17 August

Audra Shields Compares and Contrasts – 7/365 Mentorship

Photographer Audra Shields completed our 7/365-The Mentored Photo Project course this summer. Not content with just extra homework during the summer, Audra’s project also involved a challenging theme that encouraged viewers to dig beneath the surface of the presented image. Entitled Juxtapose, Audra invited a comparison between buildings in the neighbouring streets and roads of her home in Ohio. Here is her project theme in her own words:

Juxtapose: To create an image collection of contrasting buildings displayed in pairs, provoking viewer curiosity to consider circumstance, history and inhabitants.

Wander through Audra’s world and wonder about the stories of the people who live and work in these places. Visit her website to learn more about Audra’s commercial and fine art photography!

Interested in an intensive mentorship like Audra’s? There’s only 1 spot left in November’s 7/365 – The Mentored Photo Project.

©Audra Shields

©Audra Shields

©Audra Shields

©Audra Shields

©Audra Shields

©Audra Shields

©Audra Shields



10 August

Campfire Stories

In Canada, summer is the time for camping. I know this because I just looked up availability to one of our fave, local campgrounds to find there was only one spot left out of hundreds. Apparently all of Calgary has already headed out there. And this was for camping mid-week! Usually, one of the perks of being self-employed is that you can set your own hours. In the summer this means leaving home early to arrive at a campsite and register before all those other poor schmucks can get off work and drive out there. Not anymore! Alberta’s pre-registration system has made the whole process more egalitarian if less impromptu.

Darwin at Squanga Lake Yukon

Darwin at Squanga Lake, Yukon – Cyclists have their refreshment, we have ours!

But this is not a rant about Alberta Parks. No, I thought instead, if I can’t get out camping, at least we can have a little campfire fun so to speak on the blog. My question for you is, what was the eeriest moment you ever had camping out in the great big wild? Share in a comment here on the blog – and even better, a pic (if you were brave enough to get one)!

Dempster Highway, Blackstone Mountains, Yukon

Dempster Highway, Blackstone Mountains, Yukon. Do you dare?

Now gather round, and I’ll tell you one of mine…it happened when Darwin and I were traveling through Yukon Territory several years ago. We were way up north on one of Canada’s most infamous roads: the Dempster Highway. Known for potholes big enough to swallow a small car, sharp rocks and frost heaves, it is not a journey undertaken lightly or by the uninformed. The weather can also be a bit extreme. The shots in this post are from that visit August 21, 2008. As you can see, we are well into fall colours during our little trip.

Ogilvie Mountains, Yukon

Ogilvie Mountains, Yukon. A little further on up the road.

My campfire story doesn’t involve a campfire, but it does involve a campground. After hours of driving, we’d managed to reach Engineer Creek Campground where we decided to stop for lunch. Mother nature had been tempermental all day with bursts of sunshine peeking through menacing clouds and fog. We pulled into the campground and found it quite charming with its black rock roads contrasting with fresh yellow leaves. Charming…but quite deserted. There was not a single soul in the place!

Engineer Creek Campground, Yukon Territory, Canada

Engineer Creek Campground. Hellooooo! Anyone home?

We were not deterred and got out our lunch stuff. This involved firing up our small portable cook stove to make a warm lunch. We each set about our tasks of preparing lunch (me chopping veg, Darwin trying to get the stove to work). Pretty soon we noticed though that there didn’t even seem to be birds in this campground, or if there were, they weren’t making a peep.

I think that’s when I started to get a little creeped out.

“Hey Darwin,” I said. “Don’t you think it’s awfully quiet here?”

Darwin looked up from fiddling with the stove. “Come to think of it, where is everybody?” It was later in the day on a very long, lonely road – no one was planning on staying the night here? We kept on prepping lunch but both of us would peer into the dense foliage from time to time. I couldn’t shake the feeling of being watched whenever I turned my back on the woods. Surreptitiously, I kept my bear spray nearby on the table. We ate facing opposite sides of the forest, not talking much and keeping an eye out.

Shelter, Engineer Creek Campground, Yukon Territory, Canada

Is someone there?

Well, sorry to say no yeti strode out of the shrubbery and sat down to lunch with us that day. I’m pretty sure something was out there though – usually you get the heebie-jeebies in your tent, in the dark, after a good round of scary stories. But this was during the day, in a beautiful place that we were lucky enough to have all to ourselves. Even our dog, Brando didn’t seem as excited as usual to go for a walk. If there was a critter eyeing us with intent, we never saw or heard it. By mutual agreement we decided not to camp there – or even spend another minute – and pressed on a little further up the Dempster before turning back and beginning our long journey homeward. I shuddered as we drove past the campground on our way back. It still seemed as we drove by as silent as the grave.

