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Summer 2015 Photography Workshop — Photograph & Print the Icelandic Summer Light

October 27, 2014

Crown of Fire, SnæfellsnesBetween the North Atlantic and the Arctic Circle lies a wondrous place — Iceland. It’s a country of long history, distinctive culture, incredible landscape, strong weather and fierce beauty. The light of long summer days plays over the sky above and the land below, creating a rich array of opportunities for the intrepid photographer.

This year our group will not only photograph, but participate in hands-on workshop time going from digital capture, through development, to print. Join us for an incredible time experiencing Iceland, from photograph to print!

Summary of Key Details

  • Instructors: Royce Howland, Costas Costoulas and Tim Vollmer
  • Dates: July 21 – August 2, 2015
  • Fees: $8,610 USD per person double occupancy room at the minimum group size of 8; $970 USD supplement for single occupancy room; the per-person price will be reduced accordingly for larger group sizes, see tour schedule for more details
  • Group size: 8 minimum, 14 maximum
  • Photography background: Intermediate to advanced photographers with an interest in digital print
  • Highlights: 13 days / 12 nights in Western & Southern Iceland, with the highlands of Landmannalaugar; 21+ hours of light each day!
  • Travel on location: Van or minibus
  • Departure & arrival: Keflavik airport, Iceland (arrive July 21 or before; depart August 2 or following)
  • Includes: All transportation, accommodation & meals in Iceland; all instructor fees; printing supplies
  • Not included: International flights, optional side tours, alcoholic drinks
  • More info: See the tour schedule PDF
  • Registration: Now open! Bookings handled by ESJA Travel; contact us for details
  • Questions: Contact Royce Howland

Sun Voyager at Midnight, Reykjavik

I’m very happy to share the details of a new photography workshop in Iceland, coming in the summer of 2015 — Photograph & Print the Icelandic Summer Light! Iceland is a place that simply must be experienced first hand. Read on to see if this event is your chance to make it happen.

I’ll be working with my colleague Tim Vollmer, an experienced photographer and international tour leader, with whom I’ve worked previously in Iceland. Tim is full of energy and good humour, and I’ve found that it’s contagious. :) New this year, Tim and I will be joined by Costas Costoulas, the creative mind behind Calgary-based Resolve Photo. Costas is a highly accomplished master printer, and his services are increasingly in demand with a growing base of incredibly talented fine art photographers.

I’m very much looking forward to the opportunity to return to Iceland and work with Tim and Costas in the summer of 2015. Together, we will lead a small group to a series of amazing locations in Western & Southern Iceland where we will have great experiences and make photographs. Interspersed with our field work, we’ll have several intensive, hands-on workshop sessions to develop and print the images the group is making.

This year, as we have done before, 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 compelling photographs the remainder of the tour.

Once we hit the road, we will chase the light and spend some intensive time in the field, and in workshop. Our locations will be found during 3 days spent in each of three major areas: the Snæfellsnes Peninsula, the highlands around Landmannalaugar, and the south coast including Skaftafell National Park and the glacier lagoon Jökulsárlón. For more location information, download 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 on reaching our travel partners at ESJA Travel.

Read on for just a taste of the experience of Iceland, what little I’m able to put into words…

Raindrops Flowing All Around, KirkjubæjarklausturIceland — 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 with which to fall in love!

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 love making great photographs that tell stories. And you have an interest in sharing your vision through print, which will be met by our workshop sessions aimed at improving your skill in developing images for printing.

Iceland + You — Can you picture yourself creating photographs and prints in a wild and beautiful land, under amazing summer light? Then join experienced international photographers and tour leaders Tim Vollmer and Royce Howland, along with master printer Costas Costoulas, in July of 2015. As a member of this group, you’ll experience some of the best photography opportunities found anywhere, and take a number of your photographs immediately to print during the workshop sessions. Iceland will exercise your creativity in a summer land where night is only a memory, and reality merges with imagination.

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 Iceland 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. Photograph & Print the Icelandic Summer Light — I hope you’ll join us July 21 – August 2, 2015!

Fall 2014 Canadian Rockies Photo Tour Results — Ellen Kinsel

October 25, 2014

Today I have a set of 5 favourite images to share from Ellen Kinsel, one of our keen participants in this year’s Fall Photography Tour based at Aurum Lodge in David Thompson Country. Ellen also shares some of her thoughts about the event and the making of each photograph. I love looking at photographs for themselves, but I also find it’s interesting to get a bit of a view into the creative thinking behind and making of an image. I liked seeing how each participant was approaching the locations we visited; it’s interesting to reflect back and see the direction Ellen was taking in these cases.

Thanks for joining our group, Ellen! Also for being the first past the post in sharing your photographs, thoughts and kind words about the event. Not that it’s a race or anything. :) (Note: guest blog posts are not scripted or given any parameters for contents. Each author shares what she wishes.)


