Author Archives: Doug P

Macro Workshop Night

I was joined by 14 other hardy folks last night at the January workshop night where we had a good time practising our Macro photo techniques together. Thanks to Rick and John & Barry for sharing their expertise and gear with the rest of us, it was interesting for the members to try out some gear that they might not otherwise get a chance to use.

It turned out that we had some visitors that came all of the way from Mayerthorpe to be with us and that was pretty awesome, it made me feel like a wimp for complaining about the drive from Edmonton!

I’ve posted a few pics that I took last night of what some of the others were doing and a few of my oil & water setup. I had a jar of old buttons and when I spread them out under the oil stand it added an extra dimension to the pics, you never know what will work until you give it a try.

Thanks to all those who came out and made the evening a success even on one of the coldest nights of the year!
And if you missed it, don’t worry because our February 12th speaker is going to be Al Popil on Macro Photography and I’m sure it will be a great time as well.

Doug Petry









February Guest Speaker Night

By Doug Petry

Jason Symington spoke at the Photo Club Wednesday evening to around 50 club members who braved the chilly weather and icy roads and seemed glad that they did. I know I was happy to hear/see Jason’s presentation that he called “Photography and the Ever Attentive Eye”.

“Photography is, for me, a spontaneous impulse coming from an ever attentive eye which captures the moment and its eternity.” – Henri Cartier-Bresson

Jason teaches a DSLR-101 class and knowing our demographic to be slightly “greyer” decided to tailor his message to us by first filtering it through his younger, less experienced photography students. He explained that they are consumed by the very practical questions of “how was that done? How did that photographer get that image and how can I duplicate it?”

Their reaction to his question of “yes, you can learn to duplicate the image, but why” was like any group of hopeful young artists might be expected to respond. “Because it would be my image!”
But is that enough?

In the beginning, we just want to create something even if it is a derivative of what has gone before, a pale copy of the work of a great artist. But in a room snowed under with gray hair, our response is different and the room seemed to resonate with Jason’s question, why indeed! Or as Jeff put it, “so what?”

Looking through a catalogue of tens of thousands of images it’s hard not to ask yourself that question as an amateur photographer, “yes, I shot all these images, so what! Is anyone ever going to see all of these images?”

Perhaps not, but if you are like me, the image is actually secondary to the process of getting it. Photography is fun! I like wandering around with my camera, just exploring the world while at the same time keeping an eye out for opportunities. There are memories associated with each image that we make, whether it was a vacation, a photo club outing, or you were just driving around with your camera.

The whole process is enjoyable; getting out there, taking the shot, anticipating how amazing it’s going to be and even the processing can be fun (usually not, but it can be!)

All in all, I was encouraged by Jason’s message, which by the way is “why” not “why bother?” We need to ask ourselves as we make images a few questions that spring from that word, “why?” It’s more than the question “why am I taking this picture?” It’s, “what am I bringing to this photograph? What makes this mine? What am I trying to say?”

It made me think beyond the very literal answer “I’m bringing my camera and lenses” even though that can have a huge effect on the images that you make. Sure you bring your camera, but you also bring yourself. The photographers eye that you have painstakingly developed over time blended with your personality, energy level, natural creative ability, etc. etc. all comes together to prompt you to lay on your belly in the wet grass, forgetting all dignity, to get the shot that you want. Or not!

Jason showed us a lot of images by influential photographers and again I was encouraged because it seemed to me that many of the images weren’t particularly good by today’s standards. (Yes, I do remember shooting with film, it was difficult!) On Wednesday night I saw very few images that I would put money on to finish in the top three at a St. Albert Photography Club submissions night.

Well, this one called Madrid 1933 by HENRI CARTIER-BRESSON is pretty good!


One of Jason’s points was that any of the photographers in the club are capable of going out and shooting similar images to those famous photographs on any given day. Those “decisive moments” that elevate photographs to the level we saw Wednesday happen in all of our lives if we are watching for them (and we have our cameras handy)!

It was interesting to see the famous images, listen to Jason’s commentary and apply it to the overall theme of the night, “why this image, done in this way, how is it yours, what did you bring to it?” Jason is right when he talks about some of the standard images like sunsets being done to death. It’s not enough (for most of us) just to make a record of a nice view, we want others to be blown away with how wonderful/different/creative our images are, kind of like the quote from Robert Frank.

“When people look at my pictures I want them to feel the way they do when they want to read a line of a poem twice.”

Unless we are extraordinarily lucky and sometimes that’s all that separates the snapshot from the amazing, we will get out of our camera exactly what we put into it. Sure the shots are there in some form or other, but if we want more we have to put more in; more time, more thought, (more money!) and more of ourselves.

“You just have to live and life will give you pictures.” – Henri Cartier-Bresson

True, but will they be good ones?

Thanks Jason for coming out and sharing with us your thoughts, it definitely made us think and I’m sure more than a few of us were prompted to pull out the old photography books to review.
You can visit Jason’s website by clicking on the link below.

Beyond The Darkness with Larry Louie

By Doug Petry

Wednesday February 8 marked the return of award winning photographer Larry Louie to share with club members his presentation titled: Beyond the Darkness.

We’ve been very fortunate to have Larry visit the club several times over the past few years. Last year he shared his own unique perspective with us by helping to critique our images on submission night and I learned a lot about my own photography and how I can improve my images by making them more emotionally relevant to the audience.


Larry’s own style has evolved over the years as he went from primarily a landscape photographer to a travel/documentary photographer, visiting remote, mostly impoverished locations throughout the far East. Below is a quote from the Info page of his website.

On his travels, he is a humanitarian documentary photographer, exploring the lives of remote indigenous people, and documenting social issues around the world. As an optometrist, Larry adjusts people’s visual perception. As a photographer, he seeks to adjust people’s view of the world. Either way, he is interested in things that exist outside the regular field of vision.”


