14 March

Why I Still Love Photography – 30 Years Later

When I was a kid one of my favorite things to do was to head out in the woods alone and sit quietly and look around. I would see and hear birds and squirrels going about their daily business. I would watch ants carry loads three times their body size. I would marvel at the architectural wonder of a spider web. The miniature world of the forest floor came alive when I lay down and looked at it at ground level. In short, everything around me was fascinating and magical. As a six-year-old it seemed the perfect job for me would be a forest ranger so I could watch and guard all the animals and plants I loved.

©Darwin Wiggett - Nothing beats the joy of amazement.

©Darwin Wiggett – Nothing beats the joy of amazement in a child!

I followed a path of learning about nature through school and university and got a Master’s degree in biology. But making a living as a biologist was more about people and politics than it was about being in the field with the animals. The dream of the six-year old was shattered. Why couldn’t I just hang out in the woods and watch critters and get paid for it?

The best part of being a biologist was working with the animals. Here i Am in the 80's doing a ground squirrel study.

The best part of being a biologist was working with the animals. Here I am in the 80’s doing a ground squirrel study.

In university, as part of my studies, I needed to take pictures to add visuals to my presentations on my studies to obtain grants. I soon discovered that photography allowed me to be that wonder-struck six-year-old once again. With photography I could photograph the birds and the squirrels and the ants and the lichen-covered forest floor and take home that amazement in the form of photos. I was hooked! This ability to record my amazement of the natural world remains at the heart of why I still love photography today. Photography is a way I connect with myself in the natural world. I don’t need photography to be amazed, but photography allows me to record my amazement and relive it every time I look at my photos.

©Darwin Wiggett - One of my early photos from the biology days.

©Darwin Wiggett – One of my early photos from the biology days.

The other thing I love about photography is that to do it well you need to learn how to see. You learn to remove labels from things and just see the way that light plays across a subject. You learn how to organize this interplay of light into an aesthetic display of design and composition. In short, learning to see helps you be an artist and being an artist gives you the depth to see the beauty in the everyday.

©Darwin Wiggett - The abstract beauty of empty bottles casting shadows and colours on the kitchen counter.

©Darwin Wiggett – The abstract beauty of empty bottles casting shadows and colours on the kitchen counter.

The longer I am in photography, the better I learn to see and the less I need novel or fresh experiences to feed my amazement. Indeed, I get more amazed now by being able to artistically render ‘something from nothing’. I love discovering the magic in the mundane, and seeing amazement in the overlooked. I am less interested in the obvious and the easy grab shot. I am keen to continue to explore seeing deeper and more personally. And so photography for me has not lost its challenge because photography is so much more than equipment or technical mastery. I think those who get bored with photography were in it for the wrong reasons (the gear, the cool factor, the technical challenge) and not for deeper ‘feeding the soul’ reasons.

©Darwin Wiggett - The world is full of beauty and interest every where if we are just open to seeing.

©Darwin Wiggett – The world is full of beauty and interest everywhere if we are just open to seeing.

I also like that photography with all the advancements in technology has made it easier to make photos that are about personal expression. If you shoot from your heart and are true to yourself then you can make images that truly represent your connection with the world. More and more the cameras are taking care of the technical stuff so we need less concentration on that aspect of the craft and we can have more concentration on the artistic side of photography. For many photographers, the love of gear and technique gets in the way of personal expression but once that geek adoration is outgrown, then we can move on to make images that reflect who we are and what we are interested in. I like that photography can become art if we allow ourselves to become artists. And I am enjoying becoming an artist as an adult just like I was when I was six-years old!

©Darwin Wiggett

©Darwin Wiggett

What is it that keeps you in love with photography? Share your thoughts below in the comments!

©Darwin Wiggett - Nature constantly gives us gifts if we are receptive to receive them.

©Darwin Wiggett – Nature constantly gives us gifts if we are receptive to receive them.