Why Participate in an Organized Photo Tour or Workshop?

I photograph almost daily. Literally out my back door are mountains, lakes, rivers, wildlife, trees, and wildflowers in four distinct seasons. So why do I travel to participate in photography workshops and tours? To learn, to grow, to share.

Most recently I was one of 4 participants in the Fall Landscape Tour led by Royce and Dan Wheeler. In the past few years, I have spent a lot of time in the Canadian Rockies, but I had never been to David Thompson Country and had seen photographs of that area that compelled me to want to experience it for myself. I had been part of a masterclass with Royce the previous year, and came away from that inspired by his approach and knowing I wanted to learn more from him. His mantra has become mine: subject, light, composition, storytelling.

One of the benefits of an organized, multi-day tour is being led to amazing locations by someone who knows the area and has an emotional connection to it. Royce’s leadership style enables the group to be at the best places in the best light because of his familiarity with the region. After a few suggestions of the potential of each location, we would spread out, individually seeking compositions that drew our eyes with ample time to explore and experiment. Royce and Dan made sure we were satisfied with our results, offering much appreciated assistance along the way.

Once again my expectations were exceeded. I learned so much about so many different aspects of photography not only from Royce, but also from Dan, Kerry, John, Kim, and Alan who joined us for one day. I grew and improved my skills, gaining confidence, and pushing myself. Hopefully I shared my love of being out there and my eagerness to take advantage of every moment.

All photos shown here were taken with a Canon 5D Mark III, 24-105 f/4L IS USM.

~Ellen Kinsel

Flooded Plain. Copyright © Ellen Kinsel.

Flooded Plain. Copyright © Ellen Kinsel.

We walked down the road from the Cline River Bridge to lake level. Abraham Lake was at its highest depth, and the low lying areas close to shore were flooded. Earlier in the day, Royce had provided some very helpful personal instruction on composition… deciding what to include and exclude to create the desired image. I positioned the camera with a few things in mind: capturing the reflection of the clouds in the still water, including the grasses which to me signify the idea of “Kootenay Plains,” and using those grasses to create some curvature in the frame. I combined 4 exposures in Oloneo, then brought the HDR image back into Lightroom for some final adjustments.

Sunrise at Waterfowl Lake. Copyright © Ellen Kinsel.

Sunrise at Waterfowl Lake. Copyright © Ellen Kinsel.

This morning we departed while it was still dark in order to drive to Waterfowl Lake along the Icefields Parkway in time to get set up before sunrise. Not far from the lodge, we spotted a group of wolves. A large, black wolf crossed right in front of our car… that was a special treat to be remembered rather than recorded by any camera. We each found a place along the lake shore and waited for the sunrise light to fleetingly kiss the tops of the surrounding mountains. We were treated to some great cloud colors and reflections before heading toward Lake Louise. This is another HDR processed in Oloneo (3 exposures) then brought back into Lightroom. Again, a valuable lesson from Royce contributed to the success of this final image… pay attention to the histogram in post-processing. I always use it to assist with the initial capture, but here I made the decision to use only 3 of the 5 exposures in the sequence because the 2 brightest exposures would not have contributed much additional information to the final image.

Cloud Explosion. Copyright © Ellen Kinsel.

Cloud Explosion. Copyright © Ellen Kinsel.

A sunrise shoot on the shores of Abraham Lake a short walk from Aurum Lodge (our base of operations for the tour) provided some great cloud formations, some with color, some without. These dancing clouds changed shape quickly. I kept the silhouetted mountains to anchor the frame, but did not include any of the lake as it was very rough and dark. I did experiment with including the waves breaking on the shore, but not in this particular frame. In Lightroom, I increased clarity (+67) and vibrance (+21) and boosted the whites a bit (+26). I am not overly confident in the post-processing of images… I know I could probably be doing more or doing things differently, but that too will come with more practice.

Aspen Fire. Copyright © Ellen Kinsel.

Aspen Fire. Copyright © Ellen Kinsel.

This was taken on the Fire Trail in the Landslide Lake area. A controlled burn in 2009 left the trees scarred and bare. I chose a slow shutter speed and moved the camera vertically to capture the mood I felt as I wandered among the trees. They are tenuously standing, but can fall at any moment. The yellow leaves from new growth are reminders that, in a forest, out of death comes life. Post processing in Lightroom increased clarity (+62) and vibrance (+31), and a distracting branch was cropped from the right side of the frame.

Kootenay Plains Sunset. Copyright © Ellen Kinsel.

Kootenay Plains Sunset. Copyright © Ellen Kinsel.

I wanted a low angle to emphasize the texture in this fallen log. The moon was playing hide and seek through the clouds and branches, although it is not visible in this particular frame. Once again I used Oloneo to combine 4 exposures, then brought it into Lightroom for some minor cropping and the use of the spot removal tool to clone a branch intruding in the top right corner. Clarity and vibrance were increased (+71 and +31). I would have like the background trees and mountains to have been in better focus.