Larry talked about how things changed for him when he visited the Guggenheim Museum in New York and saw a display of B&W photography from the 1970’s. His newfound interest in B&W photography coupled with his work with Seva Canada, Oxfam and other NGO’s in areas of the world where medical care is difficult to obtain or completely unavailable, led him to his current passion for Humanitarian Documentary Photography.


Larry says that for this kind of photography, organizing the trip, traveling and getting access to remote areas is 90% of the work. The actual photography is the fun part. Larry takes a minimum amount of equipment with him on these trips; a wide angle lens, a 50 mm prime and a short zoom along with one body is all he takes.

His technique is to “forget the technique” so that “the subject shines through.” He says that a photographer needs to “put life into the image” and act like a “fly on the wall” spending time getting comfortable with the subject, smiling and observing them in their own environment before taking the photograph.

He says that “the photograph is not just about the primary subject, the background is part of the story and helps to create a united scene.”


Larry thinks of himself as an “old school shooter” and conserves his shots, taking his time and thinking through what he wants to portray in the image.

It seems to me that we can all learn from viewing Larry’s work. Even though most of us will likely never have the opportunity to travel to some of the places that Larry has visited, with some thought and effort we can learn to apply some of the techniques let the subject shine through in our images. Thanks Larry



Composition- Turning Great Expectations Into Great Photographs

By Doug Petry

I enjoyed the chance to prepare over the past few months for a presentation on the subject of Photographic Composition at the Photo Club, and Wednesday evening before a pretty good sized crowd I finally got it done! Phew…..

While doing research for the workshop on Composition I re-discovered a textbook that has been gathering dust on my shelf for years and I’ve mined a few choice nuggets from the book titled “Photographic Composition” by Grill & Scanlon and published by Amphoto.

Basically it boils down to this, Composition is control. The Composition of the photograph is how the photographer directs the viewer toward or through the idea that was the inspiration of the photograph. It gives the photographer influence over the viewer physically, emotionally and intellectually. Composition is control!

One more bit of information from the book that I found enlightening was that the rules of composition were developed after the fact. Basically, art critics analyzed well composed works and came up with the “rules” that we’re familiar with.

They did the work for us in a sense.

But we have to remember that a Compositional rule is useful only if it enhances the idea behind the photograph. If it doesn’t, then the rule not only can be, but MUST be broken!

When I started thinking about Composition my mind went first to the importance of answering the question “what is our Inspiration for taking a particular photograph?” because I think that before you know why you’re taking a photograph, the process of composing it is likely going to be either a) haphazard or b) kind of by rote.

As artists, is that how we want to be making our art? Is it enough to be shooting in a sort of automatic mode (in our brains) even as we pride ourselves in never shooting in the automatic mode on our cameras? Probably not!

Perhaps we’ve figured out how to produce technically excellent work, but we’re so focussed on that side of things that we aren’t as creative as we could be, we’re lacking inspiration. That’s one possible outcome.

Or the other side of the coin is that we may have an amazing artist’s eye and we can visualize great photographs but we too often miss out on seeing them through to their potential because we’re in too big of a hurry or we aren’t properly prepared and that limits our creative options.

So to me, the first step in a good composition is to ask the question, “What am I trying to accomplish with this photograph?” If we can pause and think for a second and visualize what it is we’re trying to say through the photograph we’re on the way to turning our inspiration into a photograph that we can be proud of.

Doug Petry- I think youre going to like it here
But once that is accomplished, how do you go from inspiration to composition to the finished masterpiece.

Well the secret is apparently…..your diet.

Recently there was a post on called “Key elements of a great photograph: the Photographer’s Diet”. I found it interesting and I believe that using this process can help us to make better photographs and to evaluate our work to see how it can be improved. I’m going to quote a bit here from the article.

“Each photograph we take–whether carefully composed or just a quick snap–has elements within it that determine whether it provides a strong visual impact on the viewer:”

Design, Information, Emotion, Timing.

Below is a link to a YouTube video explaining the concept and below that is a link to the post where I first came across the concept.

In the post, the author states, If we can dial in even two of these elements in a single photograph, we’re likely to have an image that works. Add in one to two more, and we’re likely to get a memorable image–one that’s likely to be a portfolio shot.”

Diet slide

So what do these terms mean?

Design is probably best thought of as the traditional elements of Photographic Composition. Check out the link below to learn more.

Information  refers to some kind of context, the story or idea behind the photograph, you want to make your viewers think, you may just give a hint and let the viewer complete the narrative for themselves.

Emotion – a photograph should cause an emotional reaction in the viewer, you want the viewer to feel something!

Timing  refers to that decisive moment when a photograph looks as though it couldn’t have been taken even a moment sooner or later. It captures that particular moment perfectly.

Try evaluating your work using these four criterion, I think you will find it useful.

These are some of the elements of Composition that are part of that “Design” element that we mentioned earlier and the first one is space

  • Space – the area in which the design takes place, also active & dead space. Subjects and objects are generally given somewhere to look or move into within the image. Active space is the space in front of the subject.
  • Vertical or Horizontal, Panoramic, Cropping the image
  • Decide how much or how little to show
  • Where to place objects within the frame
  • Rule of Thirds


Some cameras have a rule of thirds grid built into the viewfinder and LCD screen that you can turn to help you with composition.

Negative Space

  • Negative space is the area between and around objects in a photo. Use it to see shapes and sizes more effectively, and produce better composed images.
  • The area occupied by the main subject is known as Positive space
  • Try to ignore the objects in the scene altogether and instead concentrate on the gaps between and around them. This forces you to pay more attention to your composition, and helps you see shapes and sizes more accurately.