20 March

The Weekly Walk – February Results

As many of you know I started a Weekly Walk in January to make a connection with my surroundings. Sam and I have been house sitting in various locations since we left Aurum Lodge in November where we were artists in residence. The weekly walks let me explore the area around the house sitting locations and discover visual surprises by using the ‘gift of paying attention‘ (something that’s hard for guys to do!)

In February we continued our house and pet sitting in Bragg Creek, Alberta. One of the two dogs that we were pet sitting happened to cut her paw and required vet care. This meant three weeks of rehab and care for the dog. Needless to say my weekly walks were less about photography and more about walking and caring for the dogs (which was totally fine by me). Fortunately, Sam and I could shift off the duties. Thanks Sam!

©Darwin Wiggett - The Great Pyrenees on watch.

©Darwin Wiggett – The Great Pyrenees on watch.

©Darwin Wiggett - Before the accident.

©Darwin Wiggett – Before the accident.

©Darwin Wiggett - The 'ouch'.

©Darwin Wiggett – The ‘ouch’.

Sometimes as artists we are less productive and need ‘internal processing’ time. For me, February was less about getting out and taking pictures and more about trying out other art forms. Samantha and I experimented with drawing and painting and I spent time playing guitar and composing music. I find that concentrating on other art forms helps my photography when I return to it (which I always do). And so, my February walks yielded little in the way of photos, but I sure had a great time producing new kinds of art and being in nature and absorbing the experience. I know the muse ebbs and flows and spending time worrying about my level of inspiration is a waste. Art comes internally, it can’t be forced and I have learned to allow myself to produce through creative feast and creative famine. I am finding now in March a recharged creative interest in photography!

©Darwin Wiggett - February was a month of self reflection.

©Darwin Wiggett – February was a month of self reflection.

My interests in photography keep moving from the big grand landscape and theatrical light to more abstract imagery. And so the few photos I made in February were about this ‘quiet vision’

©Darwin Wiggett

©Darwin Wiggett

NMP15944

©Darwin Wiggett

NMP15947

©Darwin Wiggett

NMP15948

©Darwin Wiggett

 

3 March

Our February Inspirations Winners

In our last newsletter, we asked you to share your inspiring images. This assignment obviously struck a chord since we received a boatload of submissions over on our oopoomoo Facebook page! Thanks to everyone for making our day brighter with your amazing images. It’s always difficult to select photos to share when there are so many honourable mentions, but below are some standouts from the submissions we received.

Chris Greenwood

©Chris Greenwood

©Chris Greenwood

Pam Jenks

©Pam Jenks

©Pam Jenks

Peggy Curtis

©Peggy Curtis

©Peggy Curtis

Michael Hill

©Michael Hill

©Michael Hill

It takes talent to take a much-photographed subject and present it in a fresh way. We felt that the photographer of the following image (with its deceptive simplicity and sweet charm) should take home our Mastering Composition and Visual Design eBook bundle:

Donna Nielsen

©Donna Nielsen

©Donna Nielsen

Congrats, Donna!

 

4 February

The Weekly Walk – January’s Walks

As many of you know I started a Weekly Walk in January to make a connection with my surroundings. Sam and I have been house sitting in various locations since we left Aurum Lodge in November where we were artists in residence. The weekly walks let me explore the area around the house sitting locations and discover visual surprises by using the ‘gift of paying attention‘ (something that’s hard for guys to do!)

My first weekly walk was with Samantha and Debra Garside to the Turner Valley gas plant. We were supposed to be house sitting for Debra while she went to Sable Island to continue her wild horses photo essay. There was a delay and she could not get to the Island when planned but she let us stay at her place in Turner Valley anyway and she got us permission to visit the plant (thanks Debra!). Below are two of my favourite photos from the cold morning in the abandoned gas plant.

©Darwin Wiggett

©Darwin Wiggett

©Darwin Wiggett

©Darwin Wiggett

The following week we started a six week house sit on an acreage in Bragg Creek where we also get to hang out with the resident dogs. So for my second weekly walk, I wandered the acreage with the dogs and made a few snap shots of the pooches. For both of the photos below I used my technique of ‘shooting blind’ (holding the camera at knee level and aiming the camera at the dogs). You gotta shoot a lot when using this technique but when you get something that works it is refreshingly different! Sam and I talk more about this technique in our dog photography eBook if anyone is interested in learning more about the technique.