Winter 2014-5 Monochrome Masterclass — Digital Capture, Develop & Print

October 19, 2014

In the heart of David Thompson Country along the front ranges of the Canadian Rockies, join instructors Royce Howland and Olivier Du Tré, with special guest Costas Costoulas of Calgary’s Resolve Photo, for an unforgettable time. From concept to capture, from development to printing, this five-day masterclass is dedicated to improving your mastery of digital black-and-white photography and printing.

Secrets of the Ice World 4, Abraham Lake

Secrets of the Ice World 4, Abraham Lake. Copyright © Royce Howland.

Summary of Key Details

  • Instructors: Royce Howland and Olivier Du Tré, with Costas Costoulas of Calgary’s Resolve Photo
  • Dates: January 15 – 19, 2015
  • Fee: $1,995 CDN early bird price for all registrations with deposits made by November 30, 2014; $2,245 CDN after Dec. 1, 2014; 5% GST added to prices
  • Group size: 4 – 7 participants
  • Photography background: Intermediate to advanced photography experience with a strong interest in digital B&W and print
  • Highlights: 5 days / 4 nights at Aurum Lodge, covering Abraham Lake & David Thompson Country; hands-on learning with guidance from instructors who are passionate about B&W and printing
  • Travel on location: Car-pooling with the group
  • Included: All instructor fees, printing supplies, accommodations & meals
  • Not included: travel to the lodge
  • Registration: Now open! Space is limited; to reserve your spot, contact Alan at Aurum Lodge, +1-403-721-2117
  • More information: Contact Royce Howland (royce at vividaspect dot com), Olivier Du Tré (olivier at olivierdutre dot com) or Alan Ernst (info at aurumlodge dot com)

If you would like to improve your mastery of digital black-and-white photography and printing, the Winter 2014-5 Monochrome Masterclass is for you! We have the combination of location, learning format and instructors to give your digital B&W print work a great kickstart in 2015.

Abraham Lake Ice Flowers. Copyright © Olivier Du Tré.

Abraham Lake Ice Flowers. Copyright © Olivier Du Tré.


We start with the base for our workshop: Aurum Lodge an award-winning eco-tourism lodge on the flanks of Abraham Lake in David Thompson Country. The lodge is ideally positioned to enable our group to make the most of each day. Our hosts Madeleine and Alan Ernst create a warm, friendly and welcoming atmosphere.

The Canadian Rockies are one of the most beautiful mountain regions in the world. Beyond the familiar Rockies locations, David Thompson Country is a particularly wonderful area of Rockies front range terrain — lesser known but incredibly rich in photography potential. We will spend most of our field time along Highway 11 at locations close to the lodge, ranging west to Saskatchewan River Crossing.

Winter time in this area offers much to photographers: fantastic clear light during short days; evening skies far from any light pollution; frozen lake ice and waterfalls; snow-covered mountains, canyons and forests; “interesting” weather; and much more. This is a perfect environment for black-and-white photography.

Note: This is winter in the mountains, so be prepared to work within the cold and potentially windy conditions. Proper winter gear will be very important. We can advise group members accordingly; ask for details if you are not used to winter photography in the outdoors.

Something Wickedly Windy This Way Comes, David Thompson Country. Copyright © Royce Howland.

Something Wickedly Windy This Way Comes, David Thompson Country. Copyright © Royce Howland.


To our fantastic locations, we add a masterclass format where each day presents a combination of instructional seminars, field photography work, lab time to apply the learning, and hands-on printing to see the results. We will look at the aesthetics of B&W, and cover the full workflow: conception and capture in the field, B&W development using a variety of digital darkroom techniques and tools, and making prints with standard and alternative digital inkjet printing. Printing options will include Epson printers with both OEM K3 inks and Jon Cone K7 carbon-based inks, on a variety of fine art papers. As a take-away from the masterclass, participants will receive a comprehensive digital B&W printing workflow guide.

The schedule will be intensive. Between the field work, seminars and hands-on lab work, we will be eating, drinking and breathing B&W photography and print each day. Transportation to field locations will be based on car-pooling amongst the group. We avoid excessive road miles, since the purpose is to learn, photograph and print, not to drive. Still, time in the vehicles (as well as our daily meals together) is a great chance to chat about everything photography with the workshop leaders and other group members.

Come prepared for a time of singular focus on digital black-and-white.

Kista Peak Storm. Copyright © Olivier Du Tré.

Kista Peak Storm. Copyright © Olivier Du Tré.