  • Form refers to when shape takes on three dimensions. Form is created by shadows and highlights on an object in the photograph.
  • When the light is behind your subject, that creates backlight, and backlight creates silhouettes. Silhouettes are two-dimensional and they are shapes.
  • When the light moves to the side or front of your subject, that creates shadows and highlights, giving the subject form.
  • Shapes can be geometrical and/or abstract. 
  • Square & Rectangles represent strength, human-made things, they imply stability & trust
  • Triangles are dynamic and imply movement
  • Circles & Ovals represents unity, wholeness and perfection
  • The way subjects connect to each other in a photo will often form shapes that draw the eye from subject to subject.
  • If a photograph’s composition lacks shape, the photo becomes too busy or awkward to fully appreciate.


  • Texture can be used to convey information about a subject, rather than just making for a visually appealing image.
  • Texture fills in empty spaces
  • Texture can be the subject of the photograph
  • TextureBalance
    • When different parts of a photo command your attention equally, perfect balance is achieved.
    • Informal balance occurs when dissimilar elements balance each other out on each side of the frame.
    • Morraine-Lake-008Watermarked_edited-1
    • Light against dark – A small area of white in a photo can be balanced by a larger area of black, and vice versus. Each one does not have to have the same intensity.
    • Colors – A small area of vibrant color can be balanced by a larger area of neutral color. Vibrant colors provide more intensity and therefore large neutral areas can be used to compensate for it.
    • Texture – Small areas with interesting textures in a photo can be balanced by larger areas of smooth, un-textured elements.

    Homework this month is to try out the Photographers DIET by evaluating some of your current work and by using this technique when shooting new images.




Photo Club Camping Trip 2016

Dinosaur Provincial Park is about 5 hours from Edmonton by car but it’s about a million years away from the lush green fields and valleys of the Edmonton area.

As you drive south the landscape gets gradually drier and flatter the closer you are to the park until suddenly there it is, just past the “watch for snakes on the road sign” the grassland drops away into the wide valley of the Red Deer River.

It just so happened that for my Thursday evening arrival, nature had arranged a spectacular welcome display consisting of a magnificent rainbow that seemed to emanate from the valley floor directly below me. It appeared to soar up out of the badlands, arch across the sky and return again to earth miles away. And for the first time ever, as I drove along in wonder, towing my little old trailer behind, I could clearly see far below me, the end of the rainbow.

I wish I could show you a picture but alone in the vehicle on a steep hill with signs very boldly declaring “ABSOLUTELY NO STOPPING ON HILL!” I was unable to get a shot of the magical moment.

The trip appeared to be starting out well and I was excited to get parked as quickly as possible because I had 2 tickets to the “Sunset Tour” through the restricted access area of the park.

Of course backing a trailer into a particular spot usually goes well if no-one is around but in this case 15 or so of my fellow photo club members were sitting around the camp fire with nothing better to do than watch the show.


The Group Campsite at Dinosaur Provincial Park

Don tried to help out but it still took a few embarrassing tries before I finally got it parked and then it was time to head for the meeting place and catch the bus for the tour. Don, Steve and his family and some people from Ontario joined me for my first of three tours.

For a moment it looked like we weren’t going to go because of rain but we waited it out and I’m glad we did, the tour was great and we all loved it, the photographic opportunities were amazing and because of the fact that paid tours are the only way to access the restricted areas unless you are on an official dig, we were able to see things that many visitors to the park never get a chance to see.


The Valley of the Castles

After two glorious hours chasing amazing vistas illuminated by a setting sun and spiced up with far off rain showers, we finally made our way back to the group campsite to join the rest of the club members around the campfire.

I was up early the next day to catch the sun illuminated ridgeline directly behind our campsite and to begin a daily quest to locate and photograph the small herd of mule deer that inhabit the valley. On this first morning I spotted several deer too far away to get any good shots with the kit lens that happened to be on my camera.


Sunrise and Moon-set right behind the group site

Later that morning a bunch of us drove into Brooks to visit the famous “Brooks Aqueduct” and somehow even though I really didn’t want to, I ended up leading a procession of vehicles into town.

Of course the route I took (which looked like a nice paved road on the map) turned into a barely paved, extremely rough country road before degenerating to gravel. Gordon, who was traveling with me, gamely accepted the map and thereby the blame for our chosen route, giving me the chance to accurately proclaim, “Gordon had the map!” when anyone later mentioned the rough roads we took.

Gordon and Barry and a few others had been to the aqueduct on a previous club trip so they knew the spots to get the best images of the graffiti and junk inside the giant concrete pipe that had once enabled the railways to entice settlers to an area that otherwise would have been too dry to farm.


Some local colour at the far end of the Aqueduct

Down at the other end of the pipe the repeating lines and patterns of the support piers and iron rails across the top made for some great images, especially as the piers are not all the same length. I think we all enjoyed photographing the historically significant local landmark.


Love the line receding into the distance

That night we enjoyed a communal supper shopped for with much gusto by Hedy who related to us the hilarious story of her adventure purchasing our dinner at Costco.

Getting a little carried away, she accidentally purchased way more sausages then there were going to be group members for super. It was decided during a consultation with her husband Steve, that no-one was likely to want 6 sausages and so she packed up half of them to return to the store.

Apparently returning extra sausages is not something that happens every day and at first the woman was adamant, “sorry but no way”.

She didn’t know who she was dealing with however and unsurprisingly, by the time she was done, Hedy had convinced her that this was a special case and yes, she could in fact return the extra sausages.

Since returned food can’t be resold in the store they make a policy of donating it to homeless shelters, so in the end, “unbridled shopping enthusiasm leads to extra food for the homeless” could be the headline for this little story!