©Darwin Wiggett

©Darwin Wiggett

©Darwin Wiggett

©Darwin Wiggett

The following week I walked the country road in front of the acreage in Bragg Creek at sunrise. It was a colourful sunrise and I made some standard wide angle foreground, fiery sky background photos but the two images I liked best were the ones below both taken with a slight telephoto lens setting. One was a purposeful in-camera movement to create a painterly effect.

©Darwin Wiggett

©Darwin Wiggett

©Darwin Wiggett

©Darwin Wiggett

For the last weekly walk of January we had a fresh snowfall in Bragg Creek, so I headed into the aspen forest surrounding the acreage and came up with the two shots below. I used my 300mm lens to make both shots. Telephoto lenses are really great to use for isolating subjects and making graphic abstracts.

©Darwin Wiggett

©Darwin Wiggett

©Darwin Wiggett

©Darwin Wiggett

There are a number of people doing weekly walks on the oopoomoo workshop group on Facebook. Come and join us and post your photos for feedback and fun (and possible prizes; hint, hint!). Stay tuned for a summary of February weekly walks and to see where my feet take me.

22 January

Good Photos in Bad Light: Remedies for the Blahs!

There is no such thing as bad light; just bad photographers!

Anyone who has taken an oopoomoo workshop has probably heard us say the little mantra above. Whenever there is no sunrise or sunset or the clouds roll in, most photographers think the light is bad and therefore there is nothing worthwhile to photograph! Of course, there is always something that looks great in the light that nature offers up. We need only be open to seeing the possibilities!

Sometimes, though, you need just a little push to help you learn to see… most often we give our workshop students directed assignments to help them take off their ‘tunnel vision glasses’ and see the world in a new and open way. If you can’t make it to one of our workshops for our teaching assignments then our Learning to See eBook will help you with personalized exercises in visualization.

Another way to ‘cheat’ the grey day blues is to try a fresh camera technique or two to get you thinking outside of the ‘good light’ box. Below are a few tips I shared with readers of Outdoor Photography Canada magazine a few years back. I hope they help you see the good in ‘bad’ light.

©Darwin Wiggett - Good photographers see great opportunities in bad light!

©Darwin Wiggett – Good photographers see great opportunities in bad light!

Shoot Tight 

The easiest way to get better photos from flat light is to shoot tight. Simply eliminate that overcast sky and concentrate on details in the landscape. On overcast days I often just ‘look at my feet’ to find intimate details that are otherwise easily overlooked in the hunt for the grand landscape. This technique often nets me pleasing images on grey days. Digital cameras love the even light of an overcast day and can render complete tonal detail from the darkest areas to the brightest highlights. “When the sky is white, shoot tight”.

©Darwin Wiggett - Cameras record details beautifully in overcast light!

©Darwin Wiggett – Cameras record details beautifully in overcast light!

©Darwin Wiggett - In grey light shoot tight!

©Darwin Wiggett – In grey light shoot tight!

On overcast days try mounting a telephoto zoom onto your camera and ‘extracting’ details from distant scenes. I regularly use my 70-200mm zoom or my 300mm telephoto lens to pull out small scenes of a distant landscape.

©Darwin Wiggett - Telephoto lenses can help you shoot tighter to eliminate the bright skies of an overcast day.

©Darwin Wiggett – Telephoto lenses can help you shoot tighter to eliminate the bright skies of an overcast day.

©Darwin Wiggett - Use a telephoto lens to abstract    landscapes when the light is flat.

©Darwin Wiggett – Use a telephoto lens to abstract landscapes when the light is flat.