Royce Howland is a Calgary-based fine art photographer, specializing in landscapes and travel. He also writes and instructs on photography. For the past several years he has been bringing black-and-white increasingly into his personal fine art work. He describes much about his approach as “high-tech old-school”. Despite being a product of the digital age, he is also passionate about printing photographs on paper, and seeks to introduce as many others as possible to the experience of photographs outside the digital monitor. An accredited member of the Professional Photographers of Canada and a juried member of the Alberta Society of Artists, Royce has been leading highly regarded photography events, including masterclasses on creative photography topics, since 2010.

Olivier Du Tré is a Belgian/Canadian traditional fine art landscape photographer living in Cochrane, Alberta. He specializes in photographing the Alberta Prairies and the majestic Rocky Mountains around him. Olivier’s work has been published in multiple online magazines, on numerous photography blogs and in printed magazines. This year alone, his work got shortlisted in the FotoFilmic ’14 competition, won a Merit in the Black & White Magazine 2014 Portfolio contest, received an honorable mention in the 2014 Stark Awards and 4 large prints were selected for the 2-year traveling show “Symbolic Landscapes”, organized by the Alberta Society of Artists.

Costas Costoulas is a master printer and the creative mastermind behind Resolve Photo, the premier large format photographic and fine art digital printing service in Calgary. Black-and-white printing is a particular specialty at Resolve, using Epson printers with both the OEM K3 inkset and several variations of the Jon Cone K7 carbon inkset.

Stormy Winter Sundown, Abraham Lake. Copyright © Royce Howland.

Stormy Winter Sundown, Abraham Lake. Copyright © Royce Howland.


The final essential ingredient is you! Our group size will range from a minimum of 4 to a maximum of 7 photographers of intermediate to advanced skill — photographers who want to more deeply explore the art and craft of what it takes to produce exceptional B&W prints.

You do need to have good command of your camera equipment and exposure. Beyond that, who will get the most benefit from this event? Those who strongly identify with statements like these:

A photograph that has not been shared or at least printed is almost an unexistent photograph, is almost an untaken picture. ~Sergio Garibay

To see in color is a delight for the eye but to see in black and white is a delight for the soul. ~Andri Cauldwell

You may be looking to re-connect with something first experienced photographing on film and printing in the chemical darkroom, or newly exploring B&W with the creative power of the digital darkroom. Either way, we are looking forward to working with a small group of photographers who are passionate about taking black-and-white photography and print to a new level. Join us for the Monochrome Masterclass!


Registration is now open, and spaces are available but group size will be limited. Please contact Alan at Aurum Lodge (+1-403-721-2117) for registration, including making your deposit by Nov. 30, 2014 to qualify for the special early bird pricing.

If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact Royce Howland (royce at vividaspect dot com), Olivier Du Tré (olivier at olivierdutre dot com) or Alan Ernst (info at aurumlodge dot com).

Moonrise Over Mt. Michener. Copyright © Olivier Du Tré.

Moonrise Over Mt. Michener. Copyright © Olivier Du Tré.

The Sun Is Shining… But the Ice Is Slippery, Preacher's Point. Copyright © Royce Howland.

The Sun Is Shining… But the Ice Is Slippery, Preacher’s Point. Copyright © Royce Howland.

Abraham Lake Ice and Snow. Copyright © Olivier Du Tré.

Abraham Lake Ice and Snow. Copyright © Olivier Du Tré.

Erosion 7, David Thompson Country. Copyright © Royce Howland.

Erosion 7, David Thompson Country. Copyright © Royce Howland.

Abraham Lake Reflection. Copyright © Olivier Du Tré.

Abraham Lake Reflection. Copyright © Olivier Du Tré.

Effects of Light and Wind, Abraham Lake. Copyright © Royce Howland.

Effects of Light and Wind, Abraham Lake. Copyright © Royce Howland.

Clouds Over Kista Peak. Copyright © Olivier Du Tré.

Clouds Over Kista Peak. Copyright © Olivier Du Tré.

Photography and Interestingness Part 3: Longevity, Substance and Authenticity

August 8, 2014
Noodle Station, Reykjavik

Noodle Station, Reykjavik. A good place for lunch on a warm summer day.

I wrapped up my June trip to Iceland and returned home already missing the place. Even though it rained cats & dogs for almost the entire 3 weeks I was there, I still had a great time exploring Reykjavik for a few days surrounding the 12-day South Iceland photography tour that Tim Vollmer and I co-led. We were joined by a great group of photographers from Canada, the USA and Australia. I’ll have more to show and share from the trip later. For now, I enjoyed looking back at this photo of the Noodle Station, one of my favourite Reykjavik lunch spots. I took it from the 2nd-floor outside balcony of Cafe Babalú, another good eating spot. :)

I’ve been busy as a bee in prime flower season since getting back, with big chunks of time going into all kinds of things, most of which haven’t yet come to fruition. One thing I did finish was finally completing part 3 of my article series on photography and interestingness, published as a guest post over at The Camera Store Blog. I invite you to check it out. If you have any thoughts about what I’ve written there, whether you agree, disagree or have a different spin on things, feel free to comment here. I’d love to get your feedback.