Strangely enough, Hedy’s kind offer to drop off the food at the homeless shelter was politely refused, although perhaps with a few exaggerated eye rolls after it was all over.

After supper, 14 of us met at the bus for the sunset tour and even though it was the same tour as the previous evening, we had a different driver and the weather was a little different and we stopped at one or two different places and I enjoyed it just as much as the night before. In fact, because we were all together and interested in photography, the driver let us have a little more input into when and where we stopped.

Bill (another Sony guy) offered to loan me a lovely 10mm Voigtlander Heliar-Hyper wide angle lens and using it on my Sony A7 ii (full frame mirrorless) over the next two days I fell in love with this lens! It is extremely wide but since it is a rectilinear design there is a lot less distortion then you might expect. I had the lens for 2 days and it was fantastic to have in addition to my regular cheap kit lens.


Beautiful eroded rock formations taken with a 10 mm lens

The next morning I was up early again and when I went up the hill I bumped into Gordon ahead of me with his tripod, trying to get those elusive sunrise shots of the ridgeline and the valley floor.

I was on a mission though to check out the Southwest part of the valley and locate the deer that I had seen the day before. While I was still making my way there, I heard a coyote yelping and howling and I hurried up to a vantage point and peered over the edge.

I was astonished to see a mule deer doe running across the meadow below, chasing…….a lone coyote. I snapped a few shots with my second camera, a Sony A77 APS-C body with a 70-300mm lens and managed to catch a few images showing both the coyote on the run and the angry doe that was chasing it off.


A Mule Deer doe chases a Coyote away from her fawn

After she was sure it was gone the doe returned to the spotted fawn she had been protecting and I watched as they jumped the creek and moved off across the hillside across from me.

Cool! And I even got a few shots of the action.

That night was our second go at a communal supper and everyone pitched in to cook up a mess of pasta along with garlic toast and Saskatoon pie for dessert. After that it was another night around the camp fire interspersed with trips up the dark mountain looking for cell phone coverage to call or text my wife. I got plenty of brownie points allocated to me when I told her what lengths I had to go through to get a signal.

Climbing the pitch black giant mountain and braving the packs of giant coyotes (would you believe one skinny coyote with weird glowing eyes?) and the swarms of giant mosquitoes to balance precariously on the cliff edge waving a cell phone around just to say good night tends to rack up a lot of valuable points!


Right above the campground I found this same pair of Mule Deer that was involved in the Coyote chase the day before

One thing that surprised me about this year’s trip was that people didn’t seem to be that interested in doing any night shooting. I imagine some people still went off on their own but as far as I know there was no organized attempt to go out as a group.

Sunday was scorching hot and it ended up being a pretty laid back day with the big excitement being when Bill came back from a visit to Brooks with 2 big tubs of ice cream along with 2, count em, 2 types of sauce!

Monday morning turned into an unofficial race to bug out and move on. It almost seemed like the last one out of there was going to get stuck with the bill!

All in all it was a very successful and worthwhile trip and I enjoyed it immensely. Anyone I talked to seemed to feel the same way so thanks Barry and Don and Hedy and Ralph and all of the board members and anyone else who pitched in to make this years camping trip such a success, it was great and I’m already looking forward to next year!

Creating Emotion in Photography

Lot’s to think about for club members who came out to see Daniel Sundahl Wednesday night at The Inn. Dan is a Leduc paramedic/firefighter who has blended his love of photography with his need to process through and purge his mind of some of the more difficult and traumatic calls that he experiences as a paramedic.
As he works to re-create these calls, he stages the scene, staffed with actual co-workers and equipment that is similar to what was actually used during the call and through this process he can “get the call out of my head.”
He says his other purpose is to help other first responders deal with what they’ve experienced on the job, “exposing the emotional underbelly of emergency services” so that people can see that they’re not alone.

His Dansun Photos Facebook page has 59,563 likes so obviously what he is doing with his photography is striking a cord with his viewers. These days he’s doing a lot of traveling and speaking to groups of emergency services personnel around the world and his work is recognized by many to be helpful and therapeutic for those in the industry.
Even though the purposely eerie, heavily processed look of most of Dan’s photographs is very far from the “purist” sort of lightly processed, let’s capture it in the camera sort of work that most of the club is used to; for the sort of effect that Dan is going for he’s obviously been very successful.

In fact, as strange as it is to find myself saying so, his images even at their most phantasmal have a strange sort of reality that many ordinary, unprocessed, mundane images lack. Re-created as they are from very real, dramatic, emotional and often tragic actual occurrences they speak volumes about life and death and the situations that first responders face daily.


Often as you look at his images you miss at first the spectral presence that may be hovering to one side, and your eye does a double take as you re-interpret the image as a whole. Dan has been working in these situations for a long time and though I can’t remember his exact words, he believes that there are unseen things happening around those people as they struggle for life.

I learned a lot Wednesday night and although I will probably never use most of the processing techniques that Dan graciously shared with us, it was really interesting to hear how these photographs have helped so many people deal with their experiences.

Dan had some valuable advice for us as photographers, regardless of the type of images we make and it went something like this, “focus on something that you are emotional about, something you have a connection with and share that emotional connection.”
Good advice.
Whatever our style, whatever we’re shooting, if there is no emotional reaction, no connection to our work, unfortunately the viewer is unlikely to linger long or care much.

You can see more of Dan’s work here,

Written by Doug Petry

Storytelling: an evening with aAron Munson

By Doug Petry

We had an interesting visit from film-maker/cinematographer aAron Munson Wednesday evening at the monthly speaker night for the St. Albert Photo Club.

You could be forgiven for thinking, “….what! Still photographers and a film-maker in the same room, what’s going to happen?”