Shoot Long 

Often overcast days are windy. I can get hamstrung by the wind when I try to get sharp detailed shots of vegetation in grey light. Rather than giving up, I work with the wind to give me images that show the motion and fluidity caused by the wind. I simply set my camera (on a tripod) at a large aperture number in aperture priority (e.g. f16) and use low ISO settings (e.g. ISO 50 or 100) to give me longer exposure times so the movement of vegetation shows up in the image. To give me even longer exposure times I might add a polarizer and a  solid neutral density filter to my lens to give me even longer exposures that I call painting with time.

©Darwin Wiggett - A 30 second exposure of blowing vegetation turns this forest scene on a grey day into a painterly image.

©Darwin Wiggett – A 30 second exposure of blowing vegetation turns this forest scene on a grey day into a painterly image.

Add Colour 

Grey light often means drab colours. One of the best ways to punch up lackluster colours is with a polarizer. Polarizers remove reflective glare from shiny surfaces like leaves, wet rocks, and the surface of water to give images with more vibrancy. Polarizers are easy to use – just screw one onto your lens and rotate the filter to see the polarization effect wax and wane. If you like what the polarizer does to the scene, snap the photo.

©Darwin Wiggett - This overcast day image was shot without a polarizer.

©Darwin Wiggett – This overcast day image was shot without a polarizer.

©Darwin Wiggett - The same scene shot with a polarizer.

©Darwin Wiggett – The same scene shot with a polarizer.

A specialty polarizer called the Gold-n-Blue polarizer is one of my favorite filters for adding colour to monochromatic scenes in grey light. Rather than removing reflective highlights from a scene, the Gold-n-Blue polarizer colours the highlights either gold or blue for dramatic images. Compare the photo on the far left (no polarizer used) with the photo middle left (shot a standard polarizer). The benefits of a polarizer are obvious! Now compare how the Gold-n-Blue polarizer can colour reflective highlights in tones of blue (middle right) or tones of gold (right) with just a turn of the filter. To learn more about filters see our free article: Why Every Landscape Photographer Should Use Filters – Still!

©Darwin Wiggett - a comparision of effects with a standard polarizer and a gold-n-blue polarizer.

©Darwin Wiggett – a comparision of effects with a standard polarizer and a Gold-n-Blue polarizer. 

Add Light 

When nature gives you plain light, you can often spice up the dish by adding your own supplemental light. A touch of fill flash or maybe some alternative light sources like flashlights, headlights, or street lamps can often add that little extra zing to take your drab light photo to the next level. You will usually need to wait until dusk to add supplemental light because even though grey days are dim, the overall ambient light is much brighter than the light from man-made light sources. I find that the shooting at dusk when the brightness of your supplemental light source is slightly brighter than the ambient light results in interesting photos. Using supplemental light with longer exposures is call ‘light-painting” and you can read more about that technique in our free article on light painting.

©Darwin Wiggett - Here I used a flash light and a long exposure at dusk to add light to the tree trunks.

©Darwin Wiggett – Here I used a flashlight and a long exposure at dusk to add light to the tree trunks.

Take Away the Bright 

If you want to include the grey sky in your composition usually the sky is so bright that if you expose for the foreground then the sky will burn out to glaring white. To keep detail in the photo you will need to use a specialty filter called a neutral density graduated filter which holds back exposure in the sky while allowing full exposure of the darker foreground. Combining a polarizer with a grad filter gives you a one-two-punch of contrast control! If you are new to using grad filters we have a video tutorial you can watch here.

©Darwin Wiggett - No filters on the left image; a polarizer plus a 2-stop soft-edge grad filter were combined to record the image on the right.

©Darwin Wiggett – No filters on the left image; a polarizer plus a 2-stop soft-edge grad filter were combined to record the image on the right.

Shoot it Wet 

Don’t let a little drizzle and grey skies ruin your outing. You can get great shots in the rain especially since vegetation looks really saturated when wet. Remember to use your polarizer to further increase colour saturation. I often just use two rubber bands to hold a plastic grocery bag over my camera and lens to keep them both dry while I venture forth in the wet weather to find dripping colours. But you can buy specially made photographic rain covers if you want a solution more user-friendly and elegant-looking than my plastic bag and rubber band contraption. Check your local camera store or type in “camera rain covers” on your internet search engine for a pail full of solutions.