In the first two parts of the article series I put out some ideas on ways to put interestingness into your photographs. But what is “interestingness” itself actually about, anyway? In part 3, the wrapup of the series, I look at that question in the form of several contrasts that I see going on with photographers and photography these days.

  • First there’s the contrast of popularity vs. longevity. A photograph can attract immediate attention and make a splash on social media or somewhere else, but is it really interesting? If so, it will have the more important characteristic of longevity — an audience will maintain a sustained level of interest in the photograph over time.
  • Then there’s the contrast of style vs. substance. A photograph can be stylish in the sense that it’s got evidence of cool or au courant technique in its making or its visual look. But styles can be temporary and faddish; the true kind of style that means more than simply application of technique is something that emerges over time from a photographer’s body of work. And the thing that makes each photograph really interesting is not just its style, but its substance — the cake that’s there under the icing.
  • Finally there’s the contrast of novelty vs. authenticity. I personally feel in some quarters there’s an over-emphasis on trying to capture or show something new, because things that are new attract attention. But interestingness is about more than attracting attention, it’s about keeping it. I think a better consideration for building and maintaining interest is to do work that’s authentic… something the audience can understand is genuine to both the photographer and the subject, and not concerned primarily with being popular, stylish or novel.
Together Alone, Cypress Hills. This photograph was made in one of the areas our group will explore during the 2014 Fall Photography Masterclass: Storytelling In the Cypress Hills.

Together Alone, Cypress Hills. This photograph was made in one of the areas our group will explore during the 2014 Fall Photography Masterclass: Storytelling In the Cypress Hills. To me, this tree standing apparently alone among the rolling hills and flowing clouds is among the cast of characters in the story of the area.

To see the full article, I hope you’ll click through this link. At the top of the article, you’ll also find links back to parts 1 and 2. If you haven’t read them before, perhaps take a few minutes to go through the series. :)

One of the things I’ve been working with to add interest to my own photography over the past few years is the idea of visual storytelling. I believe most people naturally gravitate towards telling their stories and wanting to hear the stories of others. It’s a thing that binds together families, friends, communities and cultures. And it establishes meaningful connections from one of those groupings to another. When we tell our stories and hear the stories of others, we understand things that are truly interesting to them and to ourselves. So putting storytelling into the frame, rather than relying too much on things like style or novelty, can be a great way to add interest to the right audience of viewers.

Of course there are all kinds of storytelling. It doesn’t have to be some complicated or philosophical thing. It can be simple, fun, quirky, or whatever. :) But there are elements of visual storytelling that go beyond just the composition and aesthetics of a photograph.

Interested in exploring how visual storytelling could apply to your own photography? My good friend Peter Carroll and I will be running a photography masterclass this coming September 5 – 10: Storytelling in the Cypress Hills. This is a small group intensive event focused on adding visual storytelling into your way of creative expression in your photography. We’ll be based at Historic Reesor Ranch the whole time, and will spend each day in a combination of seminars, photo reviews and of course lots of field work at the ranch and across locations in beautiful Cypress Hills country.

We have one room still open in the masterclass. To find out more, you can read my original post about the masterclass. Or feel free to contact me or Pete for more details.

What’s your take on the matters of popularity, style and novelty? Are they non-issues, or have we gone overboard on them in some ways? Do you focus on alternatives like longevity, substance and authenticity in your own work? Or do these factors not really affect why you photograph? Feel free to comment here…

I Should Be So Industrious, Calgary.

I Should Be So Industrious, Calgary. One of the things I’ve been spending some time with is a new camera, the amazing Pentax 645Z which I used for this photograph. I try not to focus on gear too much, and don’t write about it here that often. But certain cameras fit certain photographers or certain types of photography, and the Pentax 645 system fits me pretty well.

Sun Voyager at Midnight

June 15, 2014
Sun Voyager at Midnight, Reykjavik

Sun Voyager at Midnight, Reykjavik

I’m currently in Iceland, where the locations are incredible, the light is magical and the weather can be volatile. :) The forecast has been calling for cloud, showers and rain. Yesterday, the cloud was heavy over Reykjavik, and it seemed like the odds were slim for any colourful light at sundown. However, as afternoon turned to evening turned to dusk, patches in the cloud were breaking up and shifting around, so there was a chance something might happen.

Sometime after 10:00 PM I took up my camera, left the guesthouse and went down to the harbour. My plan was to hang out at Sólfar (the Sun Voyager), a striking work of sculpture by Jón Gunnar Árnason. A few other intrepid night owls were there as well, and we all hung around to see what would develop. The air was relatively still and the temperature was mild, so it was a pleasant time to just wait and watch. Gulls flew around squawking, the occasional boat crossed the bay, and people would come and go around the sculpture. Many had cameras, but many others were there just to take in the view by eye, and make memories the old-fashioned way.

