Lake O'Hara BC

3 years in the making.

I’d been wanting to go to Lake O’Hara for 3 years but it’s insanely hard to get a reservation out there. They have 30 sites, you can book up to 3 months in advance, and they recommend you start trying 3 months to the day. They only take phone reservations and it’s very hard to get through. Even if you do it’s typical for all of the sites to be booked within the first hour.


Cathedral Grove

Hoping to strike gold.

To make things even more difficult I wanted to go when the larch trees were turning yellow. Although a conifer, the larch is a deciduous tree and loses its leaves in the autumn. Nature photographers think of these trees like beer; They look good, they smell good, and you'd crawl over your own mother to photograph one! Unfortunately the lighting wasn't great so now I have a reason to go back next year.


Snow covered tent

It's everywhere you want to be.

The camp is located about 10 minutes away from Lake O'Hara itself. The lake is glacier fed and looks amazing. That's not all though! There are lots of hiking trails that start near the lake and lead to magical places filled with waterfalls, more lakes, fantastic views, and unicorns (probably). Some of the trails are very restricted and only 4 groups are allowed to hike them per day.


Tofino Coast

Cold temps and community camps.

The campground is community based with a shared fire pit. At night everyone would gather around and share stories about where they've been. I ended up meeting two awesome people: Dani Lefrancois and Callum Snape; both of which are incredible photographers. Even though I thought I might die of hypothermia at times it was an amazing trip. I will definitely be heading back.


Dan Jurak

Dan Jurak is one of the finest Prairie photographers I've come across and has been a true inspiration to me personally.

When I was starting out I came across Dan's photos and was instantly amazed. At the time he was doing some heavy processing and I found his images incredibly imaginative and it made me rethink what an artist could convey through photography.

Dan has since toned down his processing but his images are more powerful than ever in terms of expression and mood. While most of the photographers I follow are shooting famous scenes Dan is out scouring the Prairies and I often find his work more intriging and just as stunning.

To see more of Dan's work check out his website.

All images in this entry are © Dan Jurak. Used with permission.


Tofino BC

On Canada's Left Coast

During a vacation to Tofino, British Columbia I discovered another part of the world that I love.

The pull of the coast.

I've always wanted to visit Vancouver Island, which is almost as far West as you can go in Canada. It houses wicked coastlines, ancient cedar forests, and armies of wildlife. If it were a nation their flag would feature an otter surfing on a killer whale and they would be led by a bear instead of a person. I stayed on the North end of the island near a small town called Tofino which is moderately transient and full of tourists and surfers.


Cathedral Grove

That's one way to get there.

This wasn’t meant to be a photography trip; I pictured overcast skies and only brought my camera just-in-case. I booked a flight to Comox British Columbia, rented a car, and drove across the whole island which was crazy beautiful. I highly recommend renting a car because the trip would take forever in a golf cart. During my driving adventure I saw several bears, passed through Cathedral Grove, and went by some gorgeous lakes.


Tofino Moon

Like nowhere else I've been.

I caught a water taxi to Refuge Cove, which is inaccessible by land vehicles, for a short hiking trip. On my way I passed by sea otters (which float on their backs while holding hands to form rafts) and a pod of killer whales. It really feels like civilization hasn’t been there long enough to screw it up yet.

The native culture is celebrated in the area too. The Haida are known for Totem Poles and their art which features psychedelic beavers. I read up on them and they’re like the vikings of pre-Canada. Their war canoes were built out of cedar trees and some were large enough to accomodate 60 viking-like paddlers.


Tofino Coast

Did I mention the tacos?

Tofino isn’t just a bunch of indiginous people wandering around unspoiled wilderness though. They have a very progressive tourism industry. The food truck behind the surf shop had world class fish tacos. The accomodation was celebrity worthy. My favorite moments though were walking along beaches with my friend. We would look in tide pools and pet the starfish then RUN LIKE HELL FROM THE RISING TIDES!. One of the best trips I’ve been on.


How to get noticed... or not.

I'll probably always classify myself as an aspiring photographer even if I become world famous. I've had some very positive affirmations recently, even some commercial success, and I've been thinking about getting my name out there more. Then I started thinking about why I got into photography; is it because I wanted to develop amazing social media strategies? Is it because I wanted to spend all my time at the printers? When I really thought about it I decided that what I love doing is getting out in nature and taking pictures -- screw becoming famous! I have the feeling that if I keep doing what I'm passionate about the rest will figure itself out and I'll be happier.


