Today I’m sharing another set of “favorite 5″ images from the Fall 2013 Photo Tour in the Canadian Rockies, based as always at beautiful Aurum Lodge. This set is from participant Dudley Watson, who joined us all the way from South Africa! Now there’s yet another place that I’d love to visit, camera in hand…
Dudley is an active & accomplished bird photographer who recently began to take up landscape photography as well. In his goals for this tour, he described that he hoped to improve his mastery of tools, techniques and compositions in the landscape genre, and to make the most of his time in the area to capture a wide array of images in the field. As we discussed the experience at the tour wrap-up and subsequently through emails, Dudley confirmed that he was able to achieve this and more. We’re glad to hear it! Our goal every time is to understand what would make a successful event for each person, and provide an experience that delivers it as much as we possibly can.
I think when you see Dudley’s favorite images, you’ll agree with me that he can no longer get away with considering himself strictly a bird photographer. Thanks for joining us Dudley, and may you enjoy continued success pursuing your motto of “capturing a small window of God’s creation”!
Event: Summer 2014 Photo Tour — Icelandic Summer Light
Instructors: Royce Howland and Tim Vollmer
Dates: June 15 – 26, 2014
Highlights: 12 days / 11 nights in Western & Southern Iceland, with Landmannalaugar
Departure & arrival: Keflavik airport, Iceland (arrive June 15 or before; depart June 26 or following)
Daily hours of light: 21+!
Travel on location: Van or minibus
Group size: 6 minimum, 10 maximum
Fee: $6,725 USD per person double occupancy room at the minimum group size of 6 (the price will be reduced accordingly if we reach a group size of 8 or 10); $710 USD supplement for single occupancy room
Includes: All transportation, accommodation & meals in Iceland, and instructor fees
Not included: International flights or optional side tours
More info: See the tour schedule (PDF)
To register or for questions: Contact Royce Howland
I’m very happy to share the details of my next major photo tour — Iceland in the summer of 2014!
I’ll be working with Iceland-based Tim Vollmer, an experienced photographer and international tour leader, with whom I’ve worked previously. Tim is full of energy and humour, and I’ve found that it’s contagious. I’m looking forward to the opportunity to return to Iceland and work again with Tim. We will lead a small group to a series of amazing locations in Western & Southern Iceland.
In my opinion, Iceland is a place that simply must be experienced first hand. This year, to plant a few creative seeds, we will explore Reykjavik for a day before we go on the road. We’ll use the opening day to experience aspects of Icelandic culture and art, to prepare for making story-telling photographs the remainder of the tour.
Once we hit the road, we will chase the light and spend some intensive time in the field. Our locations will be found in three major areas: the Snæfellsnes Peninsula, the highlands around Landmannalaugar, and the south coast including Skaftafell National Park. For more information, see the tour schedule (PDF). Feel free to contact either myself or Tim with any questions. To register, you can contact me and I’ll provide you all the details!
Read on for just a taste of the experience, what I’m able to put into words…
Iceland — A magical place of both grand and subtle beauty! A place of dramatic weather patterns, massive glaciers and intricate ice formations. A rugged land carved by ocean, rivers, and cascading falls, where living things inhabit an active terrain forged in volcanic fire and the forces of continental plates. A country whose engaging people in their cities, coastal towns, farms and fishing villages have a legendary heritage that’s long-entwined with the fierce wilderness. Iceland is not a place to merely “like”, it’s a land to fall in love with!
You – A passionate photographer looking for a distinctive travel photography experience, and eager to spend a social & field-intensive time with a group of like-minded individuals. You may be an advanced photographer looking for experienced guiding to get you directly to fantastic locations. Or you may know the basics of exposure and how to use your camera equipment, but have goals to improve your mastery of the craft. Either way, you’re keen to make great photographs that tell stories. And to exercise your creative eye in a destination where night is only a memory, and reality merges with imagination.
Iceland + you – Can you picture yourself creating photographs in a wild and beautiful land, under amazing summer light? Then join experienced international photographers and tour leaders Tim Vollmer and Royce Howland in June of 2014. Tim and Royce will lead a small group on a 12-day photography tour of exceptional locations around Western and Southern Iceland. As a member of this group, you’ll experience some of the best photography opportunities found anywhere. And Tim and Royce will be on hand full-time to discuss any aspect of photography with those who would like extra input.
What you can see — If you’re not already convinced, then take in the wonderful sights of Iceland through the online galleries of Tim Vollmer, and his wife & creative partner Markéta Kalvachová. They’ve been working in this wonderful country for years, and have portrayed its many facets in pictures. Also see just a few of my Iceland photos below; you can also read my blog posts about photographing Iceland.