As midnight approached, we were rewarded by the low sun warming different layers of cloud with varying shades of yellow, orange and red. At the peak, part of it looked something like the photo shown here, though this is just a rough cut done quickly on my travel laptop.

Tonight our photo group assembles together for the first evening of our 2014 Icelandic Summer Light tour. We will begin 12 days of experiencing and photographing this special land and its light. Just about anything can happen, and it should be a great adventure!

Winter 2014-5 Photography Tour in the Canadian Rockies

May 28, 2014

Co-leaders: Royce Howland & Alan Ernst
Group size: 7 participants maximum, intermediate to advanced photography experience
Dates: January 24 – 28, 2015
Highlights: 5 days / 4 nights at Aurum Lodge, covering Abraham Lake, David Thompson Country & the Icefields Parkway
Travel on location: Car-pooling with the group
Fee: $1,525 CDN early bird price for all registrations with deposits made by October 31, 2014; $1,695 CDN thereafter; 5% GST added to prices
Included: All accommodations & meals; not including travel to the lodge
Registration info: Contact Alan at Aurum Lodge
Contact: Royce Howland (royce at vividaspect dot com) or Alan Ernst (info at aurumlodge dot com)

The Sun Is Shining… But the Ice Is Slippery, Preacher's Point

I’ve been planning towards this for a couple of years, and today I’m pleased to announce my first winter photography tour at Aurum Lodge. I love the Canadian Rockies, and especially the front range territory of David Thompson Country. This is one of the most beautiful regions in the world, and there is no bad time of year to visit and photograph. But truly the winter season is one of the most spectacular times to explore the area.

Secrets of the Ice World, Abraham Lake

Why go out with the camera in winter? Wouldn’t a sensible person stay indoors where it’s warm, perhaps with a fire going, a hot drink and a good book? Perhaps. But intrepid photographers know that nothing beats a compelling subject in beautiful light. Light is one of the things that sets apart winter in the Rockies. The days are shorter, which means blue hour and the potential for colour around sunrise and sunset occur at a little more civilized time than normal. Throughout the day, the light is often possessed of a remarkable crystal clarity. It’s well-matched to the subject matter — leaves have fallen from deciduous trees, while snow and ice are prevalent. This adds highlights and contrast to the land, while the snow and ice often take shapes that are interesting in their own right. The combination of light, snow and ice reveals more of the bones and structure of the surroundings. It’s great for both colour and black-and-white photography, and this is why I love winter up here.

This is winter in the mountains, so weather is always a variable and can add tremendously to the compelling subjects at hand — clear blue skies, storm fronts, snowfall, wind, and temperatures from comfortably chilly to downright deep-freeze. While great for photography, winter also demands that we be prepared to work with it. So proper winter gear is very important; we can advise group members accordingly.

For 4 nights and 5 days, the base for our small group tour will be Aurum Lodge. I’ve described the lodge previously; it’s one of my favorite places to stay anywhere in the Rockies. The lodge is ideally set up to allow our group to make the most of our photography opportunities each day, and our hosts Madeleine and Alan Ernst create a friendly and welcoming atmosphere. From the lodge, we’ll cover locations along Highway 11, also known as the David Thompson Highway. This is front range territory and includes frozen Abraham Lake, pictured above. It also includes mountain views, forest stands, river outlets, smaller ponds, canyons, icefalls and more. We’ll also reach into the main Rockies along the world-famous Icefields Parkway, traveling reasonable distances to reach spots north or south of Saskatchewan River Crossing. This will bring us to many more landscape opportunities, both grand and intimate.

Blue Light Special, Abraham LakeWe call this a photo tour which means our primary goal is field-intensive photography. We’ll be in the field using any & all available light each day, giving everyone the best chances to build out a great portfolio of images. Even though this is a tour, rather than a full-on workshop with specific teaching or learning goals, we will provide hands-on “learning by doing” in the field, focused on any participant’s needs. If the event leaders photograph for themselves while in the field, it will only be as a #2 priority after first ensuring that the group is firing on all cylinders.

Added to this, since the daylight hours are short during winter, we will have the opportunity to cover some topics each evening, back at the lodge. These can range from photo critique or general processing work, to specific techniques such as HDR, black-and-white or tilt-shift lens use. We do expect everyone to be suitably equipped and to know the basics of using their camera gear, but we can cover a range of topics for anyone who’d like to pick up extra approaches to highly productive field photography.

We will also provide site orientations as we hit each new or different type of location, because part of getting good photographs is always improving how to see and respond to the unique opportunities at each location based on the subject material, weather, light and other conditions. Landscapes will include both grand and intimate views of mountains, frozen lakes & ponds, rivers & icefalls, canyons, plains, aspen & pine forests, and more. We’ll cover a spectrum of subjects and locations that tell the story of a region as diverse as the Canadian Rockies.