Four-legged forest friends

Jasper

JASPER

[velocitus temenjus]

He has an over-abundance of self esteem and I’m pretty sure he believes that he is Batman. This certified crazy dog is a Shephard/Husky/Flying Squirrel cross


Saturn

SATURN

[fraidii anythingus]

This dog is terrified by the existence of any bipedal creature including humans and velociraptors. Because she is so fraidy her adventures are always frought with danger


I

remember the first night I brought Jasper home. It was almost three years ago and I decided that I wanted to get a dog. I fell in love with this little Shepherd / Husky mix from the Humane Society. After a few meetings, interviews, and providing stamped engineering documents describing the technical details of my fence they let me take him home. Upon arrival he began sniffing every room in the house in rapid succession. When he got to the living room he started running around in circles. He went faster and faster until you couldn’t see him anymore. At one point he was spinning so fast that I thought he was in a state of flux breaking apart the space-time continuum. That was my first and only moment where I thought we might have been better off with a calmer pet like a clam.

Having a high energy dog changed my life. All of a sudden my main forms of entertainment were walking the dog, going to the dog park, or attending agility classes for the dog. Somedays it was a chore for sure but I found a profound happiness in the energy of this animal. I’d take him to a field and he’d be the happiest dog ever; I’d lock him in his kennel and he’d be the happiest dog ever; the vet would stick needles in his bum and he’d be the happiest dog ever. The fact that I will probably never own a Ferrari didn't seem worth being sad about after being around him.

I believe that it's always good to give everything 100% (except donating blood) and Jasper did just that when I moved to the forest; he seems determined to sniff every tree, chase every squirrel, and eat every stick. I felt he was adjusting to country life well but the person I was living with wanted to add a second dog to the mix. Not just any dog though; she had her heart set on a white Shepherd / Husky mix she found living in foster care. We drove 300km to go visit the white dog but I didn't think she was a good fit. My friend picked her up the next day.

Both dogs are reservation-rescues and both had problems early in life. Saturn is timid of people but gets along well with other dogs. I've been working hard with her to overcome her fear issues and she has been making lots of good progress. One of the amazing things about animals is their ability to drastically change their behavior with proper training. I'm happy to report that Jasper has been a perfect gentlemen and now our dogs are best friends too.

As Saturn becomes more comfortable with me her personality has been showing itself more and it's pretty adorable. She is the great Killer of Bugs and watching her chase butterflies or play with grasshoppers is really entertaining. When you rub her tummy she spreads her legs and makes everyone involved feel really uncomfortable. I'll have to be extra careful not to lose her in the Winter because she kind of blends in with snow.

I'll keep up with the puppy reports every so often to let everyone know how they're progressing and inform you of any new adventures they have. I'm off to another puppy class today to teach Saturn to be less fraidy and it's actually graduation day.


Landscape Photography Magazine

Published I have an article in the latest issue of Landscape Photography Magazine. I’ve actually written a couple articles for them and although my column is stuck way in the back somewhere I feel really lucky to be in the same magazine as the likes of Guy Tal, Ian Plant, and a slew of other internationally recognized photographers.

If you look at the newsstand and are turned off by a bunch of mags designed to fill your camera bag and empty your wallet, with more advertisements than content, you should pick up Landscape Photography Magazine. Simply put LPM plasters their pages in beautiful images from cover to cover. If I were putting together a magazine I would use the same format: lots and lots of really great photos and a couple words to glue everything together. The whole reason I got into photography was because I like looking at pictures. Am I right?



Life Beyond Buildings

I've lived in Calgary Alberta almost my whole life. As I grew up I watched the city grow to over a million people and saw the prairies become consumed by urban sprawl. I've evolved to sleep in the

perpetual glow of street lights alongside the constant hum of traffic, sirens, and people yelling. Five years ago I moved to the edge of the city thinking I'd be partially removed from the machine but it assembled around me.

A lot of times change starts with an event. For me it was the realization of how fast time passes and a desire to try new experiences. All of a sudden I had a big house that was too big, in a location that had lost it's appeal, but more importantly I had an opportunity to try something different. It started with looking at "one-day" properties and turned into me buying an acreage in the foothills near the Hamlet of Bragg Creek Alberta.

This morning as I was leaving for work I saw a Moose and her calf grazing on the edge of our land. Deer are common but I haven't seen too many Moose yet so it was special. I'm learning how to become more self-sufficient and there is a new awareness of how we interact with the world around us that's hard to come by in the city. Although I've lost certain conveniences I've gained something too, maybe it's just the tranquility getting to me, but I haven't been happier.