Okay, you’ve read the words and seen the photographs. Now you can share in the experience. Icelandic Summer Light — join us June 15 – 26 of 2014!
I’ve cleared the decks of running almost all of my events for the end of calendar year 2013, and can now turn my attention to actually looking at some of the results from them! A whirlwind is great for moving fast, but every so often it’s good to slow down the pace…
Today I’m looking at participant images from the Fall 2013 Canadian Rockies Photo Tour, held this past September based at Aurum Lodge. Conditions were strangely warm, green and very watery this year as we had a big delay in the onset of what we think of as “proper” fall conditions throughout much of the province. But for the creative photographer, it’s all good, and we got some unique conditions that I personally haven’t ever seen before in the areas we worked within David Thompson Country.
First up from the tour group is Valentina Tkachuk. Valentina has been out with us on several different events. In cases where we get to know a participant over time, it’s always interesting to see a photographer’s evolution in responding to the locations we visit. Valentina had some great observations after this year’s Fall tour:
Another adventure . . . new learning experiences especially of thinking outside my usual perspective and not letting the rainy weather hinder taking photos. [...] More learning, right? That never stops.
Absolutely right! Learning never should stop. Whether it’s trying out new techniques, finding new ways to approach challenging conditions, or further developing our ability to see, interpret and express our work, we should always keep finding a fresh perspective. This is especially true for outdoor photography and with other events where we’re not fully in control of the situation — but can only be in control of how we respond to the situation.
Below, you’ll find 5 of Valentina’s favorites from the tour, though she already knows she got many more and plans to put together a bigger slide show. That’s what we like to hear! Thanks for coming out with us this Fall, Valentina!
Quick note: I have some photography printing workshops coming up over the next few weeks. If you’re in the Calgary area and would like to begin or further develop your printing, read or jump to the bottom of this article for workshop details.
Over at Marko Kulik’s Photography.ca site, I’m happy to say there’s a new entry in his podcast series. It features an interview with yours truly, where Marko and I talk about how big digital photos can be printed, and some of the things that influence that choice. If you’re new-ish to digital printing and have sometimes wondered about making bigger enlargements of some of your work, you might have been held back if you’re nervous when considering the cost and whether the final results will look good. There are some guidelines that can give you a measure for sizing a photo that you think deserves to be seen in a larger format. Hit the link and have a listen to Photography.ca podcast episode #122 — How Big Can I Print that Photo?
Wondering about how big a photograph can be printed kind of begs the question of printing it at all. I mean, doesn’t putting some ink on paper and hanging it on a wall seem pretty archaic in the modern digital age? I’d like to use this post to throw out some thoughts on the subject. I’m all about the digital, but I’m also a big fan of going old school to print on paper.
I’m All About the Digital
I’m the first to admit that, as photography goes, I’m definitely a product of the digital era. I never photographed film other than as a young kid goofing around with basic 35mm, Instamatic and Polaroid cameras. Nor did I spend any time developing or printing in the traditional darkroom. So I don’t have any natural bias towards printing that would come from a history with film.
After 30 years of working in information technology, I’m also very comfortable in the digital darkroom. My photographs all start digital (for now) and I develop them on a computer with a big screen. Image processing software has brought me an amazing array of creative controls, and digital has allowed me to ramp my learning curve as fast as I want to. I definitely wouldn’t trade away my digital workflow.
Along with digital photography, we have the Internet with its massive array of blogs, online portfolios, image sharing and social media sites. The Internet is a massive learning library, and also gives a photographer unparalleled reach in distributing digital photos. For the photography viewer, the net delivers a true abundance of new photos to find with ease. What’s not to like?
The Missing Link
Well, I have a confession… the more I work with photography, the more I think we’re missing something if we experience photographs only in electronic form. What’s the missing link? I believe it’s two sides of the same coin: having a ton of complex and distracting technology involved in my experience of a photograph; and losing out on the simple pleasure of being able literally to get to grips with a photograph when I can hold it in my hand or regard it presented on the wall of the space where I live.
I’m talking about prints, here. Not smartphones, tablets or digital frames. Even these new, portable image display devices are immature for photo presentation purposes, and they don’t cut it for me.