Fresh Snow in Bright Sun 2, Mistaya CanyonAs on every tour, for the most part we don’t have a fixed, clock-driven itinerary each day. Instead, we’ll be very dynamic in arranging where we go after considering locations, weather, local conditions, and participant interests. Transportation to locations will be based on car-pooling amongst the group. We avoid excessive road miles whenever possible, since the purpose is to photograph, not drive. Still, time in the vehicles (as well as our daily meals together) is a great chance to chat with tour leaders and other group members about anything & everything photography!

There you have it. Next winter, a small group will get to experience guided access and photography in some great locations. This will be a bracing taste of the real Canadian Rockies — the Rockies in winter. It should satisfy anyone with a taste for working outdoors with a camera. If you’re looking for a great winter photography experience, I hope you’ll join us!

Registration is now open, and spaces are available. Please see the event page at the Aurum Lodge web site (coming soon) for registration details. Also see the Vivid Aspect blog Workshops & Events page for information including links to past tour announcements and participant photo results. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me (royce at vividaspect dot com) or Alan Ernst at Aurum Lodge (info at aurumlodge dot com).

Stormy Winter Sundown, Abraham Lake

Spring Cleaning — Photography Gear Sale

May 13, 2014

Update: The post below describes a specific fundraiser event we did back in May. But some of the equipment is still available. If you’re interested in any of the items not flagged as “sold”, contact me for more information. Thanks!

Spring Gear Sale Everything Must GoSpring has finally arrived in Calgary! Or has it? I have to admit, I’m not entirely convinced yet. A couple of days ago the forecast called for afternoon rain and I watched yet another snow flurry come down instead. But no matter, spring is at least partly a state of mind rather than a date on the calendar or a condition of the weather.

With that in mind, I’ve decided it’s time to do some spring cleaning of my photography gear. For some time now the nature of my work has meant that I’ve been using my Pentax 645D digital medium format system for the majority of my creative output. Pentax — under new ownership by Ricoh Imaging — has recently upped the ante by announcing the follow-on 645 camera, addressing the most important of the very few things I wished were different about the award-winning 645D. The new camera is the Pentax 645Z and it looks like a major improvement, so I’m going to double down on the 645 digital system and order one. I don’t write about gear that much here on the blog, which is deliberate. But I will cover some thoughts on this new Pentax camera once I’ve been able to get my hands on one and used it for awhile.

I’ve been maintaining a kit of Canon 35mm digital gear: several bodies; a number of Canon, Sigma and other lenses; and various flashes and other accessories. But the simple fact is for the majority of work I do, I reach for the Pentax rig if the Pentax can shoot that work. For the work where the Canon system is significantly better, e.g. long-lens or action, I’m doing a lot less of that type of work. And when I’ve really needed something lighter than the Pentax rig, increasingly I’ve been going with something really small, like my Panasonic LX7, Sony RX100 or even my Samsung camera phone! (Although I did recently pick up a Sony A7R for situations when I need something in between; that will be another story in its own right.)

The upshot is that I’ve decided to clear out almost my entire kit of Canon 35mm digital equipment. It’s a big decision; even though I got off the hamster-wheel of upgrading to every new body or lens to keep costs down, I still shot Canon for over 10 years. That’s a lot of miles, frames and memories, and a lot of us do get somewhat attached to certain gear. :) But it feels like the right thing to do at this point. Equipment should support creativity and vision; since my work has shifted and I’m going to continue pushing this direction, it’s time for a change.

Several of my colleagues in The IRIS Photographic Society of Alberta also have decided to do some spring cleaning of their equipment. And of course, as a non-profit group, fundraising is always something that’s a part of our thinking in order to maintain our ability to do projects that will help accomplish IRIS’ goals.

So — two birds, I’d like to introduce you to one stone. :) We’ve put together a Gear Sale and IRIS Fundraiser. Of the equipment we sell, at least 10% of the proceeds will go to support IRIS. Click through the link for more info, but here are the details of when & where:

Sunday May 18, 10:00 AM – 2:00 PM

Lofts on the Bow
44077 George Fox Trail
Cochrane, Alberta

I’m going to have almost all of my Canon equipment for sale at this fundraiser, plus a few other odds & bits that I may round up during my spring cleaning through the photo equipment storage cases. Other photographers will be there, too, with some other things on offer. If you’re looking for something specific, like to browse for new ideas, or even just want to find out what we’re up to, feel free to drop by Cochrane and check out our gear tables at Lofts on the Bow!

