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Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

December 25, 2014
Starting to Look a Lot Like Christmas, Banff

Starting to Look a Lot Like Christmas, Banff

I want to take a moment and wish everyone all the best at this traditional holiday time. Whatever your belief system, I hope you’re one of the majority of people who believe that more peace, joy, love, respect and community in the world would be a good thing.

I also hope that together, we do more than just believe it or passively hope for it. It seems there has been such a surge of negative news late this year; I think we need to consciously & actively counter it, each of us as we’re able.

I don’t make “New Year’s resolutions”, because I think there’s no point waiting until an arbitrary date to decide something. But as 2014 is drawing to a close and I look into 2015, I want to better recognize the good people and things in my life, do what I can to pay forward the good fortune I have received, and be better at building community in the areas where I participate. Some of that will be expressed through getting back to more of my own photographic work.

I have a longer post that I’ve been thinking about and working on for some time now. I haven’t posted it, because I want to get the words right for it. Well, right enough.

There’s a key word from that post — “mindful”. I’ve been carrying it around, chewing on it for awhile. Mindful… aware, cognizant, considerate, conscious, attentive, observant. These are all synonyms or related words from the Merriam-Webster online dictionary entry for “mindful”. So is this word — alive.

We’re so busy with everything, whether good, bad or indifferent. We seem to have a culture of “doing”, not so much a culture of “being”. Not a culture of being actively, consciously aware and alive. And even with this pressure to be busy all the time, still some important things aren’t getting done as well as they need to be… things that have to do with better community with each other, and a better relationship with the earth on which we live. Why is that, other than that our sense of priorities needs to be tuned up? I see this even with artists, those who are supposedly seeing, interpreting and expressing their views of the world around them. I see it in myself, certainly.

Being mindful. It seems like a good idea for anyone in a creative pursuit. Or anyone who just wants to be a more engaged member of his or her communities. So Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! And be mindful out there…

Cozy Winter Cottage At the Lake, Banff

Cozy Winter Cottage At the Lake, Banff

Fall 2014 Canadian Rockies Photo Tour Results — Kim Coulter

December 20, 2014

As the head of a consulting engineering company, Kim Coulter is a busy man. But he joined our group for this year’s Fall Photography Tour based at Aurum Lodge in David Thompson Country to take a break from a metropolitan form of landscape. Cameras in hand, we explored a different type of structure.

I could clearly see that Kim’s visual approach was informed by his background in architecture and engineering. Despite not being trained in the same way myself, I think I share a somewhat architectural view of the natural landscape. (It’s always interesting to see this type of effect play out; as my friend Peter Carroll likes to say, “you bring ‘you’ to your photography.”) I enjoyed the opportunity to work with Kim, and not just because of the delicious optics he was using with his Leica M 240 camera! 🙂

Here are 5 favourite images Kim has shared from the tour, along with some background notes and kind words. Thanks for coming out with us, Kim, and for sharing a portion of what you saw and how you saw it…


Being more accustomed to photographing buildings given my background in architecture and engineering, this endeavor was a bit out of my comfort zone. It was also my first time doing HDR on the photos (four of the five) I’ve included.

Royce’s and Dan’s knowledge of the area clearly helped minimize down time looking for the images, albeit the scenery is stunning every where one looks. Thanks guys and also to my colleagues Kerry, John and Ellen. Wrapping up each day back at Aurum Lodge and enjoying Alan and Madeleine’s hospitality was a bonus.

This was a great learning exercise for me and has given me more confidence in landscape photography.

All photos were taken with a Leica M 240, 28 or 50 prime lens, HDR using HDR Expose 3.

~Kim Coulter

By Aurum Lodge. Copyright © Kim Coulter.

By Aurum Lodge. Copyright © Kim Coulter.

Cline River. Copyright © Kim Coulter.

Cline River. Copyright © Kim Coulter.

Elliot Peak at White Goat Lake. Copyright © Kim Coulter.

Elliot Peak at White Goat Lake. Copyright © Kim Coulter.

Kootenay Plains. Copyright © Kim Coulter.

Kootenay Plains. Copyright © Kim Coulter.

Mt. Abraham. Copyright © Kim Coulter.

Mt. Abraham. Copyright © Kim Coulter.

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
  • Itinerary: Click this link for a PDF describing the masterclass schedule
  • 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. Click this link for a PDF describing the masterclass schedule.

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.

Click this link for a PDF describing the masterclass schedule. If you have any other 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

In January 2015 I ran my first two official official winter events based at Aurum Lodge in David Thompson Country. The second was a photo tour where we guided a small group of photographers around a series of locations based on our favourites and the group’s interests. This wasn’t a workshop with formal learning goals; but since the days were short we also spent some hands-on “lab time” back at the lodge during the events, looking at various digital workflow topics.

Ironically, the weather we experienced on this winter tour was barely like winter at all. While the preceding B&W printing masterclass had seen nearly ideal outdoor conditions, by the time of this tour temperatures were dramatically warmer than usual, accompanied by winds that at times actually felt warm. The lake surface had begun to melt, covered some days almost completely in wind-driven sheets of water & spray, while parts of the shoreline became rotten enough to pose safety hazards to the careless or unwary. At times the winds that brought the temperature were so strong, I quite literally couldn’t stand upright.

Well, it’s the outdoors, and outdoor photographers have to roll with the punches. Rather than get annoyed that things weren’t as we envisioned, instead we were able to capitalize on the conditions and do a few different things than we otherwise would have done.

In the future I’ll share some of my personal favourite images from the tour here, and/or in the galleries on my main web site. Some are already online at my Facebook page. You can also see some favorite photo results from our tour group in the following guest blog posts:

If photographing and learning with a small group in great locations appeals to you, check my events page here on the blog for information about future events. Or contact me directly to inquire about new events that may be in the works. I also do 1-on-1 photography guiding and instruction as schedules permit.

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: $1,695 CDN plus 5% GST
Group size: 6 participants maximum; only 1 space left!
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