Perhaps because I’m so aware of the underlying technology, I find that looking at photographs on any kind of screen feels like I’m getting the experience second hand. It feels less real somehow. I know a lot about technical matters like bit depth, color gamut, compression, angle of view, pixel density, glossy vs. matte, refresh rate, LED vs. CCFL and a host of others. My digital tools and workflow give me incredible power managing and working on my photographs… but for experiencing them? Not so much. It’s like I’m experiencing at least as much about the technology as I am about the photograph itself.
A screen has a stack of tech behind it that delivers an image. I know the technology, but I don’t warm up to it; I find it fairly cold and mechanical, and those qualities can create overtones. The wrong side of my brain is being engaged, the one that’s all about logic, process and analysis. Plus, all of that tech needs to be set up properly and working well to show an image in a reasonable facsimile of what the artist intended. If it’s not all working right, who knows how a photograph will look on any given screen.
Technology often drags a lot of other distractions along with it, too. Our fast-paced, infotainment-consuming culture – which is heavily enabled by technology – encourages us to have a kind of attention deficit disorder. I know I’m generalizing, but I’ve been around long enough to see that we seem to be increasingly conditioned to consume electronic media in little snippets, and click through quickly to the next thing. Thoughtful regard over time seems rare, replaced instead with small, quick jolts of something new, or whatever the latest “viral” share is this minute. We watch briefly, and maybe hit “like” or “+1”, but after an hour it’s all quickly forgotten.
I didn’t need to read very much Marshall McLuhan to get one of his key points: “It is only too typical that the ‘content’ of any medium blinds us to the character of the medium.” Believe me, digital technology has a character, for both good and not-so-good. In the end, I’ve concluded, technology gets in the way of me really seeing photographs the way I want to see them. Something is missing.
So… I’m Also All About the Print
A photograph in print changes the equation in a big way, I believe. That’s why I’m a big fan of old school paper. First, prints command attention. Most of us have limited time, money and wall space, so working with prints immediately brings the need for selection and choice. Only a small number of prints can get onto my wall, and they cost me something. Because of these characteristics of choosing, cost and scarce space, I pay more attention to prints. Only ones that I think are meaningful are going to get up there in the first place. Once they do, because I’m paying attention, those photographs may become even more meaningful, perhaps in ways I didn’t originally expect.
Second, unlike looking at images on electronic displays, a print places the thinnest technical layer we’ve yet discovered between me and a photograph. A piece of paper is one of the oldest technologies in human experience. While modern printing is itself going heavily digital (though traditional methods remain alive), nobody really thinks about the production process or technology when looking at a good print on paper. We just think – wow, that’s a great photograph! Perhaps we’re moved by the power of a scene, or relive personal memories, or get caught up on a moment of imagination. Whatever our response, we think mostly about the photograph and what it means to us. I find in my case, the other side of my brain gets engaged when I’m looking at a print. I respond to it more with intuition, subjectivity, creativity and emotion.
Third, prints let us develop our experience with a photograph. Electronic images come in an endless deluge, and just as quickly scroll off the bottom of the screen, usually never to be seen again. For the most part, we don’t ever live with them. We may look at electronic images, but from what I can tell we don’t often take the time to read or experience them. With a print, we have the opportunity for experience to build up hour after hour, across each day. We live with a print through the different qualities of light, weather and seasons. We can think about it in the different states of mind we go through as life happens. In short, we get to know it.
To me, these kinds of qualities describe the way I want to live with photographs. Especially when I think about photography as an art form, I’ve come to feel that experiencing photographs only on a screen is too “virtual”, a computer software rendering of something instead of the thing itself. I don’t want a rendering of art, I want the art! If I loved paintings as much as I love photography, would I be content with an 800 pixel version of the Mona Lisa glowing on my smartphone, or would I take the real Mona Lisa hanging on my wall – if I could get it? Would I be happy forever with a screensaver app that flipped through the French Impressionists every 60 seconds on my desktop background, or would I prefer just one canvas on the wall – maybe Monet’s Woman with a Parasol or Renoir’s similarly titled Woman with a Parasol in a Garden?
No, give me the real thing from a Renaissance or Impressionist master, every time! And I could say exactly the same about prints of great photographs over the years. Looking at Edward Steichen’s The Black Canyon as a small web image pales in comparison to the real thing. As a thumbnail-sized digital image, I might not look at it even for a few seconds. But seeing it as an original print “live and in person”, it was one of the most powerful photographs I’ve been fortunate enough to experience so far.