Here’s a sampling of the main items I’ll have:

  • Canon EOS 30D camera with battery grip, 4 batteries and RRS “L” plate. Low shutter count, upgraded to latest firmware (1.0.6). A good starter camera or perhaps useful for IR conversion. $150.
  • Canon EOS 30D camera with battery grip, 4 batteries, no “L” plate. Low shutter count, upgraded to latest firmware (1.0.6). A good starter camera or perhaps useful for IR conversion. $125.
  • Canon EOS 5D (Mk I) camera with battery grip, 5 batteries and RRS “L” plate, upgraded to latest firmware (1.1.1). Canon’s original category-killer full frame digital 35mm, which redefined what digital 35mm cameras could do. Even today this camera produces great quality files; it’s an excellent starter for landscape or other general use. $550.
  • Canon EOS 7D camera with battery grip, 4 batteries and RRS “L” plate, upgraded to latest firmware (2.0.5). Very low shutter count. This is Canon’s “serious” 1.6 crop camera for when the action is hot and fast; there’s really nothing else like it in the Canon lineup, before or since. $850.
  • Canon EOS 5D Mk II camera with battery grip, 4 batteries, and a pair of RRS “L” plates (for use with and without battery grip attached). Upgraded to latest firmware (2.1.2). This is Canon’s highly successful followup to the original 5D, another mould-breaking full frame 35mm digital body adding digital video to high resolution stills. An excellent all-around camera. $1650.
  • Canon G10 point & shoot camera with and RRS “L” plate. A durable, high-resolution compact camera. $100.
  • SOLD Panasonic LX3 point & shoot camera with 2 batteries, missing lens cap. A versatile, lightweight pocket camera. $50.
  • Panasonic LX5 point & shoot camera with 2 batteries. An update of the LX3 with improvements all around; a fun and versatile pocket camera with a great lens. $125.
  • SOLD Canon 580EX flash and external AA battery pack. $175.
  • Canon MT24EX Macro Twin Lite flash and lens ring. $600.
  • Sigma 12-24mm f/4.5-5.6 lens. This is the widest angle zoom lens made for full-frame 35mm, and provides a highly rectilinear image with minimal barrel / pincushion distortion. $650.
  • SOLD Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8 lens with adapter for Canon EOS mount (or use it on a Nikon I guess). Arguably the best ultra-wide angle zoom for 35mm ever made by anyone, great for landscape and architecture use. $1700.
  • SOLD Canon 17-40mm f/4 lens, a versatile and compact wide angle lens. $550.
  • Olympus Zuiko 21mm f/2 lens with Canon EOS lens adapter. This is a rare find — a tiny, gem-like fast wide prime adaptable to Canon, great for landscape work. $600.
  • Olympus Zuiko 35mm f/2.8 PC shift lens with Canon EOS lens adapter. Another rare find — a tiny, fast, lightweight lens that shifts in both axes, great for architecture work and doing shift-stitches for landscape work. $600.
  • Sigma 50mm f/1.4 lens, one of the best “nifty fifties” made for Canon, incredibly bright and crisp. $450.
  • Canon 100mm f/2.8 Macro lens (the non-IS version), one of the best macros for Canon. $450.
  • Canon 24-105mm f/4 IS lens, a very versatile walk-around lens. $600.
  • SOLD Canon 70-200mm f/4 non-IS lens. This is one of Canon’s best ever mid-range zoom lenses — light weight & compact, sharp, and decently fast aperture. Excellent for all around use. $500.
  • Sigma 120-300mm f/2.8 non-stabilized supertelephoto zoom lens. One of the best mid-range zoom lenses for Canon in terms of versatility; until the Canon 200-400mm came out there was nothing else remotely like this level of performance in a supertele zoom. Great for indoor &  outdoor sports, wildlife and more, comes with a 1.4X converter. $1500.
  • Sigma 300-800mm f/5.6 supertelephoto zoom lens, excellent optics and the king of versatility for Canon long zooms, fantastic for wildlife & birds; comes with a 1.4X converter. $6000.
  • Lots of miscellaneous stuff like lens teleconverters, right-angle finders, remote cable releases, extension tubes, some ThinkTank bags & pouches, Manfrotto tripod heads, etc.

If you’re interested in one of the cameras, bring your own lens if you would like to try out some test shots. I’ll have a laptop on the site to load up test images and check them out on the spot. Likewise if you’re interested in any of the lenses, bring your camera body and flash card to try them. Sample images, again, can be checked on the laptop.

If you ask nicely, prices are negotiable within reason. Since this is a fundraiser, cash sales are preferred for the cheaper items. For the higher value items, I can process credit card transactions on site, if you prefer to go that route. No cheques, please — cash or credit only. All sales will be final, so please come prepared to evaluate the equipment at the time.

From the equipment cases of IRIS photographers, to your hands! :) It’s a good opportunity for good prices on a range of kit. Drop on by, and we’ll see you there…

May 2014 Gear Sale and IRIS Fundraiser


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