6 November

The oopoomoo Pokie Awards!

Anyone who has been to oopoomoo seminars or workshops will be familiar with one of the most common compositional flaws in photography – the dreaded pokie.

What is a pokie? No, it’s not a friend of Gumby but rather it’s:

Little objects that stick into the edge of your frame accidentally.

Pokies are not purposeful parts of the composition. Instead they sneak into the frame like unwelcome guests and ruin the party by drawing attention to themselves. In short, they weaken your images. In the image below, can you spot the pokie?

©Samantha Chrysanthou

©Samantha Chrysanthou

Pretty obvious, eh? That little spruce branch in the upper right corner of the frame just screams out, “Look at me!”

Sometimes we are so fixated on our subjects while shooting that we don’t notice pokies until later when we look at the images on the computer screen. But once you are aware of pokies you’ll start to notice them all the time and you’ll learn to adjust your composition right away to get rid of those pesky buggers.

©Darwin Wiggett - The little bush in the lower left corner of the frame is a sneaky little pokie.

©Darwin Wiggett – The little bush in the lower left corner of the frame is sneaking into the composition!

©Darwin Wiggett - A Slight shift in position gives a pokie free composition!

©Darwin Wiggett – A slight shift in position kills that annoying pokie! Much better.

In some cases you can clone or crop out the offending pokies but sometimes you can’t. Rather than fix compositional errors in post, you’ll be a better photographer and you’ll save time at the computer later if you learn to spot and eliminate pokies in the field.

©Darwin Wiggett - A definite pokie problem here!

©Darwin Wiggett – A definite pokie problem here!

©Darwin Wiggett - A definite pokie problem here.

©Darwin Wiggett – Ah, pokie free and happy!

The Contest

Show us your best pokie shot and win a spot in one of our January 2017 Resolve: Discover Your Creative Self eCourses. Post your image or images to our oopoomoo Facebook group or email us your entry (info at oopoomoo.com) before midnight MDT November 16, 2017. Below are some ideas of the kinds of images to enter.

  • The Annoying Pokie – Show us a great shot that you made that was ruined or marred by an uninvited pokie.
  • The Pokie Eliminator – Show us how you zapped away a pokie by changing your composition while shooting (we’ll need to see a before picture showing the nasty pokie, and then the fixed, pokie-free photo). No Photoshop fixes please!
  • A Famous Pokie – Show us an annoying pokie in an iconic photograph from a famous photographer (yes, pokies have learned how to be published!). Be sure to credit the photographer and provide a website link to where you found the photo (comment and criticism on published pieces are allowed as fair use). Note: we can only award the pokie prize to a photographer who submits their original work so this last category is more for fun, education and discussion than for prize consideration.

Be sure to tag your images with #thepokieawards to ensure we consider your entry.

©Darwin Wiggett - A popular and widely published image with several pokie problems!

©Darwin Wiggett – A popular and widely published image of mine with several pokie problems!

18 August

Project Mentorship: The Bragging Wall Part III

We love it when photographers get creative.

©Pam Jenks

©Pam Jenks

We also love making mentorships a weeny-teeny bit challenging for our students. Pam Jenks confessed at the outset of this mentorship that she loves “big, spectacular landscapes” but when in the field struggles a bit to see compelling leading lines or interesting foregrounds. Her initial idea involved layers. We liked that concept, but wanted to make things a bit more interesting…Pam’s job was not to photograph just simple layers, but to make an image where layers were paramount and the first impression…overlaid upon what on second look is straightforward, raw nature. No post-processing props, no glory light or dazzling colour (ok, a little colour)…Pam’s images required careful, objective seeing in the field and strong composition work.

Here is Pam’s project statement:

I want to create a collection of images where the viewer first notices layers (lines/rectangles) and then secondly sees what was used to create those layers.  I’ll do this by creating abstract images; the realism of the landscape or natural scene will be hidden in those layers. 

Ten of her images are below. We think she did very well, don’t you?

©Pam Jenks

©Pam Jenks

©Pam Jenks

©Pam Jenks

©Pam Jenks

©Pam Jenks

©Pam Jenks

©Pam Jenks

©Pam Jenks

©Pam Jenks

©Pam Jenks

©Pam Jenks

©Pam Jenks

©Pam Jenks

©Pam Jenks

©Pam Jenks

©Pam Jenks

©Pam Jenks

In fact, we think more photographers should delve as deeply into their subject matter as Pam did in this mentorship – Shrek and Donkey think so too – because everybody loves parfaits!