The accompanying photo was taken about 15 minutes away from my house. I thought it fit the article perfectly because it illustrates the beauty of my backyard. I plan on creating a Foothills Gallery soon.


SPRING DEBUNKED

Winters in Alberta are long, dark, and cold. As the seasons transition and the first signs of Spring appear you'd expect much rejoicing. Don't be fooled; Spring is the worst season of them all. Now I know what you're thinking: Spring is an enchanting wonder where birds chirp, dew laden grasses turn green, and fields of flowers bloom. If that's how you picture Spring you're not from Alberta. Allow me to enlighten you.

The weather is literally insane

Spring can't decide if it should be cold or hot and it changes its mind on an almost daily basis. When the temperature shifts past the freezing point it feels extra cold because everyone is starting to expect warmer temperatures. I feel like yelling "WARM UP GOD DAMNIT! WHY MUST YOU TEASE ME WITH SUNSHINE AND WARMTH?" In the colder months you simply put on your parka and go about your daily business.

The flowers are a lie

With so much mountain run-off you'd expect to see lush foliage everywhere but it's not the case. The truth is Alberta is about as vibrant as a cardboard box during Spring. Usually I use this time to work on my website, plan summer shoots, or take a trip South because the local landscape is scruffy and bland. We won't see leaves or flowers here until at least the middle of May... if we're lucky. Maybe the lack of photo opportunities is responsible for my bitter attitude towards the season.

The real signs of Spring

People think of Spring as a time of new life and rebirth but it's actually the opposite. Rivers and creeks become deadly as they flood their banks with melting snow. The mosquitoe population explodes and we're left to suffer at the hands of the terrible beasts (hate them so much).

The one redeeming quality

It's been too warm to ski and too cold to cycle but Summer is just around the corner. Soon all the mud will dry up, it will stay warm, and we can go camping, hiking, fishing, and all that good stuff. It happens overnight; all of a sudden the grass is green and the trees have leaves. Those four or five days between Spring and Autumn are an absolute treat.

TECHNICAL NOTES


This puddle used to be on my way to work. On this particular morning the sky was lighting up as I was getting ready for my commute. I grabbed my camera as I flew out the door just in case.

The sky was great so I pulled over in my office attire and the whole shoot took all of 5 minutes. The technique I used was blending 3 exposures in Photoshop. Practice is an essential part to getting better.


The Story of Richard Proenneke

I don't like shopping malls; the crowds and consumerism make me cranky. It's not that I want to become a hermit, I'm a joyful social person, but sometimes the thought crosses my mind. During these introspective moments I realize that it doesn't take a lot of money to enjoy the things I love (family, friends, my dog, nature) and I wonder why I'm working so hard. Modern society is full of distractions.

Then one day I was watching PBS and caught the story of Richard Proenneke. At age 51 he relocated to Alaska, where he lived for 30 years in solitude, in a cabin he built with his own hands. His story was amazing; a man focused on the one thing we hardly think about in modern society: survival. With less distractions he found pleasure in simple things like encountering wildlife or homemade berry syrup.

I'm working to appreciate the simple things more and trying to avoid modern distractions. If you're like me then I'd recommend watching "Alone in the Wilderness".


Jason Edlund

Explore the work of Jason Edlund and witness the beauty of the Canadian Rockies through his art!

There are many photographers who enjoy shooting in the Canadian Rockies but I’m sure you’ll agree that the work of Jason Edlund truly stands out.

One of the reasons Jason’s work is so compelling is his tendency to shoot off the beaten path. A lot of the areas he photographs require hiking, camping, and knowledge of the back country to get to. His photos of Mount Assiniboine Park make a visit very tempting and his pictures have brought international awareness to the area.

When photographing familiar places Jason Edlund sees them in new and refreshing ways. I've seen countless shots from Mistaya Canyon but none of them resemble the capture on the right.

To see more of Jason's work check out his Flickr Stream.

All images in this entry are © Jason Edlund. Used with permission.


Choosing Between Lighting and Scenery

Every photographer has different goals and values; some will favor good light while others will favor nice scenery. It's not always possible to have both so which do you choose?