Well not a lot of drama, as it turns out, just a lot of very fascinated photographers and one film-maker walking a bit of a tightrope between the two genres.

I’m not sure how the stars aligned to bring aAron to us, but it was a very fortuitous circumstance indeed. Thank you very much Don and whoever or whatever else was responsible, it was great. And thanks to aAron for coming out and sharing his work with us!

Looking beforehand at aAron’s website,  I was intrigued but also wondering how a presentation from someone who’s primary interest is film-making would be received by club members. It turns out that from my own reaction and also what I gathered talking to others, that it was overwhelmingly positive.


aAron poses on a calm day at Isachsen

Like most members, my primary interest has been landscape photography and I still love it, but (and it’s a very big but) I’m finding that there is an element of boredom that is setting in. Over the last year or so, I’m finding that the club has taken a subtle shift (tilt/shift?) away from landscape/nature/static types of photography and it seems to be moving towards more dynamic, people based photographs and I for one am excited about it.

Through the influence of our resident street photographer: Hedy Bach, and our recent critique guy: Larry Louie and now cinematographer aAron Munson and other speakers and club members, my own work and probably the work of other members, is changing.

It’s a little disconcerting at first because we like to settle into a comfortable place, but the challenge of pushing ourselves into producing work that is more interesting, current and dynamic is good for our art in the long run. After all, if people are more engaged and interested and challenged by viewing our work, that’s great for them and for us.

What I learned from aAron’s work is the concept of telling a story. Yes, I know that it isn’t a new concept, photographs are meant to tell a story, but it’s time to go a little deeper than that.


Preparing to land at Isachsen

When you look at it through the eyes of a film-maker who goes through the agonizing process of raising money, researching the history of an area, booking a charter aircraft and a professional guide and then travelling thousands of km. across Canada’s north to a remote, desolate and abandoned weather station, you learn a little something about story telling.

Isachsen is the remote weather station on Ellef Ringnes Island, abandoned in 1978 that is the subject of aAron’s latest project that he is working on with the plan to turn the film clips and images into an art installation at a gallery in Edmonton. It’s a fascinating story of how his father at the tender age of 19, spent a difficult year there in 1974-1975. We got a bit of an idea through the photos and clips, of the difficulties that those stationed there must have gone through dealing with the darkness, the isolation, the cold and the wind over a period of months and as long as a year.


The guide poses in aAron’s dad’s old parka and mittens



Today, long abandoned, the station buildings fill with snow in the winter months as the ferocious wind blows through any little hole, creating strange contorted sculptures and drifts, clinging to frozen chairs, wires and equipment left behind when the site was abandoned.


Reading his father’s diary and seeing his old photographs of the station piqued aAron’s interest and drove him to raise the money and execute his plan to spend a week camping out in the desolate ruins of one of the loneliest spots on earth.


For a film-maker maybe that’s business as usual, but for me and I would imagine for most of the club members as well, that might be a bit much! Yes, I will get up early and go for a canoe ride in the mist (with a nice cup of coffee) or lug along with me and set up a tripod to capture some fuzzy water shots of a waterfall, but a week on some remote island in the arctic? No thanks!

aAron also showed us a great film of the behind the scenes making of one segment of “The Great Human Odyssey” for “The Nature of Things” on CBC. It sounded like another mindbogglingly difficult quest to tell a story, that included two trips over two years to film the local Russian indigenous people harvesting eggs from the remote “Bird Island”.

Beautiful, fascinating and rewarding, but a little beyond what the average photographer would go through to get the shot. A project involving researchers, dialogue, costumes, actors and other crew members, locals and deep pockets bankrolling weeks of shooting can tell a compelling story it seems.

And aAron’s Isachsen project, that may eventually include an entire art installation with wind machines and a refrigerated room and artifacts to go along with the film clips and photographs, has the potential to tell a much more complete story than a single photograph can on its own.


But we as photographers needn’t worry about competing with these kinds of genres, we just need to look a little deeper and think more about the story and what it is exactly that we want to share with the viewer of our images. At least, that’s what I need to do.

A few weeks ago, one of my images was critiqued on submission night and it was suggested that what would make it a much better photograph would be if the mirror (of the public restroom) was cracked….excuse me!

I’m sure not going to go around breaking mirrors in public restrooms to get a more dramatic shot. But what I took away from the critique was that I could have upped the ante a little and had a better shot by adding drama in other ways. Some human artifact added to the scene, maybe something poignant written on the mirror with soap or lipstick (and carefully scraped off afterwards). You get the idea. Tell a more complete story, even if we need to embellish it a little to make it interesting.

But I digress.

aAron also showed us some dramatic images taken at a remote, half abandoned town in Siberia that featured buildings, factories and vehicles quickly falling into decay since the workers just walked away when the Soviet Union collapsed. Today it resembles a post-apocalyptic wasteland and when he was stuck there for a week waiting to return from Siberia, aAron took advantage of his time there and returned day after day to photograph the abandoned ruins.

He mentioned one particular scene where he stumbled upon a young couple sitting at a little table, having a romantic date among the ruins. It just goes to show you how things have changed for me that that particular image was the one that I really wanted to see!

But unfortunately, he felt weird about taking a photograph of them and of course now he wishes that he had. He ended up with many pictures of the ruins, but few photos of people.

For me, Wednesday night was one more great evening learning what other people are doing and now I’m enjoying imagining how I can apply that knowledge to push my own photography in a new direction. I hope to see aAron’s influence creep into my own work and also into the work of other club members, looking forward to seeing what we come up with!


The wing of a plane that crashed in the 1940’s



Liquid Art Photography with Darlene Young

Wednesday April 13, SAPC was fortunate to have Darlene Young do a presentation on her particular interest (obsession?), Liquid Art Photography.