From the movie, Shrek:
Shrek: For your information, there’s a lot more to ogres than people think.
Donkey: Example?
Shrek: Example… uh… ogres are like onions!
[holds up an onion, which Donkey sniffs]
Donkey: They stink?
Shrek: Yes… No!
Donkey: Oh, they make you cry?
Shrek: No!
Donkey: Oh, you leave ’em out in the sun, they get all brown, start sproutin’ little white hairs…
Shrek: [peels an onion] NO! Layers. Onions have layers. Ogres have layers… You get it? We both have layers.
[walks off]
Donkey: Oh, you both have LAYERS. Oh. You know, not everybody like onions. CAKE! Everybody loves cake! Cakes have layers!
Shrek: I don’t care what everyone likes! Ogres are not like cakes.
Donkey: You know what ELSE everybody likes? Parfaits! Have you ever met a person, you say, “Let’s get some parfait,” they say, “Hell no, I don’t like no parfait.”? Parfaits are delicious!
Shrek: NO! You dense, irritating, miniature beast of burden! Ogres are like onions! End of story! Bye-bye! See ya later.
Donkey: Parfait’s gotta be the most delicious thing on the whole damn planet!

(Source: http://www.imdb.com/character/ch0002002/quotes)

Check out previous students Lynn and Erin’s projects for the 7/365: The Mentored Photo Project course too!

21 May

Debunking the Myth that Gear Makes the Photographer: Part I

We’ve probably all heard it at some point when showing our images, that insidious insult dressed up as a compliment, “Wow, you must have a really good camera!” Why is it that people think a good photo is the result of good gear? And why do photographers rush out to upgrade to the latest camera body yet drag their feet when it comes to investing in photo education?

©Darwin Wiggett - Is Frans Lanting a great photographer because of the gear he uses?

©Darwin Wiggett – Is Frans Lanting a great photographer because of the gear he uses?

We think it’s a big fat myth that buying more and better gear will make you a better photographer, and yet that myth is alive and well out there. We are going to try and debunk this myth using our final photography workshop this spring, Learning to See: Developing Your Creative Vision in Montreal, June 5-7 as a case example. Tell us if we’ve convinced you. So here goes.

The Camera vs Your Brain

A camera is really just a black box made up of plastic, glass and metal. Your brain, on the other hand, is a marvel: coils and folds of squiggly grey matter are infiltrated with a network of delicate neurons that charge and fire and create – thought! Your life experiences shape your thoughts and interests, and your interests and thoughts create your images. A camera is by nature inert. It takes you, the photographer, to point the camera’s eye to something you deem worth photographing. It is you who decides which settings to use to portray your subject and it is you who pinpoints the split second to press the shutter.

©Darwin Wiggett - Its the grey matter behind the camera that matters most.

©Darwin Wiggett – It’s the grey matter behind the camera that matters most.

In other words, the camera is like a helpful slave that carries out your bidding. True, a camera can help the photographer by ‘guessing’ at some of the settings required to make certain photos such as is found with certain program modes, but even if you shoot on Auto Everything, you are the one who decides what to photograph. There is always a mind behind the shot, so insinuating that it is the camera that makes a good photo ignores the mind behind the photo.

©Darwin Wiggett - Where you point the camera and what you decide is worth photographing is not up to the camera!

©Darwin Wiggett – Where you point the camera and what you decide is worth photographing is not up to the camera!

Three Things Make a Good Photographer

What then makes a good photographer if not gear? Essentially, there are three skills that make a good photographer, and we’ve built our Montreal seminar around all three. First, a skilled photographer is one who can translate his thoughts, interests and experiences about a subject matter into an image. Remember that squiggly grey matter perched atop your spine? The germ of an image starts there, in those firing synapses. For example, in Montreal this June, our first topic in the Saturday seminar is Learning to See: The Art of Perception. This talk covers that crucial skill of being able to quickly perceive photographic potential in a moment in time. If you sometimes think there’s nothing to shoot here, then this is the skill you need to work on. Quite frankly, in our experience teaching photography for years, this is an area where many photographers are weak. No amount of gear is going to tell you what is a good moment to capture. In fact, we sometimes see an inverse relationship between the amount of gear a photographer carries and his ability to see! Gear can be a barrier in the way of true seeing.

