Highway 762 is different things to different people; just another road on their way to somewhere else, a destination for cyclists and motorcyclists, a place to drive slowly while viewing the scenery, the route for an annual cattle drive; and probably more besides. I intend to peel back my familiarity with the subject in an attempt to reveal what I see as the essence of this short, 22 km highway.
Meet Chris Bone. Chris is someone who travels Highway 762 a lot – whenever he wants to get anywhere from his home, in fact. While there may be more iconic stretches of pavement in the world, 762 has its own particular charm. But if you are setting a mentored project for yourself, and you want to push yourself to see something… deeper than scenery, more unexpected than cliché, is a road a good subject matter to choose?
It’s certainly not an easy choice! That’s Chris’ project statement above, and his portfolio of ten images below. In some ways, Chris was easy to mentor: he needed little guidance on goal-setting, articulating his idea or curating a final collection. We think he has come up with a very thoughtful story about Highway 762 as portrayed in his photo essay below. We suspect Chris will continue to travel everyday roads and come away with something unique to say about the experience.
For previous students’ mentored projects, click here.
We love it when photographers get creative.
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?
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.
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?
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.
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!
Last week we posted Lynn Schwehr’s project about ‘seeing’ the incredible diversity and beauty of flowers. Today we want to share Erin La Place’s project from the 7/365: The Mentored Photo Project eCourse. We are excited to introduce Erin’s work in part because she engages with subject matter close to our own hearts – the prairie.
Erin works at a fulfilling but demanding job in health care in a busy city. Calling herself a prairie girl at heart, Erin heads out, camera in hand, to Alberta’s backroads and secondary highways whenever the strains of work pile up. We guided Erin to take on a challenging project theme: develop a visual narrative that brings the viewer along on her journey from stressed to discovery, healing and transformation. Here is how Erin described her project:
My project is about how I, this big city girl, when overwhelmed by the stressors of life, retreat to the Prairies to calm my senses and soothe my soul. This series of images will reflect my personal journey towards peace and healing, as I travel the roads less traveled in South and Central Alberta.
It was a pleasure to review Erin’s images which were all well-composed. Not a pokie, merger or black hole in sight! Because of Erin’s superior composition skills, she was able to successfully tackle an advanced project theme that was refreshingly original and unique. It takes bravery to put deeply personal work out there, and we salute Erin for doing so. So, here is a tightly curated series illustrating Erin’s journey. A stressed out city girl finds comfort, peace and discovery through visual meditation on the prairies, allowing her to return home transformed and healed.
This year we’ve had the pleasure of working with Brian Graham on a personal project of his: photographing the Rideau Canal near Ottawa. We mentored Brian in the creation and direction of the project and during the shooting process. Finally, we provided our feedback and helped curate the collection into a final ten or twelve selects. We were so impressed with Brian’s unique interpretation of the canal that we asked him if we could showcase his work here on the oopoomoo blog. He said yes! Below is a brief statement from Brian explaining his thoughts on the project and some information about the canal.
I want to show how the man-made beauty of the Rideau Canal and locks…the regular structure and patterns of the canal, locks, and the machinery used to operate them….can exist harmoniously with the surrounding natural beauty of the lakes, rivers, and vegetation. I don’t see the canal/locks as destroying nature but rather co-existing with the surrounding natural elements allowing me to produce photographs that attempt to show the beauty of man-made objects alongside nature.
The Rideau Canal is the oldest continuously operated canal system in North America. It was built to provide a navigable waterway between Lake Ontario and the Ottawa River largely as part of the aftermath of the War of 1812. Preparations to build the canal began in 1826 and the canal opened in 1832. The canal is 202 kilometers long and originally had 46 navigation locks and one guard lock; today the canal has 45 navigation locks plus 2 other locks. The canal is now used by pleasure boaters during the summer months and has been recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Turning the Lens to the Present to Build the Future — Wayne Simpson Photographs Phoenix of Sarnia Reserve
Wayne Simpson is a professional wedding, portrait and landscape photographer based out of Owen Sound, Ontario. Wayne’s creative work graces our home, and we feel privileged to consider Wayne our friend. When we saw his most recent project, we knew we couldn’t keep Wayne’s work to ourselves — we had to share this original series with oopoomoo readers. Wayne’s project has deeply touched us as we are about to embark on our own creative journey. Read on to discover Wayne’s personal connection to a disturbing reality for Sarnia Reserve First Nation residents in Ontario.
Q: You are known for your landscape, wedding and family portrait shots, but this series is a little different from some of your work. Where did the idea for the project originate?
A: I’ve actually been thinking about this project for over a year and was only recently able to pull it together. There are several factors that play into why I wanted to do this shoot:
I grew up visiting my Mom on the reserve as a small kid (about 8 or 9 years old). I still remember driving through there at night and seeing all the lights and flare stacks with flames burning – it felt like we were driving through hell and it scared me as a kid. Part of me wanted to make an image that got some of that feeling across.