©Darwin Wiggett - During or after a rain, colours are super saturated. Be sure to use a polarizer to remove reflective glare!

©Darwin Wiggett – During or after a rain, colours are super saturated. Be sure to use a polarizer to remove reflective glare!

Go Out Anyway 

I used to play a game while on photo trips. I would wake up at the sound of the alarm and stick my head out of the tent – if it was overcast, I would sleep in. If it was clear or mixed clear sky with cloud I would get up. Numerous times I went back to bed only to be awakened by brilliant colours effusing through the tent walls. Sure enough my overcast, ‘bad’ light wake up call burned me and I missed great light by assuming a grey sky would not yield spectacular colour. Now when on photo trips I always get up and out with the ring of the alarm and many times I have been rewarded with spectacular light even when the sky was totally cloudy and rain was spitting from the heavens. Being out there is the key – the more you go out in all types of light the more great shots you’ll come home with.

©Darwin Wiggett - When bad light turns good!

©Darwin Wiggett – When bad light turns good!

And Finally…

What separates great photographers from good photographers has little to do with gear or camera technique and everything to do with creative vision. Great photographers see the extraordinary in the ordinary and can translate their wonder into images. There is nor shortcut to creative vision except for practice, practice, practice and shooting images that have meaning for you personally.

©Darwin Wiggett - Personal seeing will trump bad light every time!

©Darwin Wiggett – Personal seeing will trump bad light every time!

11 January

The Weekly Walk Photo Project

Many of us only do photography when we have something to take pictures of: a birthday party, a vacation, an iconic destination, a portrait, an owl in a tree etc. We take pictures of things… we rarely make images of our ‘feelings about things’.

©Darwin Wiggett - A picture of King Penguins; this image says very little about how I ‘feel’ about penguins but is more a documentary portrait of the birds.

©Darwin Wiggett – A picture of King Penguins; this image says very little about how I ‘feel’ about penguins but is more a documentary portrait of the birds.

©Samantha Chrysanthou - A more personal and expressive image of penguins which tells us that the photographer finds penguins to be funny personalities.

©Samantha Chrysanthou – A more personal and expressive image of penguins which tells us that the photographer finds penguins to be funny personalities.

Our feelings are always trying to emerge in our photography but are often suppressed by our obsession over gear, concerns about technique, and worries about what others will think of our photos. Our egos often get in the way of expressive image making. And so the results of our photography are impersonal, predictable and clichéd.  After a while we are not even sure why we take photos and we become bored with our work.

©Darwin Wiggett - Ho-hum… another mountain peak portrait… this image says little about the motivation, the yearnings or the personality of the photographer.

©Darwin Wiggett – Ho-hum… another mountain peak portrait… this image says little about the motivation, the yearnings or the personality of the photographer.

To remedy the boredom and get back in touch with why we take photos, Samantha and I recommend doing a personal photography project. It’s best if the project is something simple and achievable. Don’t try some grand epic project or you’re bound to fail – start small and make it fun. And give yourself a deadline and an outcome: when will you finish and how are you going to collate or present your work?

For example, my personal photo project for the next six months will be a weekly photo walk. Once a week, starting with the week of January 12, I will pick up my camera and head out on a two to three hour walk and make images of things I find interesting. I might walk in my neighborhood, meander in a city park or stroll in nature.

©Darwin Wiggett - Anything can be a subject on a photo walk; there is magic in the mundane!

©Darwin Wiggett – Anything can be a subject on a photo walk; there is magic in the mundane!

Why a walk?

I chose a weekly photo walk for three reasons. First, walking is environmentally friendly. I just walk from wherever I am. No driving involved! Second, walking is healthy for body and spirit. Third, walking slows you down giving you time to look around and see; I’ll get to know an area much more intimately which is important because for the next six months Samantha and I will be house and pet sitting in different locations in Alberta. What better way to learn about a new place than by walking in it? After each walk I’ll write a short journal entry about the experience and process any images I made.