Too much gear limits your ability to 'see'.

Too much gear limits your ability to ‘see’.

Second, not only do you have to be able to recognize the photographic potential in a split second, but you also then need to use every tool at your disposal to churn that moment into a final, complete image. This means understanding the creative power of camera controls such as aperture and shutter speed, and are fluent in the language of photography – composition. Do you know what the elements of visual design are? If not, get thee to an educational seminar! And guess what we teach in Montreal…you guessed it: Harvesting the Power of Tone for Compelling Images and Working Advanced Compositional Patterns in the Landscape.

©Samantha Chrysanthou

©Samantha Chrysanthou

Third, photographers need to understand themselves, what makes them tick. This is the key to developing personal style. If you don’t know and understand what motivates you to shoot, how can you follow your own creative vision? Do you find yourself copying other photographers’ work? Or are you comfortable with your own way of looking at the world? Creative Vision and Personal Style, our final talk on Saturday, addresses this important topic. By the way, in this talk, we reveal which is more important, vision or style, and why.

©Samantha Chrysanthou

©Samantha Chrysanthou

Take the Quiz

We’re going to end Part I of this topic with a little test. Grab all your camera gear and accessories and lay ‘em out. Make a list of your gear and its retail value at time of purchase. Now make a list of any dedicated computer equipment and software (e.g. special, high resolution monitors, photo processing software, extra hard drives etc.) and note the cost of this equipment at time of purchase. Tally it all up.

How much camera stuff do you own?

How much camera stuff do you own?

Now think back to this year. What photography talks, seminars or workshops have you attended? Write them down and note their cost. Write down any educational eBooks you’ve purchased and their cost – but only if you’ve read them! Unread educational material does not count nor do photo tours with no educational component. What about the year prior? Tally up the amounts you’ve spent on photo education in the last several years.

How much do you invest in your photography education?

How much do you invest in your photography education?

Compare the two columns. Does the gear/software column greatly outnumber the photo educational column? Have you spent more than $2000 in gear over the last year or so? More than $5,000? $10,000? If so, perhaps it’s time to invest in yourself, and stop lining retailers’ pocketbooks. The only way to be a better photographer is to invest in quality education. The Montreal weekend ranges from $75 – $95 per event. That’s a steal, folks.

Stay tuned for Part II where we level the playing field in our outdoor sessions and get serious with photo feedback.

©Samantha Chrysanthou

©Samantha Chrysanthou

29 April

Updated Spring Workshop Schedule – oopoomoo Photography Workshops Across Canada!

We just returned from a 3-day photo seminar with field workshops in Toronto where we met wonderful people and received some very positive feedback about our content, presentation and teaching style. John Weatherburn, past president of the Toronto Digital Photography Club related this to us:

Thanks again for spending the weekend with us. It was a very informative seminar and set of workshops. I have received very positive feedback from our members. I would say more so than with any other speaker!
The two of you working together works perfectly. Your complimentary interests illustrate clearly that there is no wrong way. Even using different equipment works well (always a debate in the club: Canon vs. Nikon!).

We love it when we can impart the oopoomoo values of create, inspire and educate to photography. The great thing is we learn just as much from our students as they do from us; it’s truly a collaborative adventure. Thanks, Toronto, for your hospitality and warmth and open hearts!

Next up on our schedule are the following events – we’d love to meet you and help you take your photography to a new creative and artistic level. To learn more about each event just click on the title for the event that interests you.