It’s always fun and interesting to see someone who is passionate about a topic that also holds some interest for the rest of us and this was one of those times. It didn’t seem like very many, if any, of the club members had tried out this type of photography before, but I’m guessing that might change soon.

Armed with all of the tips and tricks that Darlene shared with us, I don’t doubt that soon the club members will be seen wheeling out of area thrift stores carrying armloads of cheap glasses, towels and tarps as they prepare to have fun smashing things in the interests of art!

But I’m getting ahead of Darlene’s story.

She advises us that we can start with an easier project like “simple” water drops with not much more than a little imagination, a deep dish, a water dropper and something for a colourful background.

November Slide-4

Here are a few tips from Darlene for this type of photography.

  • The set up can be as simple as filling the dish so that the water is even with the edge of the dish. Pre-focus on the area the water will drop to. You can use a pencil or straw across the top of the dish. Put something in the water that will stand up. 
  • Use your auto focus or do it manually. Remember to not shoot with auto focus on. It will not be fast enough to catch the drop. Always turn IS off on your lens. When your camera is on a tripod it can cause a very minor shake causing your focus to be off. 
  • So find your favourite piece of paper, tinfoil etc. and prop it up behind your dish. You can also position flowers behind the dish and catch the reflection of the flower in the water drop. 
  • Use a plastic water dropper suspended above the dish. It can be as easy as stacking some books on each side and placing a piece of wood on top. Tape the water dropper to the middle of the wood. This gives you more stability and the drop will hit in the same spot each time. 
  • For a beginner you can use your on camera flash to stop the action. Off camera flash gives you more flexibility. 
  • For water photography you should use an f stop between f11 and f16. You want as much of the drop in focus as possible. Start at ISO 100, F11 and the shutter speed will be around 1/250th of a second. 
  • If using off camera flash your shutter speed is always dictated by the flash sync speed. Most are 1/250th of second, some are 1/200th of a second. If you aren’t freezing the motion up your ISO. I start with a single flash set at 1/32. If I need a touch more light I bring in a piece of reflective material such as white foam core board. Light from the flash will reflect off the white surface giving you more light on your water drop. 
  • Another set up idea is using a piece of translucent paper and put your flashes behind it. This will diffuse and spread the light. Add food colouring to the water to give you a different look. 
  • Now water drops don’t always have to be done with dishes. You can use the kitchen tap set to drip. Tape a piece of colourful paper behind the tap so that you get some great patterns in the drop. Still using the same type of set up as before. Tripod and camera set up in front of the sink. Off camera flash to the left, leaving room on the right for a reflector if you need it. 
  • Be creative. Use a photo of the earth behind the water drip. It looks like a small globe in the water drop. Use a piece of scrap booking paper with little maple leaves all over it and catch the reflections in the drop. November Slide-8
  • One tip for you is that if you want the maple leaf or some symbol to be upright in the drop, tape the piece of paper upside down behind the drip. Refraction will make the maple leaf appear in the drop upside down. So you have to flip the paper so that the reflection is right side up. 
  • A quick note about liquids. You don’t always have to use just water. You can add glycerin to the water which will make the water drop have a bit of an oily look but can be cool with an abstract pattern. You can use milk or cream. If I am after collision drops, where one drop hits another I like to add Guar Gum. Guar Gum is a simple thickener that you can find prepackaged at the Bulk Barn or online. Changing the viscosity or thickness of the water can give you better drops.

Once you’ve been successful with some of the simple drops and collision shots and you’ve created some cool “crown” photos from splashes colliding with drops you can move on to some of the more elaborate setups with fish tanks and fruit amazing underwater shots. Below are more tips from Darlene.

November Slide-33

Fish Tank Photography:

  • Everyone has seen shots of fruit with splashes. Fruit underwater, flowers underwater, etc. A 10 gallon fish tank is a cheap, fun way to get these shots. You will need off camera flash for this. On camera will only reflect on the front glass panel and ruin the shot. 
  • Set up is simple. Put your tank somewhere that can take the weight of the fish tank filled with water. Remember there will be splash! Cover surfaces you don’t want to get wet. Cheap tarps, old towels and blankets are great surface protectors. 
  • Now fill the tank in place because you do not want to carry a filled 10 gallon fish tank. If you are not using distilled water you need to let the tank sit for a while so that all the bubbles you create pouring in the water have time to go away. Distilled water will speed up your start time but is also more expensive than tap water. 
  • An essential tool for a fish tank session is a squeegee. As you toss fruit and veggies into the tank you introduce air. This makes fine bubbles on the inside of the glass. It is next to impossible to remove these in post and they don’t add to the photo. 
  • Set up a piece of foam core behind the fish tank. If you place the foam core close to the back of the tank your background will be a nice bright white. If you want a darker background, move the foam core further back. 
  • I place a flash beside the fish tank and one above it. F11-16, ISO 100, Shutter dictated by sync speed. 
  • Place something in the tank and set your focus before you start. 
  • Using a remote allows you to drop your fruit or vegetables into the tank while taking the photo at the same time. Timing will be an issue at first yet the more you practice the easier it is.