I don't carry a magic eight ball or ouija board in my camera bag but 9 times out of 10 I seem to choose light. Recently, I was staying at Lake Louise, a very famous place, and the photographers had lined up on shore before sunrise. The lighting by the lake was flat and the scene looked dull; the magic eight ball would have said "looks doubtful". There was some beautiful colour starting to show on the opposite horizon so I quickly broke away from the herd.

Excited I started to follow the outlet creek towards the light. The scene was beautiful -- a perfect winter wonderland with snow covered trees, a flowing creek, and beautiful colour in the sky. For a brief moment I thought about the tripods around the lake and as Mr.T would say: "I pitied the fools". When faced with a choice between great light and great scenery I will always go with the first option. For me lighting is the most important element to creating stunning outdoor photos.

This image was created by blending multiple exposures (darker and lighter images) in Photoshop. Typically the foreground will be composed of the longer exposures while the sky will mostly contain parts from the shorter exposures. Further edits to colours and contrast are made to complete the image.


THE
SHOOT:POST
RATIO

Some photographers post a thousand photos every week and others are lucky to post one. I'm in the later camp but does that mean I only shoot a couple times a month? In reality I'm out as often as I can.

The story behind this photo illustrates why you'll never see large volumes of pictures from me. It took me three separate visits, spread out over two years, before I got the scene right. The first two times I photographed the falls in the afternoon and the light was poor. I reviewed my images and envisioned the scene at night. I'm happy with this image but you'll never see my failed attempts.

My hard drive is full of shots I'll probably never post. Last summer I took three trips to Jasper National Park but conditions were horrible (overcast skies and forest fires) so I never posted a single image. I'd rather have a stale feed if the alternative is showing the world how I can make really beautiful scenery look dull.

The brass-tacks is that my shoot:post ratio is quite low. If I had to wager a guess I'd say I post 2-3% of the photos I take. Other people can pull 4-5 solid images out of a single sunrise while different people upload their entire flash card straight to the internet. I believe that the best way to captivate an audience is to only show your best work. Being selective is an essential skill for an aspiring photographer and differentiates an amateur/pro from a tourist.

TECHNICAL NOTES


This was shot from a tripod. Snow reflects a surprising amount of light and can brighten up a dark scene. The sky is a separate exposure shot at high ISO to freeze the stars. Photoshop was used to blend in the sky and balance the colours and contrast.


Natural HDR images

One of the drawbacks of using bracketed exposures is the tendency for people to over-process to a point where their pictures will melt eyeballs. When I started out I was happy to crank the sliders as far as they'd go thinking more colour was more better. Nowadays I prefer an image that is balanced in terms of contrast and colour.

Luckily I always hang on to my original raw images. As my tastes change over time (and as they will continue to change) I'm able to revisit my previous photos and process them in new ways. I strongly believe that an artist's style is very dynamic and always changing. Keeping track of your original images allows for experimentation and reflection.

A couple years ago I relied on HDR Software (Photomatix mainly) to do ninety percent of my post-processing. I was impressed that my pictures glowed with the brightness of fifty suns or that I could make a normal summer's day look like the apocalypse. In a lot of cases I would judge a picture simply by how bright it was instead of looking at the content.

Recently I've been using Photoshop more. I'll drop each exposure into a layer and use masks to conceal and reveal shadows and highlights. Once I'm happy with the way the layers work together I'll continue processing. I like this approach since it sustains the realism of a scene while allowing for some artistic interpretation.


One of my pictures is lots of pictures

The benefits of using bracketing and multiple exposures

Without fail the first question I get asked when someone views my work is how do you do that? I use a series of bracketed exposures blended together to create a high dynamic range (HDR) composite image which utilizes gravitons to achieve the proper luminosity. If you're not familiar with the process here is another explanation:

First off film and digital sensors aren't able to capture the range of light we see with our eyes. When you look at a raw image the shadows are often completely black or the highlights are blown out and completely white. This happens to every professional photographer regardless of how expensive their camera is. Advancements in software have made it easier to circumvent this limitation using multiple exposures (bracketing).

Bracketing involves taking the exact same picture at different shutter speeds to capture the full dynamic range of light. Shorter exposures will have shadows that are too dark while longer exposures will have blown out highlights. Digital processing techniques are used to blend all the images together to create a final picture with balanced shadows and highlights that wouldn't be achieveable with a single exposure.

Using Photoshop I blend bracketed images together to create a picture that has balanced shadows and highlights. It's like having three bowls of oatmeal; one is too cold, one is bland, and one is too hot. You then mix them in Oatmealshop to create one that's just right!