Creating Story and Mood in Photography
Winnipeg, Manitoba – May 2 and 3, 2015
©Samantha Chrysanthou

©Samantha Chrysanthou

Camera Controls Made Easy – From Confused to Creative in Four Hours!
Black Diamond, Alberta – May 9, 2015 – Sold Outwait list only
©Darwin Wiggett

©Darwin Wiggett

Creative Landscape Photography Weekend Intensive Workshop
Edmonton, Alberta – May 22 – 24, 2015 – Sold Outwait list only
©Darwin Wiggett

©Darwin Wiggett

NEWWorking Advanced Compositional Patterns in the Landscape
Black Diamond Alberta – May 31, 2015
©Samantha Chrysanthou

©Samantha Chrysanthou

Learning to See: Developing Your Creative Vision
Montreal, Quebec – June 5 – 7, 2015
©Samantha Chrysanthou

©Samantha Chrysanthou

29 March

Creative Camera Controls Workshop – Are You Ready to be the Boss of Your Camera?

Hot off the press! Bluerock Gallery in Black Diamond, Alberta, has asked us to teach a photography course at their gallery. We are flattered they approached us since we think Bluerock Gallery is one of the best venues showcasing amazing art – many from talented locals. For our topic, Samantha and I decided on one of our most popular and requested topics: camera controls. All too often, photographers vastly under utilize the power of aperture, shutter speed and ISO and the impact these humble settings have on the look and feel of your image. Camera controls are commonly taught by people who love jargon and math…we don’t really care for either, so we teach you how to get creative with camera controls in a simple, intuitive way.

So, want to go from confused to creative in just four hours? Even advanced shooters have told us they see the world in a fresh way after we explain the magic of camera controls! There are two dates to choose from, April 12 or May 9. See this link for more. These are our only local workshops scheduled so far for this year, so locals, grab your camera, and a tripod if you have one, and come out to our hands-on, informative and fun workshop!

Below are a few photos illustrating the creative power of camera controls!

©Darwin Wiggett

©Darwin Wiggett

©Samantha Chrysanthou

©Samantha Chrysanthou

©Samantha Chrysanthou

©Samantha Chrysanthou

©Samantha Chrysanthou

©Samantha Chrysanthou

©Darwin Wiggett

©Darwin Wiggett

©Darwin Wiggett

©Darwin Wiggett

©Darwin Wiggett

©Darwin Wiggett

©Darwin Wiggett

©Samantha Chrysanthou

©Darwin Wiggett

©Darwin Wiggett

1 December

December Challenge – Winter Abstracts

December’s monthly photo challenge is winter abstracts! Grab some hand warmers and ear muffs and head out with your gear to make abstract images of this exciting season. Post your images to the oopoomoo Facebook group for feedback and encouragement. We’ll be back soon to wade in with our own icy images. Remember, the most creative image posted in the Facebook group wins a copy of Darwin’s 50 at 50 career retrospective. Below are some tips to get you started.

This article was originally published in Outdoor Photography Canada several years ago; subscribe to get our latest writings in the magazine!

Winter Abstracts

Winter is the season of hibernation for photographers; the time of year when we hunker down at the computer and process images from the summer and fall; the season when dust collects on our camera gear and trips outdoors mostly involve shoveling the driveway or boosting our car battery. But for photographers willing to brave cold fingers and toes (not to mention dripping noses), winter is the single best season to create one of the highest forms of photographic art – the abstract.

©Darwin Wiggett

©Darwin Wiggett

What is an abstract photo? Abstraction is about getting to the essence or details of a subject, telling the truth about the subject in a non-contextual manner, and seeing the subject without definitions. In abstraction we are presenting the subject purely in terms of shape, line, texture, colour, or pattern. In fact, total abstraction bears no trace or reference to anything recognizable. Abstract photography doesn’t strive to portray something realistically but instead uses components of the subject (shapes, lines, textures or colours) to create visual design and emotional impact.

©Samantha Chrysanthou

©Samantha Chrysanthou

For nature photographers not used to seeing in the abstract, winter does all the heavy lifting for us covering and simplifying the world with a quiet blanket of white. Winter has smoothed nature’s complex, visual palette and presents to us graphic opportunities in the purist form possible. For us, winter is an exciting time to capture artful images. Below are a few tips and techniques to help you create winter abstracts.

©Samantha Chrysanthou

©Samantha Chrysanthou

Shoot with a telephoto zoom

One of the easiest ways to gather abstracts is to attach a telephoto zoom to your camera (e.g. a 70-300 or 100-400mm lens) and start hunting for shape, line and texture in snow drifts and ice formations. Remember, your goal is to frame up portions of your subject and not show the subject in a documentary manner. Telephoto lenses make isolating graphic sections of the subject easy.