I still have lots of family living in the middle of all these refineries and I fear for their health and the future of the youth. Just google “Sarnia Reserve” and you will find all kinds of troubling information.
It also really hurts to see the land/water turned toxic. There are small rivers that the kids used to swim in that are now marked as toxic with signage… it’s just so sad.
Q: How did you visualize this scene/story in your mind?
A: This shot was taken on a concrete island between a major 4 lane intersection and an off-ramp. If you were to look in the opposite direction, the reserve starts about 15 meters from here.
I’ve always been amazed by the close proximity of several of the refineries, but I chose this particular spot because I liked the busy hydro lines and old cracked asphalt and also knew that the sun would be rising in exactly the right spot. Knowing the location well and figuring out the direction of light allowed me to communicate the mood I wanted with the introduction of supplemental lighting. It’s not often that I can say a shoot went exactly as planned, but in this case it did!
Q: Tell us a bit about the girl in the picture. Who is she?
A: This little girl’s name is Phoenix Sky Cottrell. Phoenix is 6 years old… but I think her soul is much older! She has a certain mature and quiet manner about her which really draws you in. We left it up to Phoenix to decide if she wanted to do the shoot at 5:30 am to use the best light and she was all in! She was actually excited about the idea! I’m 100 percent certain that she is destined for great things!
Phoenix and her mother have taken part in several Idle No More demonstrations and care deeply about the environment and health of the people, so they have given me permission to share these images.
Q: What kind of lighting set up are you using? Why?
A: In this shoot I wanted to keep the lighting very simple and practical. I used my elinchrom Ranger with a deep octa as a modifier. I wanted to keep things simple, fast and easy so I didn’t waste any time messing around with gear and risk loosing the interest of Phoenix.
I wanted to show the refinery as a dark and ominous presence behind her and utilize some of the early morning colour in the sky. To accomplish what I visualized the shoot looking like, lighting was a must in this particular case.
Q: Describe the morning of the shoot. How did you decide to place your model?
A: The morning of the shoot was quite chilly and very calm. It was very refreshing to not have to deal with harsh light and high winds blowing my light over! I wanted to showcase the great natural light behind Phoenix but also keep my light at least a little bit natural looking. I made a conscious decision to put my light on the same side of her as the sun to keep things as natural looking as possible.
Q:Any tips you want to share about working with ‘real’ people (as opposed to models) in shooting a personal portrait project?
A: I believe that if your personal project is meant to communicate a specific idea which is affecting actual people, it’s best to use those affected people in the images to make it authentic. The images will lack depth if the subject is not personally invested in your project as well. If the project is meant more as a creative release then models are great!
Q: Where do you hope to see this project going?
A: I’m hoping to come up with a series of images depicting environmental challenges facing local reserves, but who knows… it could turn into more than that! After seeing the attention that this work has already received, I’m really hoping to use my vision to bring awareness on more of an emotional level. I could be wrong, but I feel that pulling at people’s emotions with images would garner more long-lasting attention than numbers on a page.
Stay tuned to Wayne’s website for further work in this inspiring series!
My commitment to the fallen leaves project continues to unfold in a trial and error process. Some ideas are working out pretty good — others are failing.
Earlier this winter on a cold morning, my front yard had several frost-covered leaves. My failed efforts to create images of the frost gave me the idea to freeze them. Using a small lunch dish, I froze a single leaf in a block of ice and carved out openings by carefully running warm tap water over select parts to expose edges. Adding new water and refreezing helped add bubbles and textures.
The following images are my results from this single block of ice. All were created with the same setup as before using a 100mm macro lens.
As I’ve set up portrait session after portrait session over the past couple years in the creation of my Framed Ink project, I’ve encountered tattoos covering a multitude of colours, designs, and personal reasons behind the getting, or creation, of the tattoo. For most of my sessions, it’s a pretty quick process. I’ve always shot this as a project, and as such I’ve gone into each portrait session looking for pretty much that single image or two that will best represent the ink, the person, and their story. This means that most sessions have gone fairly quickly: 30 or so minutes, I have something I like, and pack up.
Every so often, however, I’ve come across a tattoo, or a story, that stops me dead in my tracks – usually because of the story. This was one of them. This is Niel’s.
“I got my tattoo in memory of my third son, who passed away. He was known as the “Little Viking” around town – he put up quite the fight as he was going through his surgeries. It’s in memory of him.
Jonas was born with a congenital heart disease. Basically, he had one side of his heart that didn’t form – so only one pump. There are surgeries they can do to make it work so he went through some surgeries when he was a baby. When he was just about three he went in for the next round of surgeries; his heart was so weak that when he did the one surgery his heart basically fell apart. They actually removed his heart…and he was the first child in medical history they’ve actually done that to.