Even more advanced and by the sounds of it a little bit tricky to get right but well worth the effort is the;

November Slide-47

Skateboard /Glass Splash:

  • So if you are setting up for a sliding splash session you can use the same lighting set up with a few tweaks for throwing glasses. You can start by just putting the swimming pool on the table you are going to work with. 
  • Place a towel or something soft inside the pool. This will save you many, many glasses. If the glasses have a soft place to land you will have much less breakage. 
  • Glass splash is so easy and fun. Make sure to put something in place to pre-focus. So I don’t use anything to mark the spot but you might want to consider some sort of marker so that you know where you want to toss. It can be as easy as placing a long piece of doweling level with where you want to hold the glass to start the toss. Shot wide so that you catch the splash as it flies through the air. 
  • I began with a skateboard on a ramp. It is really messy and a whole lot of fun. Using a skateboard is more advanced only because you have to do some DIY. You can’t just go out and buy a set up for this. 
  • Essential tools for Glass Splash are your set up but a small kiddie pool from Walmart is the cheapest best thing you can have. The small pool helps to catch most of the water that goes flying around. Also towels or rags to help wipe down the background and the area you are working in. Put tarps on the floor. 
  • One rule with glass splash is to make sure you don’t use anything you want to use again. Like Grandma’s crystal wine glasses. Whether just tossing glasses to catch the splash in mid-air or sliding it to catch the splash at the end things can and do go wrong on occasion. That’s why buying glasses from thrift shops and garage sales are perfect for this. You get variety and you don’t care if they break. 
  • No matter what the set up, you need to use a really good glue to glue the glasses on to your surface of choice. I have used shelves from the as is section in Ikea, glass from photo frames, mirrors and my favourite is plexiglass. 
  • I use GOOP glue which seems to be able to glue anything to anything and I let it set over night. I buy it at the hardware store. Find one that says extra strength. 
  • With a ramp set up you have to make sure you have something to stop it. Something solid. 
  • The key to doing this if you use a ramp is that your camera has to be on an angle. So set your camera on an angle so that the line of glasses is straight in your viewfinder. 
  • I now use a slider table which is easier. It is simply constructed and you start with everything level.  
  • I use a wipe able background that is translucent. I position two or three flashes behind the background and one on each side in the front. The background flashes are set at about 1/16 usually. The fronts are generally 1/32.
  • The background flashes are brighter to help create a white background. The front one helps to freeze the water. 
  • A few things to keep in mind when shooting is something you all learned as children. If you place your glasses all in a row which is pleasing to the eye, the colours will mix. If you don’t want the lighter colours to get ugly don’t put them in the front glass. Green and Yellow don’t make blue. They make an ugly lime green which is not pleasing to the eye. The only time I put a really light colour in the front is if I am willing to dump the glasses between each shot. 
  • Use water coloured with food colouring and splash away.

Purple Plunge2

Thanks Darlene for taking the time to come out and share your hard earned lessons, tips and tricks for getting those amazing liquid action shots. It was fun and inspirational.

We are certain to see over the coming months more examples of this kind of photographic art entered in the clubs monthly submissions nights. I’m looking forward to trying it out myself and seeing the work of other club members.

Photographs courtesy of Darlene Young, Copyright Darlene Young.




Buttercup and Shooting Stars

An Evening with Photographer Joel Koop – January 13 2016

Wednesday evening was an interesting night at the St. Albert Inn as Joel Koop gave his presentation titled “Your Journey & the Record” to the members of the club. You can check out some of Joel’s work below or on his website here.

As he talked about his own journey and how his interest in photography developed (so to speak) he showed us some of his very early images from his days growing up near Nipawin, Saskatchewan. Like most people, in those early days he used whatever equipment was handy and began shooting objects that he found interesting in the yard and the bush near his home.

He shared some of his first attempts trying to capture shots of chipmunks in the wood piles and grouse in the woods with a camera built for capturing less dynamic domestic scenes, more likely consisting of a line of smiling relatives standing in front of grandma’s house after her 80th birthday celebration.

It was a familiar story, similar to my own journey and probably to the stories of many of the club members in attendance Wednesday night. Most of us picked up a camera at one point, started shooting and were soon hooked. Whether it’s the equipment, the creative possibilities or the stimulation to just get out there and capture our little corner of the world and then share what we’ve made with others; we all share a love for photography!

Joel shared a very interesting philosophical point that I think all photographers need to completely absorb into their mind/heart/artists worldview and I will try to pass that along here, hopefully without messing it up too badly. I believe he said it this way, “your life affects your photography, but your photography has to stand on its own”.

It seems to me that Joel is very, very, right on this point, providing that is, that the photographer wants to elevate his/her work beyond the snapshot level. I’m pretty sure that is something all of our club members are shooting for.

Aurora Dancing with Trees

Our lives affect our photography. Check, I get that. Our photographs have to stand on their own. What! Not so check! (A bit of a revelation actually) This little tidbit was the salient point of the whole evening, for me at least.

I’m sure that most of us struggle with the emotional attachment that we have with the subject of our photographs. I am constantly remembering as I view my own work. Sometimes I can still taste the coffee I was drinking as I drove at 5:30 am to a little bridge over the Sturgeon River on a July morning in 2006, hoping for fog in the valley floor and dew in the grain field and being absolutely ecstatic to find exactly those conditions waiting for me.

When I look at the images that I took that day, my perception of them is warped/coloured by those memories and it’s a struggle to judge them impartially. Of course I wouldn’t have it any other way, I need those memories, they’re what keeps me going, they propel me out of bed before sunrise (occasionally) and compel me to continually seek out those opportunities.

That, in a nutshell is what makes photography along with many other art forms so incredibly wonderful and rewarding, it makes us experience life on another level. Of course it also makes us miss out on some of what’s going on around us as we fumble with our gear, but that’s a whole other discussion!

Our photography HAS to stand on its own. Our viewers were not present when the photograph was taken, so just as the image was captured by the photographer, the viewers’ attention must be “captured” by the photograph.

We all know the methods to accomplish this, we use composition, colour, storytelling, emotion, detail, lighting, technical excellence, creativity, style, etc. We make choices based on our training, artistic abilities, and a lifetime of experiences and then we present our work and oftentimes are left wondering why people didn’t respond in the way we expected them to.