©Darwin Wiggett

©Darwin Wiggett

Sunny, winter days with low light skimming across the landscape are perfect for capturing the detailed and crisp lines, shapes and textures in the snow. We like to go out to areas where the snow is not a uniform blanket but instead is undulating where it covers bushes or rocks. Here we hunt for patterns of shadow and light skimming across snowy mounds. We especially like side and back lighting because these qualities really highlight the shape of snow mounds. We use our telephoto zooms to pull in the alternating patterns of blue shadow and white light. We try to fill the frame with shape, line or texture that pleases the eye and creates a rhythmic pattern across the frame.

©Darwin Wiggett

©Darwin Wiggett

Use depth-of-field to define your subject

Aperture choice can really affect the final look and feel of your photograph. For example, if you want to focus your viewer’s attention on just a portion of your subject, then use a small number on the aperture dial like f4 which gives you a small slice of focus. The longer the telephoto lens and the smaller the number you dial in on the aperture dial, the smaller the sliver of focus you’ll get. Pick what you want to be sharply focused, get precise focus on that point, and then use a small number to keep that thin slice of focus in your photo. Small numbers on the aperture dial often leave you with a dreamy ethereal look that works well with abstracts.

©Darwin Wiggett

©Darwin Wiggett

If you want a large slice of focus in your winter abstract, then pick a large aperture number like f16 or f22, focus 1/3rd of the way into the image frame and you will get the most depth-of field (amount of apparent sharpness) possible so that your abstract is sharp from foreground to background.

©Samantha Chrysanthou

©Samantha Chrysanthou

Get close for more detail

Another easy way to get more abstract images is simply to get close to your subject. We like to make abstracts of ice patterns and to do this we use a macro lens or a telephoto lens at its closest focus. To get close enough with a macro lens means getting down onto the ice. We wear snow pants with built-in knee pads so we can comfortably get down on the ice to make abstracts. We also use a tripod with legs that splay out so we can get our cameras close to the ground for low level abstraction. The shorter the focal length of the macro lens, the closer you will need to be to the ground to capture your detailed image. Lately, we have switched from a 50mm macro lens to a longer telephoto version (a 150mm macro lens) so we can shoot the ice patterns from a more comfortable position (kneeling or standing). With the 50mm macro we often had to lie on the ice (very cold!)

©Darwin Wiggett

©Darwin Wiggett

Turn your abstract into a black & white 

You can make your image even more abstract and less representational by eliminating all colour from the scene. Winter scenes are often mostly monochromatic to begin with so why not enhance what you are provided? We always shoot our images in RAW format so that after the fact, even though we have a colour image captured, we can easily turn it to black & white in post-production. Our favorite black & white conversion tool to use is Silver Efex in either Lightroom or Photoshop. Silver Efex is easy to use which is why we recommend it but there are many methods of converting an image to black & white.  Use the tool with which you are most comfortable.

©Samantha Chrysanthou

©Samantha Chrysanthou

 

Using live view for black & white abstraction

You can visualize how your subject will look in black & white even before you press the shutter. First, you need to have a camera with live view. Go into the menu on your camera and find ‘picture styles’ (Canon) or ‘picture controls’ (Nikon) and set it to monochrome. Now, when you take a photo and playback the image on your LCD, the displayed image will be black & white. But wait – there’s more!

©Darwin Wiggett

©Darwin Wiggett

If you want to see the black & white effect before you take the photo, simply turn on live view and displayed on the LCD will be your scene in black & white! You can see everything you frame as a black & white even before you take the photo. Ansel Adams would love it! While in monochrome live view mode, simply see if the shapes and tones work well as a black & white and, if they do, then take a photo. If you set your camera to JPEG, then the resulting photo collected by your camera will end up being a finished black & white image. But if you shoot RAW, the LCD will display a black & white image, but the actual image captured by you camera will be a colour photo (very useful to make creative monochrome conversions). So if you shoot RAW you can visualize in black & white but have all the colour information available to you to make any kind of black & white conversion you want.  This is a very powerful creative tool. Shoot RAW + JPEG if you want a reference for converting your RAW file later.

