demonstrations and care deeply about the environment and health of the people, so they have given me permission to share these images.

First Nations resident Phoenix Sky Cottrell photographed near Sarnia Reserve, Ontario.

©Wayne Simpson

Q: What kind of lighting set up are you using? Why?

A: In this shoot I wanted to keep the lighting very simple and practical. I used my elinchrom Ranger with a deep octa as a modifier. I wanted to keep things simple, fast and easy so I didn’t waste any time messing around with gear and risk loosing the interest of Phoenix.

I wanted to show the refinery as a dark and ominous presence behind her and utilize some of the early morning colour in the sky. To accomplish what I visualized the shoot looking like, lighting was a must in this particular case.

First Nations resident Phoenix Sky Cottrell photographed near Sarnia Reserve, Ontario.

©Wayne Simpson

Q: Describe the morning of the shoot. How did you decide to place your model?

A: The morning of the shoot was quite chilly and very calm. It was very refreshing to not have to deal with harsh light and high winds blowing my light over! I wanted to showcase the great natural light behind Phoenix but also keep my light at least a little bit natural looking. I made a conscious decision to put my light on the same side of her as the sun to keep things as natural looking as possible.

Q:Any tips you want to share about working with ‘real’ people (as opposed to models) in shooting a personal portrait project?

A: I believe that if your personal project is meant to communicate a specific idea which is affecting actual people, it’s best to use those affected people in the images to make it authentic. The images will lack depth if the subject is not personally invested in your project as well. If the project is meant more as a creative release then models are great!

Phoenix Sky Cottrell photographed near Sarnia Reserve

©Wayne Simpson

Q: Where do you hope to see this project going?

A: I’m hoping to come up with a series of images depicting environmental challenges facing local reserves, but who knows… it could turn into more than that! After seeing the attention that this work has already received, I’m really hoping to use my vision to bring awareness on more of an emotional level. I could be wrong, but I feel that pulling at people’s emotions with images would garner more long-lasting attention than numbers on a page.

©Wayne Simpson

©Wayne Simpson

Stay tuned to Wayne’s website for further work in this inspiring series!

31 October

Pressed Landscapes – How Pressed is Pressed Enough?

One of the most challenging aspects of the Pressed Landscape project is deciding how ‘pressed’ the landscape needs to be in order to qualify for the final eBook. By ‘pressed’ I’m not thinking of just simple telephoto focal length compression. No! My motto tends to be: why do something simple when you can make it challenging? I’m aiming for images with a unique combination of focal length compression and compositional suggestion…I want the resulting final image to look like you reached out with a giant book and WHAM! grabbed that landscape out of thin air like you would a beautiful butterfly. (Except no landscapes will be hurt in the making of this book.)

So, will this image make the eBook? Is it pressed enough? What do you think? Even if it doesn’t, I like the little surprise in the photo…Happy Halloween!

A surprise in the woods...Happy Halloween! ©Samantha Chrysanthou

A surprise in the woods…Happy Halloween! ©Samantha Chrysanthou

29 May

Photos from the Brazeau Colleries in Nordegg

Below are some photos Samantha and I have made during several visits to the Brazeau Colleries in Nordegg Alberta. This historic place is a photographer’s dream but it’s difficult to get access to this industrial site which is one of the largest intact briquette coal mines in North America. Alan Ernst of Aurum Lodge has negotiated a full day and a half of unfettered photographic privileges to this fabulous place in the warm summer days of July! Besides the mine, there’s the outstanding natural scenery of the Kootenay Plains in the Canadian Rockies to be amazed and inspired by and of course the down-home warm and cozy comforts of the Aurum Lodge. So come join Alan and Madeleine Ernst of the Aurum Lodge and Sam and me for our special mine tour this summer. There are only two spots left for this visual romp into Alberta’s history! Click on any photo to see it larger in our Nordegg Flickr Stream or to see see many more photos from our time in the mine!

©Darwin Wiggett

©Samantha Chrysanthou

©Samantha Chrysanthou

©Samantha Chrysanthou

©Darwin Wiggett

©Darwin Wiggett

©Samantha Chrysanthou

©Samantha Chrysanthou

©Darwin Wiggett

©Darwin Wiggett

©Samantha Chrysanthou

©Samantha Chrysanthou

©Darwin Wiggett

©Darwin Wiggett

9 May

Getting a Little More Green (by selling our vehicle and biking for photos)

©Darwin Wiggett - shot with the forgotten fifty!