Life with Photographs
In fact, “life” is a good way to think about it. As much as I use digital tools, I don’t live in a digital space. I live in a real-world space. A small collection of prints can be present in that space as I go about my life, and the effect is much more lasting than simply seeing some images for a few seconds on a computer screen, or when I glance at a status update on my smartphone. With photographs physically present in the places I live, I can consider them a lot more deeply. My real-world space is where I actually live my life, and I want photographs to sink into the space, too.
A print is a physical object in its own right, so we live with it as it is. If a photograph stays only in electronic form, there’s always the temptation to keep tweaking it, or to click away from it to something else in the stream. Or there’s the concern that seeing it on some other kind of display will render it differently. But a particular print is fixed in time when it gets made. To print is to say, “This is how I want to show this piece of work. Maybe a future print will be different; maybe later I’ll change my mind. But for now this is it.”
Once I have a print, I can hang it on my wall, put in on my desk, slide it into the photo slot in my wallet or open to that portfolio sheet or photo book page, again and again. It’s simply there, and my experience of it is direct. When I look at a print, there’s no technology needed to serve it up. I don’t need to put in my unlock code, power it up, calibrate it, upgrade it to stay compatible, reinstall it after a crash, or replace its batteries when they die. A print simplifies my life with that photograph.
After thousands of years living with the “technology” of paper, we’re so familiar with it that I think we’re not even really consciously aware of it… and for me that makes for an excellent medium in which to present photographs. It’s just us, the photographs and whatever they mean to us. To my way of thinking, the real proof of a photograph is in the print. In some ways, a photograph doesn’t live until it’s printed. An electronic image is just a template of what a photograph could be once it’s born; the print is the real photograph.
Just Print It!
For me, printing photographs is about getting them out of the dusty digital shoebox where they’re rarely seen, or out of the cage of the electronic screen where they’re paraded in a zoo-like stream of 2-second snippets. Printing is about getting photographs back into the world where people really live. It’s about getting quality time with a choice number of photographs that are meaningful art objects in their own right. It’s about living with moments in time that have their own physical tangibility that I can touch and experience… even as I look at what is depicted, taking in and relating to whatever stories those photographs tell.
If you have photographs you want to experience instead of just click or swipe through, get them as prints and put them up where you live. If you’re a photographer who hasn’t really printed much, you may find printing your work, and living with those prints, will give you a whole new perspective on what you photograph and how you do it. Maybe even why you do it.
Digital technology has brought a tremendous explosion of creativity and accessibility to photography. But not everything new is the only good thing; and not everything old school is obsolete and ready for the junk-heap of history. Yes, there’s a lot to learn in printing, or even in selecting a good printing service; and there are some costs. But I believe the pay-off is totally worth it.
Printing a photograph puts life back into the photograph… and puts the photograph back into life. Vive le papier! Print that photograph!
Do you print your photographs? Or do you have prints of photographs in your house or office? If so, why? If not, why not?
Upcoming Printing Workshops
I’m not just passionate about making my own photography, but I also have a lot of fun teaching how and why I do what I do. I have several printing workshops in the Calgary area, coming up over the next several weeks. If you’d like to get more into the world of digital printing, check out these links and see if there’s something that appeals to you.
- Saturday, October 26, 2013 — The Print Experience: Improving Your Digital Prints. Many photographers have struggled with or not yet discovered how to make dynamic digital photo prints. If you’re looking for a crash-course on digital printing, join me in this intensive hands-on workshop. This event includes a 1 hour, 1-on-1 consultation with me after the workshop, on a printing topic of your choice. Sponsored by the Canon Image Square of Calgary.
- Saturday, November 9, 2013 — Advanced Printing Workshop. Do you want to take your digital printing to the next level of subtlety and impact? We will get into many details of colour fine art printing in this hands-on workshop. Join me and master printer Bill Peters. Sponsored by The Camera Store.
- Saturday, November 16, 2013 — Advanced Black and White Printing Workshop. Do you want to learn how to make black and white prints that really sing? We’ll present our ways of making it happen in this hands-on workshop. Join me and master printer Bill Peters. Sponsored by The Camera Store.
- Saturday, December 7, 2013 — Printing Basics Seminar. Thinking about buying a photo quality printer? Or do you have a printer and are wondering about how to make really good prints? Join me and master printer Bill Peters for an introduction to the ten keys to good digital prints. Sponsored by The Camera Store.
I’m pleased to announce that I’ll have a couple of prints in a group show coming up this October 25 – 26 at Atlantis Fine Framing Studio and Gallery in Calgary. I’ll be showing work along with 8 of my colleagues from the Calgary branch of the Professional Photographers of Canada, displaying a variety of the subjects and styles mastered by our branch members.