Darwin at Two Moose Lake, Yukon, Canada

Darwin at Two Moose Lake, Yukon. Maybe we should eat here? I love summer camping!

Watch out behind you!

Watch out behind you!

Yukon camping.

Yukon camping.

18 March

Update from Catherine on her Project

We are very sorry to share that Catherine’s dog, Zerrin passed away. Given that this is a sad time for the family (and that Catherine is still recovering from her broken wrist), we all thought it best to put Catherine’s project, Their Stories, on hold for a little while. When Catherine is ready, she’ll be back with further creative work to share.

Zerrin and Brando

Zerrin and Brando

11 December

Their Stories – Catherine’s Project

Hi I am Catherine, oopoomoo's favourite photo assistant!

Oh no! I’ve set the deadline!

For as long as I can remember, I’ve loved listening to people talk about ‘times gone by’. When I was a youngster my father would tell me stories about his childhood in rural Northern England. As a teenager, I volunteered at a Senior’s Home. My job? Listening and chatting with the residents.  They were always eager to reminisce! During my university days, I worked in the geriatric ward at the University of Alberta Hospital. Once again, I was able to listen to numerous remember when stories.

My only regret is that I didn’t keep any records of the people or their stories. Many stories, world wide, have been recorded as family memoirs, documentaries, novels and scrapbooks.  However, even more stories have been forgotten, never to be shared again.

Even though my parents told me stories of their past, none of it was written down.  My brother and I have boxes of old black and white photos dating back to the early 1900s. We have no idea who some of the people are, where the photo was taken or how the photo relates to our family history. Peter and I are now the ‘Seniors’ of our family. We only have a chapter or two of  family history  to pass down to the younger Browns.

My oopoomoo project is to interview three ladies of the prairies and tell their story. You will be introduced to Freda, 94 years old,  who lives in Manitoba, Elizabeth, 93 years old,  in Saskatchewan and a yet to be found Alberta Pioneer lady. They will tell us about the trials and tribulations of living in the prairies  in the early 1900’s and how ‘modern’ conveniences  helped or hindered them….

WHOA!!!! STOP THE PRESS!!!! I just came back from a road trip to Saskatchewan\Manitoba and I’m interrupting this post. I’m changing my mind about my project. (Hey! I’m a photographer and I’m entitled to change my mind when I see something in a ‘different light’!) My husband and I went to Neepawa, Manitoba to pick up his mom, Freda, so she could come to Alberta and spend a week or so with us. While there, I met numerous people for the first time. I had a visit with my mother-in-law’s twin sister (these ladies are 94 years old!!) their grade 3 teacher (106 years old!), my husband’s cousin who is an antique collector , a portrait photographer and  a fellow who has a snowmobile museum in his back yard quonset . I was very fortunate being  able to visit with these individuals. Of course I had a million questions for them!

Don’t tell Sam and Darwin this, but I was a photographer’s assistant while on my trip. (They may think I’ll be wanting a raise.) Mitch was working on his own that day and I helped out with the lighting while he took portraits of Freda and Florence with their teacher.  I felt at ease with all three ladies and was chatting with them throughout the session. Mitch told me that I was a natural portrait photographer…..

FLASHBACK to about October 2011 when Sam and Darwin gave me a challenge: “Catherine, you have a knack for chatting people up.”

(Was that a nice way to say I talk a lot?)

“We’ve noticed though that you steer away from using that all important  skill when taking photographs . How many portraits do you have in your portfolio?”


“Well, we’re giving you a challenge. Take 3 portraits by the end of December.”

This challenge has yet to be completed. As mentioned in one of my other oopoomoo posts, they did not tell me WHICH December!! Oh, avoiding something that makes you feel uncomfortable  is extremely easy isn’t it!?  Soooo…I am setting the date today. By December 2014 I will have 12 or more portraits in my portfolio. I will also have stories to go with the photos. These photos and stories will be available in an oopoomoo ebook.  Oh my! What have I done? I believe this is called a commitment and it’s out there on the internet for all to see and pull up when I try to deny it!! I have a tummy ache.

 However, I have all my fans out there in oopoomoo land who will support me along the way! Right? Follow my project as I collect twelve or more portraits of people between the ages of 4 and 94 and they share  Their Stories. If you would like to help me out with my project, please feel free to get in touch with me at theirstories2014@gmail.com. But – be prepared for lots of questions and laughs!!

©Catherine Byram – Freda and Florence and their Teacher!