A walk around the Children’s Hospital in Calgary on Christmas Day resulted in this photo and the idea for the Weekly Walk Photo Project.

A walk around the Children’s Hospital in Calgary on Christmas Day resulted in this photo and the idea for the Weekly Walk Photo Project.

What is the outcome?

Once a month I’ll share a story or two of my walking journeys here on the blog. The final result of the weekly walks will be a hand-made, hand-bound journal of my photos and writings that will be completed by July 30.

©Darwin Wiggett - Caffeine fired creativity should yield a cool hand-made journal of the weekly walks.

©Darwin Wiggett – Caffeine fired creativity should yield a cool hand-made journal of the weekly walks.

What’s in it for you?

So… we encourage you to come up with a project that excites your creative spirit. If you like the idea of the weekly photo walk, then feel free to lace up your boots and join me on the journey. Glad to have you along!

If you have a different project in mind then we encourage you to share your idea and your deadline for the output (e.g.  a book, print show, eBook, or online gallery). Feel free to post your project idea and photo results from your project, or the weekly walk, at any time over on our oopoomoo Facebook group. There you’ll get encouragement and advice from fellow oopoomians. If you’re not on Facebook feel free to email me at darwin@oopoomoo.com and tell me about your project or just share images from your weekly walk. Samantha and I will select some of your project ideas or weekly walk results to highlight here on the oopoomoo blog, with your permission of course. As well, we may give out a prize or two just to keep things interesting, hint, hint 😉

Good luck with all your projects. We are excited to see what you come up with!

©Darwin Wiggett - Are you ready for the challenge of a weekly walk?

©Darwin Wiggett – Are you ready for the challenge of a weekly walk?

28 December

Let’s See Your Winter Abstract Photos

Early in December we called for you to make winter abstracts and upload them to our oopoomoo Facebook group for comments and a chance to win my 50 at 50 retrospective eBook. We have been getting really great images. But some people think that because they don’t have snow or ice where they are, then they can’t do winter abstracts. Not the case… if you are in the northern hemisphere it’s winter; shoot anything you want as long as it’s an abstract (we even leave that open to interpretation but here is our definition). And it does not have to be nature. If you’re stuck in the house or office great abstracts can be made there as well. So get shooting if you haven’t already and upload your photos before midnight December 31, 2014.

Below are a few early results from intrepid photographers in Winnipeg that don’t use Facebook and who went out together on a winter abstract photo shoot and came away with inspiring results. Anyone not using Facebook can send me their pictures for consideration by emailing them to darwin at opoomoo.com.

Speaking of Winnipeg if you’re in the area May 2, 2015 be sure to come and see Samantha and me giving our full day seminar on Creating Story and Mood in Photography. Also the good people organizing this event will billet people coming from out of town so you can save money on hotels. Just email us if you are coming from out of town and we’ll put you in touch with an organizer. And now onto the photos….

Paul McKeen

©Paul McKeen

©Paul McKeen

2-McKeen_2014_12_14_6780

©Paul McKeen

3-McKeen_2014_12_14_6508

©Paul McKeen

4-McKeen_2014_12_14_6670

©Paul McKeen

5-McKeen_2014_12_14_6735

©Paul McKeen

6-McKeen_2014_12_14_6617

©Paul McKeen

7-McKeen_2014_12_14_6777

©Paul McKeen

8-McKeen_2014_12_14_6574

©Paul McKeen

James Deng

©James Deng

©James Deng

Deng_A141388

©James Deng

Deng_A141410

©James Deng

Deng_A141417

©James Deng

I quite like the effects of this HDR though the halo is really terrible in it.