So he went on the Berlin Heart – which is a mechanical heart – as the first child in the world who ever had his heart removed completely (the mechanical heart was doing all the work). He was on the Berlin for ten weeks while we hoped and prayed for a transplant. Unfortunately, during those ten weeks… any time you do anything for the first time you never really know what the outcomes are. His other organs started shutting down so at ten weeks he fought what he could do and his other organs were shutting down so we made the decision, as a family, that that was Jonas’ time. He missed his third birthday by five days.
This isn’t my first tattoo. My first tattoo, it took me two years to figure out what I wanted and another year to get exactly what I wanted done. This one here was literally an hour. It was right. I went to my uncle’s 60th birthday party in Manitoba…I phoned up this guy who was fully booked for 4 months but he rearranged his schedule and went in and got it done. It’s important—to have something all the time to remember Jonas by. We have our memories, but for me it’s important to have this tattoo, to remember my son – this awesome little guy – and he only made it to just about three, and it’s in his memory. I’m proud of it.” – Niels Konge
This image, “Little Viking”, was photographed as part of my “Framed Ink” project – a collection of portraits spanning three years of various people’s tattoos and the stories behind them. This project will be released as an eBook by the oopoomoo team early this year.
I park daily under a tree and, during the fall season, the car is often covered with leaves. I was convinced that there must be something I could do photographically, and last year, I started collecting them with the full intentions of making fantastic and artistic images. That never happened.
Now it’s a full year later and I still have that box of leaves. Actually, the collection is even bigger and that shoebox is now a bucket. It’s time to set the procrastination aside and make some hard commitments by talking about the upcoming experiments publicly through an oopoomoo project. At this point, I don’t know how the project will go. Maybe I’ll completely fail. Or maybe I’ll create something pretty cool that would earn a spot on my living room wall. Either or, it should be fun.
Equipped with a macro lens I don’t use enough, a light tent that was used only once, and a cheap focusing rail I just bought from eBay… I hope you’ll find this project as interesting as it sounds in my head.
What would you do with a box of leaves? I have a few ideas that I’ll reveal in the coming months. The results are yet to be defined but the pressure has officially begun.
Well, Darwin’s in the first real stages of the 50 at 50 project and broke a sweat the other day when he realized how many folders and how many images he had to weed through in order to select his 50 images for the final eBook. After 25 years as a photographer, I was curious to know how many photos he actually had…turns out he’s digitally archived about 15,000 plus there’s thousands and thousands of slides and negatives gathering dust in our basement.
Luckily, after a couple of days of skimming, it looks like he’s got this project by the horns and has wrestled down the initial selects to 355 images. Whew! We sat down on our couch for a little Q & A. At one point, I asked him if it was hard to choose just 50 shots for this project.
Yeah…first of all, I was surprised by, out of…nearly 15,000 images that it was pretty fast just to get down to 350 which tells me there’s a whole lot of filler in there…. I think something that Ansel Adams once said and I’ll get the quote incorrect but the idea close is that you’re lucky if you make ten good pictures a year. So that tells me then if I’ve been shooting 25 years and I got it down to 350 images that’s just over ten a year. So, I’m doing great!
Although I’m interviewing Darwin for this project, the choice of which images end up in the book and which will not is totally up to Darwin. We talked a little about how even curating a collection is a selective exercise that colours the final result.
If you gave 14,000 pictures for people to edit through and pick what they thought was the strongest work…you’d probably get very different answers…. I think that’s a difficult thing for photographers to do, is to be objective about their work because there’s always subjectivity involved in terms of, you know, what was your emotional state, why is this picture important to you… So these are very personal pics and may or may not represent the best art or the best craft of photography that I’ve done, just these are important pictures to me and ones that have stood the test of time that I don’t get tired of looking at. There’s also some new images in there that have been overlooked over the course of time that never have really seen the light of day or been published or shared and there were some surprises in there.
And where did the idea for this project come from? Here is its origins….
A couple of years ago now, I turned 50. And I realized that…I’d been in photography…since 1986 and it happened to be 25 years in. I was turning 50 years old, seen a lot of changes in the industry, and I thought it might be kind of a nice time to show a bit of retrospective…a retrospective of my work over those 25 years and so I just decided on the number 50 images to fit the 50th birthday.
I wonder which images will make the cut! I know I look forward to discovering the stories behind the shots over the next few weeks. The final word to Darwin:
All artists create work that ultimately needs to be shared. I think that that’s part of what an artist does is they create things that they share with somebody. And so, you gotta put it out there.
Below is a small sample of five images from Darwin’s initial select of 355 images.