©Samantha Chrysanthou

©Samantha Chrysanthou

Be brave

So get out and go hear the crunch of the snow beneath your winter boots. Snap a few frames and see how easily winter provides photographers with opportunities for abstraction. We are constantly thrilled with nature’s art and in particular with winter’s simple renditions. For us, winter is a time for internal expression and looking at the world with a painter’s eye. We may get frosted ears and rosy cheeks but that’s a small price to pay for the gift of winter abstracts.

©Darwin Wiggett

©Darwin Wiggett

©Samantha Chrysanthou

©Samantha Chrysanthou

©Darwin Wiggett

©Darwin Wiggett

©Samantha Chrysanthou

©Samantha Chrysanthou

14 October

How to Create Mood and Story with Aperture Effects

The Creative Use of Aperture

Aperture controls how much of the scene appears to be in sharp focus. That’s the official version. But there’s a secret good photographers know about aperture, and it’s so simple you’ll want to rush out and try it right away. The secret is that aperture does two things very well: it can powerfully direct your viewer’s gaze and it has a huge impact on creating mood in your images. When you think about aperture this way, you begin to approach a potential photograph from a creative viewpoint first as opposed to a technical one. This is liberating because it frees you up to focus on the reason you do photography (to create your own unique images) and avoid the pitfall of becoming lost in the techy parts of making an image (to the detriment of creating your own unique images). But before you can get the most storytelling punch out of aperture, you need to understand how aperture works.

©Darwin Wiggett

©Darwin Wiggett – Aperture f1.6 (the combination of light and aperture choice is responsible for creating the airy mood in the photo).

Luckily, aperture is like pie.

There’s a really simple concept behind aperture and – even more awesome – it’s connected to food. But first, you have to forget everything you know or everything someone has tried to teach you about aperture. Traditional teaching of aperture tells you nothing about creativity, so holding onto those ‘ought tos’ can be dangerous. Take a break, pour a cup of tea and clear your mind…are you ready? Here it is! Aperture is an awful lot like pie. Small numbers on your aperture dial like 1.8, 2.8 or 4 give you a small slice of pie (a small wedge of sharpness). On the other hand, large numbers on your aperture dial, like 16 or 22, return a big slice of pie (a large wedge of sharpness). This seems almost too easy but like with most of life’s basic truths, what appears deceptively simple is really a foundation for all those complicated decisions that follow. As a creative photographer, you get to decide just how much of the scene you want to appear in focus; do you want a thin or a large slice? Just like ordering pie! And of course whether you want a thin slice or a large slice is going to depend on where you want your viewer to look in your image and the mood you want to establish.

©Samantha Chrysanthou - a large aperture of f16 gives us a large slice of sharpness.

©Samantha Chrysanthou – A large aperture of f16 gives us a large slice of sharpness.

Examples of aperture in action.

Let’s see how aperture choice can impact your images. The photo on the left (below) was taken with an aperture of f1.4 giving a very thin wedge of sharpness. In fact, the only thing sharp is that rock in the foreground, and that is probably where your eye looked first in the image. The photo on the right was shot at f16 and everything appears sharp! While you probably still looked first at the snowy rock in the foreground, in the f16 image you likely spent more time looking at the mid-ground and background in the shot. There are a few basic principles of perception at work here. Humans tend to look first and spend more time looking at objects in an image that are large (especially if they appear in the lower part of an image), bright and detailed. So, you can use aperture, in conjunction with your understanding of composition, to not only direct where a viewer will look first in your image but also where they will look next. Just as important, you can create a completely different feel to an image just by changing your aperture number. In this example, which image seems softer or more subdued? Whether you want a dreamy feel or a ‘realistic’ or detailed feel in your image can be set in large part by your aperture number.

©Darwin Wiggett - For a thin slice of sharpness use small numbers like f1.4 (left). If you want a large slice of sharpness use large numbers like f16 (right).

©Darwin Wiggett – For a thin slice of sharpness use small numbers like f1.4 (left). If you want a large slice of sharpness use large numbers like f16 (right).

Let’s look at another example of the same scene shot with different apertures. In the two photos below the top image was made with a telephoto lens focused on the foreground tree and shot with an aperture of f5.6. Only the yellow tree is sharp and the trees in the background are blurry. The image has a softer mood and is more a contextual portrait of the yellow-leaved tree. The bottom image is sharp through out (f22 was used) and the photo is now about the forest.