©James Deng

Deng_A280582

©James Deng

Deng_A280585

©James Deng

Deng_A280593

©James Deng

 

 

Ed Mathis

©Ed Mathis

©Ed Mathis

Ed#2

©Ed Mathis

Ed#3

©Ed Mathis

Ed#4

©Ed Mathis

Ed#5

©Ed Mathis

Ed#6

©Ed Mathis

Ed#7

©Ed Mathis

Ed#8

©Ed Mathis

 

15 December

Results from the 2014 Fire and Ice in the Canadian Rockies Photo Workshop

As many of you know, Samantha and I are taking a sabbatical from our busy workshop teaching schedule to concentrate on our own photography and projects in 2015. We do have a limited number of teaching seminars in the spring but we won’t be doing field workshops out of Aurum Lodge in the Canadian Rockies in 2015. Our final field workshop ended  with November’s Fire and Ice workshop and we had a great time. We had a group of dedicated and talented photographers who made the most of this year’s unseasonably warm weather. Ice was hard to find and the only fire we got was from overheating in our winter gear! Nevertheless, our crew was open to what nature gave us and we think you’ll agree based on the photos below that no matter what the light or the weather there is always something amazing to photograph if you are open to seeing.

Derek Chambers

Image by Derek Chambers

Image by Derek Chambers

Image by Derek Chambers

Image by Derek Chambers

Image by Derek Chambers

Image by Derek Chambers

Jay Guilmette

Image by Jay Guilmette

Image by Jay Guilmette

Image by Jay Guilmette

Image by Jay Guilmette

Image by Jay Guilmette

Image by Jay Guilmette

Rick Andrews

Image by Rick Andrews

Image by Rick Andrews

Image by Rick Andrews

Image by Rick Andrews

Image by Rick Andrews

Image by Rick Andrews

Kim Odland

Image by Kim Odland

Image by Kim Odland

Image by Kim Odland

Image by Kim Odland

Image by Kim Odland

Image by Kim Odland

 

 

27 October

Fire and Ice in the Canadian Rockies – November is a Great Time for Photography!

November is the month that has the least visitors coming to the Rockies. It is too cold to camp, no ski hills are open yet, and most photographers prefer the big colours of September and the winter wonderland of February. But I love November because it’s an awesome transition season from  autumn to winter. The lakes are fringed with ice but still have open water. The light is low and sweet most of the day. Fresh snow can sugar-frost the peaks and the forests. There are a lot of opportunities to find little surprises suspended in ice and the day length is so civilized (no early rising for sunrise and sunset happens before supper time). Plus there are just so few people, you have the place to yourself. It was for all these reasons that I have been doing Fire and Ice tours in the Rockies since 2007. This year, 2014, Samantha and and I are running the Fire and Ice outing as a workshop which means it’s an intensive learning, shooting and critique-based experience where we will hone the participants’ creative vision. We have a couple of spots left in this workshop November 4 – 9, 2014. Come out and see what you can do with this crazy time of seasonal transition. Below are 20 favorite images I have made on Fire and Ice outings.

©Darwin Wiggett

©Darwin Wiggett

©Darwin Wiggett

©Darwin Wiggett

©Darwin Wiggett

©Darwin Wiggett

©Darwin Wiggett

©Darwin Wiggett

©Darwin Wiggett

©Darwin Wiggett

©Darwin Wiggett

©Darwin Wiggett

©Darwin Wiggett

©Darwin Wiggett

©Darwin Wiggett

©Darwin Wiggett

©Darwin Wiggett

©Darwin Wiggett

©Darwin Wiggett

©Darwin Wiggett

©Darwin Wiggett

©Darwin Wiggett

©Darwin Wiggett

©Darwin Wiggett

©Darwin Wiggett

©Darwin Wiggett

©Darwin Wiggett

©Darwin Wiggett

©Darwin Wiggett

©Darwin Wiggett

©Darwin Wiggett

©Darwin Wiggett

©Darwin Wiggett

©Darwin Wiggett

©Darwin Wiggett

©Darwin Wiggett

©Darwin Wiggett

©Darwin Wiggett

©Darwin Wiggett

©Darwin Wiggett

20 October

Chasing the Icon; a Checklist for Failure?