If you’d like to meet and talk with the artists involved, we are having a reception from 6:00 – 9:00 PM on Friday, October 25. There will be appetizers at the reception, and everyone is welcomed to attend. Of course our work on display will be for sale, if you see something that you’re convinced would look really great hanging on your own walls.
See the card images here for details including the address, dates and times. And if you know anybody interested in photography or art in the Calgary area, please feel free to forward this information along to them. We hope to see you in October!
In Flagstaff, Arizona, you can get a haircut by an experienced hand in this old-school barber shop. Viewing the scene firsthand, I felt like I had stepped through a portal and gone back several decades in time.
Story Behind the Scene:
If you’re a photographer, it’s a truism that the best camera is the one you have with you. But I often wonder if we really believe that, especially us photographers that are still-reforming gearheads. Or if instead we suffer guilt, regret, resentment, or some other kind of angst when an image must be made without using the “right” gear.
Just about any artist in any medium ends up selecting a range of tools and materials that best support their style, and in photography it’s no exception. But there’s a difference between choosing to do all or a certain portion of one’s own work with a specific tool set, vs. having a sense of snobbery that good image-making can only be done with a certain “pro” class of equipment.
I definitely believe we should jettison the elitism and the angst, and focus on the positive aspects of just simply creating. I carry a small point & shoot camera with me more or less everywhere I go, since good image-making opportunities can pop up anywhere or any time. Now, my workhorse camera when I go out to do some “serious” photography is my Pentax 645D medium format digital camera. But it’s big, heavy, and drags along a selection of support items with it. As such, there are plenty of times I don’t have it with me, and rely instead on my point & shoot. I’ve used various pocket cameras; currently I’m having a lot of fun with the Panasonic LX7 and Sony RX100.
But sometimes even using a pocket camera may be too much mental effort, or not possible at all because I don’t even have it along with me. What I may still have at that point is my phone’s camera. Now, I admit I scorned the idea of a phone with a camera built into it when they first started coming out and gaining popularity. Not necessary out of any sense of elitism, I just didn’t think it made sense to reach for a phone when I wanted to make a picture.
I’ve gotten over that idea. The combination of having the camera phone with me so much of the time, plus the variety of photography apps that do as little or as much as one may want, and the integration with social networking and image sharing services, makes for a fun package. These days whenever I’m on a photo tour, workshop, or other organized shoot, even though I have my “big rig” camera equipment along I still try to take a selection of camera phone shots because there’s something I like about the non-overwrought immediacy of making an interesting composition in the moment.
Below is a small gallery of images I made over the few weeks I’ve been in Iceland, part of which included 10 days of small group touring for the Icelandic Summer Light tour I co-lead with Markéta Kalvachová. All of these photos were developed on my Samsung Galaxy Note II phone using the Snapseed application, for the initial purpose of being shared on my Facebook page. In addition to being processed on my phone, all of the photos were captured by the phone camera — except one which was captured on my Pentax 645D and then transferred to the phone to be worked on there. Without cheating by looking at metadata, just by looking at the images, can you tell which one is from the big camera? If so, congrats — you have an eagle eye. But I’m betting that most folks won’t be able to tell which is which.
Don’t get me wrong, tools do matter and for certain things I definitely reach for certain equipment to do the job. But at the base, great photography is about making the most of subjects, light and composition, and less about the gear used in the process. Great photographs can be made with any camera, and in some cases the best camera for the job is the one you have with you that you can most fluidly use to do the work in that moment. To my way of thinking, gear affects image-making style and final usage characteristics more so than the fundamentals of what makes a great image.
A side note is that the more we practice and improve at making images, using any kind of camera at all, the more great images we will make. The best camera to practice with is the one that’s available, not the one that comes with a lot of excuses as to why photography just wasn’t possible at that time. Think of the camera you have with you all the time as an artist’s sketchbook, something you can practice using constantly to hone your ability to see and respond. David duChemin wrote about this idea of sketching in his recent blog post, Why Sketch?
P.S. If you want to practice great image-making with your best camera — whatever it is! — and do it in some breath-taking scenery this coming fall, consider joining me for the Fall 2013 Photo Tour in the Canadian Rockies. It’s not primarily an instruction-oriented event, since we’re going to concentrate on being in the field photographing as much as possible. But as the group works together there’s going to be a lot of discussion of how to effectively use our tools, techniques and mindset to make the best of subject, light and composition.
Do you use a camera phone? If not, what’s your “best camera” when your “real camera” isn’t at hand?