A thin slice of sharpness with f5.6 (top) and a thick slice of focus with f22 (bottom).

A thin slice of sharpness with f5.6 (top) and a thick slice of focus with f22 (bottom).

You don’t always need everything in focus. For example, small aperture numbers on telephoto lenses create a wash of blur in the areas that are not in focus. This blur is called ‘bokeh’, but its effect is beautiful! You focus on the part of the scene you wish to appear sharp and choose a small number (for a small slice of sharpness) on your telephoto lens. In this shot, the foreground flower is sharp and the other flowers are not – but this image is about a soft mood and not a documentary shot of the details of the flowers so a small wedge of sharpness works to tell that story.

©Darwin Wiggett

©Darwin Wiggett – The dreamy background blur when using f4 on a telephoto lens is beautiful.

On the other hand, with a subject that is dynamic and full of detail you may want the largest slice of sharpness possible to render that detail throughout the frame. The photograph of the chairs below was taken with a large number on the aperture dial to give a large slice of sharpness. You might feel like you are wandering into the scene and to sit and enjoy the view to the sharp mountains in the background.

©Samantha Chrysanthou - Get a big slice of pie with f16!

©Samantha Chrysanthou – Get a big slice of pie with f16!

The three amigos.

Aperture is part of a triad of controls you have at your disposal to make compelling shots. The other two amigos in this triad are shutter speed and ISO. All three affect the look and feel of your photo, and their unique combination in an image is often referred to as an exposure. It can be challenging to learn about what one control does when all three controls are changing either because you are altering them in manual mode yourself or when the camera is doing it for you in a program or auto mode. We suggest you spend some time learning how the small aperture values, middle aperture values and large aperture values on your lenses affect the look of your photographs. The easiest way to do this is to switch your camera to aperture priority mode.

©Darwin Wiggett - The same scene shot at f4 (top) and f16 (bottom).

©Darwin Wiggett – The same scene shot at f4 (top) and f16 (bottom).

Aperture priority mode

The first step to really understanding aperture is to switch your camera to aperture priority mode. In this mode you are the boss of aperture. You tell the camera which aperture value you need for your creative vision and the camera automatically picks a shutter speed to return an average exposure. If you have your camera set to auto ISO, the camera will vary both the shutter speed and ISO to give an average exposure. All you need to be concerned about is aperture. Easy! If you’re just starting out, work in aperture priority mode, focus on the most important part of your scene, and then really pay attention in playback on your LCD to how your selection (small number or large number) influences where the viewer looks and the mood in your images.

Aperture priority mode on a Canon.

Aperture priority mode on a Canon.

Aperture mode on a Nikon.

Aperture mode on a Nikon.

From exposure to expression.

Understanding how aperture works can be confusing especially if you are concentrating on the technical components of aperture instead of thinking about what aperture really does on a creative level. That’s why a handy shortcut is to remember that aperture is like pie: a small aperture number returns a small slice of sharpness and a large aperture number returns a large slice of sharpness. But aperture is about much more than how much of the scene appears in focus. Good photographers understand the ability of aperture (in conjunction with composition) to direct the viewer’s gaze and establish mood in their images. There are a few more tips on using aperture effectively that you will come to know by playing and practicing – we know we’re still discovering the potential of aperture choice and we love to share what we learn with our readers! So, now that you’re initiated into the secret club of visual storytellers who count aperture as a handy tool in their artistic toolbox, there’s only one further question to ask yourself…where will your creative use of aperture take you?

To learn more about aperture, shutter speed and ISO be sure to pick up our Photography Fundamentals eBook collection

©Samantha Chrysanthou - For giant slices of sharpness use a large aperture number like f16 and focus your lens about 1/3rd of the way into the scene.

©Samantha Chrysanthou – For a giant slice of sharpness use a large aperture number like f16 and focus your lens about 1/3rd of the way into the scene.

©Darwin Wiggett - For thin slices of sharpness be sure to focus your lens on the area of the scene you want to draw the viewer's eye into.

©Darwin Wiggett – For a thin slice of sharpness be sure to use a small number on the aperture dial (here f5.6) and  focus your lens on the area of the scene you want to draw the viewer’s eye to (here the foreground trees).