This article was originally published in Outdoor Photography Canada magazine several years ago. Be sure to subscribe to see the latest work from great photographers across Canada.

Chasing the Icon

Photographers are like birders. For a lot of birders, what matters most is the sighting of a species so you can check off that bird from your list. The more species sighted the better. The same is true for many photographers; the number of iconic locations captured adds notches to your photography belt. Taj Mahal? Got it! Delicate Arch? Nabbed! Niagara Falls? You bet! But does a portfolio full of the grand wonders of the World make you a better photographer? I doubt it.

©Darwin Wiggett - Niagara Falls

©Darwin Wiggett – The daily rainbow at Niagara Falls

The internet has made finding, knowing and sharing information about photo locations very easy. Do a little research, look at a few photos online and you’ll know exactly where and when to go get the best sighting. And once you get to an icon you’ll line up with hundreds of other photographers all trying to make the same shot. What’s the point?

©Darwin Wiggett - At most icons dozens of photographers line up every sunrise to make the same image.

©Darwin Wiggett – At most icons dozens of photographers line up every sunrise to make the same image. Even lesser known spots are now attracting photographers who search farther and wider to get another icon checked off their life list.

In the past, the portfolios of photographers were full of work from lesser known local areas, and the images showed more creative vision because people were shooting for themselves and not trying to copy someone else’s iconic image. In short, there was a personal stamp on each photographer’s work because they were reacting to the scene personally.

©Samantha Chrysanthou

©Samantha Chrysanthou

Fast forward to the app-driven ‘iPhotography’ world of today and everything looks the same. In the portfolios I review, I see all the same trophy locations, with similar compositions, all processed with the same software plug-ins. The results are homogenous and boring. What has happened to personal expression?

©Darwin Wiggett - Ho Hum, not another Moraine Lake photo at sunrise.

©Darwin Wiggett – Ho Hum, not another Moraine Lake photo at sunrise.

I think what’s happened is that we’ve lost touch with why we go out to make photos in the first place. For most of us who do nature photography, we go out because we want to connect with nature. The more we actually take the time, look around and be in nature, the better our photography will be. A National Geographic photographer once said that the way to get good enough to work for the magazine was to choose one subject or location, preferably close to home, that you can revisit over and over again and really get to know well. The better you know the subject or location, the deeper you’ll dig to create unique images with your personal stamp. And the more your personal style emerges, the more likely you’ll be sought after by the magazine.

©Darwin Wiggett - Great photography should not be location dependent but should be photographer dependent.

©Darwin Wiggett – Great photography should not be location dependent but should be photographer dependent.

For me, I’ve found that when I travel if I just visit one or two spots and concentrate on getting to know those locations, then my photography soars. If I chase icons and try to capture as many locations as possible, then my photography and the experience of the trip is unremarkable. So, just like the birder who specializes in one or two species and has a depth of knowledge and personal experience with those species, so too will the photographer who moves beyond the icon checklist encourage a deeper engagement and portrayal of their subjects.

©Darwin Wiggett - Just like the Raven in its territory, get to know one or two areas really well and you'll find the juiciest morsels to sink your dip your beak into for Creative sustenance.

©Darwin Wiggett – Just like the raven in its territory, get to know one or two areas really well and you’ll find the juiciest morsels to sink  your beak into for creative sustenance.

This week we are hosting our Beyond the Icon: Intimate Landscapes of the Canadian Rockies photography workshop where we’ll help our participants bring out their creative vision. I am sure we’ll be blown away by the images made during this workshop as each photographer digs into their well of personal seeing. If you have time this November and you are interested in an intensive creative learning experience we do have a couple of spots left in our Fire and Ice in the Canadian Rockies workshop where we’ll visit the edges of fall and winter in a time when few photographers visit the Rockies. Nothing inspires creativity more than having to look beyond the obvious and November always pushes us to see deeper.

©Darwin Wiggett - The transition from fall to winter is a spark that fuels creative expression.

©Darwin Wiggett – The transition from fall to winter is a spark that fuels creative expression.

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