Samantha and I have two vehicles but 90% of the time we only need one. It’s rare that we aren’t together for photo shoots or road trips. And if we’re not together, whoever is left home can relatively easily bike or walk to the store or to do errands. Although we live in the ‘burbs all our needs are less than a 20-minute bike ride away. And the great thing is Cochrane has  fabulous walking and bike paths.

We plan to do a lot more local photography this year as part of our ‘green stock’ program. Biking for photos leaves less of a footprint and makes more sense to us creatively and environmentally than motoring around burning carbon fuels chasing ephemeral photos (we’ve all done it!). Plus biking fits perfectly into our  FAT project (an update on that later).

So… I am selling my my main ride, a 2006 Nissan X-trail SE, named Sandy. Sandy is looking for a good home. She has a few kilometres under her belt (but she is in great shape) and she knows all the good photo locations in the Rockies. This vehicle is perfect for photographers; it’s good on gas, can hold a lot of gear and you can sleep in the back of it. Sandy is now sold!

Sandy the 2006 Nissan X-trail SE

©Samantha Chrysanthou - Darwin about to go biking for photos

Check out the video below giving a quick look at the Cochrane bike paths in early May. See how fast Darwin rides his bike under the influence of Red Bull!

Stay tuned for more updates and sample photos from our human-propelled photography adventures!

22 March

New eBook on the Kootenay Plains and New Tour

Darwin and I are pleased to announce our second eBook on the Kootenay Plains region: Kootenay Plains Spring, Summer and Fall Edition. We’re continuing in the ‘special places’ tradition started with the first eBook on this region so you’ll find lots of cultural and ecological notes on the importance of the area alongside pages crammed with info on great spots to take pictures. This is a varied and gorgeous place that is off the beaten path of the federal parks, so be sure to grab the guide and visit the area if your photographic wanderings take you up to this neck of the woods. This guide is lavishly illustrated so, even if you can’t make it to the area, you can be an ‘armchair traveler’ for ten bucks!

Cover of Kootenay Plains eBook

There's great stuff inside!

In other news, you may have noticed that we’ve sneaked another tour into our roster. On July 5-8, 2012, Darwin and I are leading a photo tour of the Nordegg mine, the Brazeau Collieries. This fascinating industrial complex is largely intact (if not operational) and offers intriguing glimpses into the past workings of a coal mine. From wide angle building views to the most detailed study of a rusty hinge, this place has something to please every shooter. We’ll spend a day and a half here with exclusive access. Plus, we’ll also visit some natural highlights of the Bighorn Wildland and Kootenay Plains. With only 8 max registrants, and the only photo tour we offer to this incredible region in the summer months, this tour is a great opportunity! Like always, we’re based out of cozy Aurum Lodge where we recharge our super-photo-powers by tucking into Madeleine’s fine, home-cooked meals. To learn more, see our write-up here and to register contact Aurum Lodge.

Here are some old film pictures of the mine.

Coal Shuttle, Brazeau Collieries, Nordegg, Alberta Canada

© Samantha Chrysanthou

Old door, Brazeau Collieries, Nordegg, Alberta, Canada

© Samantha Chrysanthou

16 March

Three New Galleries

We have just added three new galleries here at oopoomoo. Drop by and check them out!


Talyn Stone by Samantha Chrysanthou

Rockin' Self Portrait by Samantha Chrysanthou

Darwin Flying High by Samantha Chrysanthou


©Samantha Chrysanthou

©Darwin Wiggett


©Samantha Chrysanthou

©Darwin Wiggett (composite image)

24 February

Beyond the Bubbles

Abraham Lake has become world-renowned for its ice bubbles in winter. There is no doubt the pancake stacks of frozen methane make for dramatic foregrounds in the context of the peaks of the Kootenay Plains in the Alberta Rockies. On my last visit to the area, during our Winter Photo Tour, I thought I would try and make some images of the ice on the lake that were ‘bubble-free’. I was also looking to do more intimate work and shy away from the typical grand landscape work I do in the region. And so here from the Feb 8-12 photo tour are a few of my favorite ‘Beyond the Bubbles’ photos of Abraham Lake.

If you want to learn more about the Kootenay Plains and Abraham Lake be sure to check out our new Special Places eBook: Kootenay Plains & Abraham Lake Winter Edition.

©Darwin Wiggett

©Darwin Wiggett

©Darwin Wiggett

©Darwin Wiggett

©Darwin Wiggett

©Darwin Wiggett

©Darwin Wiggett

©Darwin Wiggett