©Darwin Wiggett - Thin slices of sharpness really direct the viewer's eye.

©Darwin Wiggett – Thin slices of sharpness really direct the viewer’s eye to the sharp subject.

©Samantha Chrysanthou - Great compositions that lead your eye through the frame are needed anytime you use large slices of sharpness.

©Samantha Chrysanthou – Great compositions that lead your eye through the frame are needed anytime you use large slices of sharpness.

©Darwin Wiggett - Aperture: What story are you going to tell?

©Darwin Wiggett – Aperture: What story are you going to tell?

 

 

2 September

Last Chance (for awhile) for oopoomoo Photography Workshops

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’.

Road into sunrise

The road less traveled? ©Darwin Wiggett

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.

Fall Colours on the Kootenay Plains - ©Darwin Wiggett

Fall Colours on the Kootenay Plains. ©Darwin Wiggett

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.

Allstones Creek, Kootenay Plains, Alberta, Canada

It’s in the details…©Samantha Chrysanthou

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.

North Saskatchewan River - Kootenay Plains - Alberta Canada

Icy fringe and fiery light…what’s not to like? ©Darwin Wiggett

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.

Yellow leaves in blue pond

Creative filtering in nature photography. ©Darwin Wiggett

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!

Sam and Darwin relaxing in their cabin at Aurum Lodge

It’s tough being Artists in Residence! Here, we take a break with our chicken friends. ©Darwin Wiggett

Our home away from home - Aurum Lodge, ©Samantha Chrysanthou

Our home away from home – Aurum Lodge. ©Samantha Chrysanthou

 

28 August

Creative Results from Participants in Buicks, Badlands and Old Buildings

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!

Karen Ho Fatt Lee

©Karen Ho Fatt

©Karen Ho Fatt Lee

©Karen Ho Fatt Lee

©Karen Ho Fatt Lee

Al Dixon

©Al Dixon

©Al Dixon

Al Dixon

Al Dixon

Evelyn Jacob

©Evelyn Jacobs

©Evelyn Jacob

©Evelyn Jacobs

©Evelyn Jacob

Bob Costall

©Bob Costall

©Bob Costall

©Bob Costall

©Bob Costall

Dave Williamson

©Dave Williamson

©Dave Williamson

©Dave Williamson

©Dave Williamson

Bruce Davis

©Bruce Davis

©Bruce Davis

©Bruce Davis

©Bruce Davis

7 July

Featured Photography Workshop – Buicks, Badlands and Old Buildings

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.

©Samantha Chrysanthou - Get on the bus for our prairie photo workshop

©Samantha Chrysanthou – Get on the bus for our prairie photo workshop.

Preliminaries (Again)

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.

 

©Darwin Wiggett - Oh those Prairie skies!

©Darwin Wiggett – Oh those Prairie skies!

©Samantha Chrysanthou - did we mention the skies?

©Samantha Chrysanthou – did we mention the skies?

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’.)

©Darwin Wiggett - Dry Island Buffalo Jump overview

©Darwin Wiggett – Dry Island Buffalo Jump overview.

Buckin’ Buicks

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).

©Samantha Chrysanthou - Old and new and everything in between at the auto wrecker's yard.

©Samantha Chrysanthou – Old and new and everything in between at the auto wrecker’s yard.

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.

©Samantha Chrysanthou - We'll explore priaire towns at dusk with flash lights!

©Samantha Chrysanthou – We’ll explore prairie towns at dusk with flash lights!

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.

©Darwin Wiggett - Photographer Wayne Simpson contemplates the warm light of the prairie.

©Darwin Wiggett – Photographer Wayne Simpson contemplates the warm light of the prairie.

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 info@oopoomoo.com. 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!

Dale Sorensen

©Dale Sorensen

©Dale Sorensen

©Dale Sorensen

©Dale Sorensen

Ian McGillvrey

©Ian McGillvrey

©Ian McGillvrey

©Ian McGillvrey

©Ian McGillvrey

Dave Williamson

©Dave Williamson

©Dave Williamson

©Dave Williamson

©Dave Williamson

John Fujimagari

©John Fujimagari

©John Fujimagari

©John Fujimagari

©John Fujimagari

 

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