Our photography has to stand on its own. When the viewer looks at our work, what they see is detached from us, there is no emotional connection that we can rely on to make it interesting to them in the way it’s interesting to us. It’s a tough lesson, but one that we all need to learn if we want our work to be elevated beyond the ordinary.
Bright Fireweed

At one point Joel asked himself a question and it is probably a question that we all ask ourselves regularly, “am I a photographer?” and his answer was, “does it even matter?” Good answer.

You may be like me and have always considered yourself a photographer who pays the bills in some other way. “I’m a photographer who works ______________.” Fill in the blank. It seems reasonable if you’re taking pictures for any reason beyond taking snapshots that you’re free to think of yourself as a photographer. But however you think of yourself in terms of your photography, Joel’s advice is to experiment.

Try everything, if you have a pet; shoot it! (With your camera of course). Shoot patterns, macro, panoramas, landscapes, sports, and whatever else catches your interest. Experiment until you find something that you love and then keep shooting. Go back over the list and try some experimental techniques with lighting, lens flare, movement, etc.

Joel advises us to “let go of interesting things (to you) and instead to search out interesting photos.” If you remember the cardinal rule, “our photographs have to stand on their own” then you will definitely be way ahead of the game as you search out interesting photographs that appeal to viewers who don’t have an emotional connection to you or to your work.

Frozen Night

When we’re shooting we need to remember to separate ourselves from the experience we’re immersed in and put ourselves in the place of the viewer. Our audience are likely looking at a print or a screen with no context to draw on and no emotional connection to the image.

The challenge is to find something you love and shoot it in such a way that a complete stranger will take one look at it and love it just as much as you do. It’s a tall order of course, but one worth striving for.

Joel says, “Be kind to yourself and be ruthless with your photos”, and that’s good advice! Thanks for coming out and sharing your work and your thoughts and experiences Joel, it was a very interesting night and it gave us all lot’s to think about.

by Doug Petry

Buttercup and Shooting Stars

I am at the high valley of Mount. Edith Cavel next to the small mountain lake created by the melt waters from Angel glacier, in Jasper National Park Alberta Canada.

All fine Art Landscape images are available as art prints in collections and as limited edition signed copies. All canvas prints are all limited edition and signed.

No modification, cropping or further editing is permitted with out with the expressed permission of Drew May Photography.

December Guest Speaker – Drew May

Wednesday December 9, landscape photographer Drew May brought his own unique photographic style to show us as he spoke to the club about his “travels seeking light”. In a relaxed informal style of running through his slide show as he talked about the individual images and answering many questions along the way, Drew shared his own story as he helped all of us present add to our knowledge of photography.

Drew May

Drew has gone through a number of changes in his photographic career over the years from shooting weddings, fashion, commercial, journalism and portraiture before returning to his passion for fine art landscape photography.

He lives in Mayerthorpe Alberta, a town of 1398 residents along highway 43 on the way to Whitecourt, Grande Prairie and parts beyond. Ranging out from there, he’s covered a lot of ground in Alberta, chasing storms and exploring the majestic landscapes of the Rocky Mountains and foothills as he searches out waterfalls, lakes, streams and interesting stands of trees.

He also loves to photograph the lonely and haunting abandoned buildings that are scattered over the landscape.

Tangle River falls about 100km south of the Town of Jasper.

Tangle River falls about 100km south of the Town of Jasper.

Driving south along Hwy 93 [we just call the parkway} just before Tangle River Falls in Jasper National Park Canada. Looking South toward "the Twins" the "rim" of the Athabasca Glassier. Winter is all but given up all that lest is for the snow to melt. All fine Art Landscape and other images are available as art prints in collections and as limited edition signed copies. All canvas prints are all limited edition and signed. No modification, cropping or further editing is permitted with out with the expressed permission of Drew May Photography.

Driving south along Hwy 93 [we just call the parkway} just before Tangle River Falls in Jasper National Park Canada. Looking South toward “the Twins” the “rim” of the Athabasca Glassier. Winter has all but given up, all that is left is for the snow to melt.










He shared a little about what he’s learned over the years attempting to capture lightning strikes using various techniques from long exposures capturing several lightning strikes to using a gadget called a lightning bug. He uses a light activated shutter trigger to fire his camera (Canon 5D Mark III) when lightning occurs.

One more from a lighting shower from a few days ago. I was amazed when i really looked at this image I saw a bird in flight. And you can see it too, just left of the right hand bolt at the major bend down.

One more from a lighting shower from a few days ago. I was amazed when i really looked at this image I saw a bird in flight. And you can see it too, just left of the right hand bolt at the major bend down.

The sky is alive with this storm, it starts to turn in the beginnings of a Tornado. It did collapse and in a few moments the sky cleared and returned to a beautiful day. Good and Bad on the Canadian Prairies.

The sky is alive with this storm, it starts to turn in the beginnings of a Tornado. It did collapse and in a few moments the sky cleared and returned to a beautiful day. Good and Bad on the Canadian Prairies.









Another thing that was interesting was Drew’s use of tilt-shift lenses to get the foreground and background in clearer focus than can be achieved using a conventional lens and a small aperture. I won’t get into the technical details (because I don’t understand them) but if you’re interested just google – tilt shift lenses or  “the Scheimpflug principle”.

He also uses neutral density filters to extend the exposure time to capture creamy water photographs and cloud movement as well as graduated neutral density filters to cut the exposure to part of an image and keep the image within the dynamic range that the camera’s sensor is able to record. Grads are often used in an effort to tame harsh or contrast-y light. They’re great for adding shadow detail and keeping the colour in skies at sunset which otherwise might get too bright and wash-out to white.

Scrabiling down to the valley of the Bighorn River at the foot of the second deck of Crescent Fall. No modification, cropping or further editing is permitted with out with the expressed permission of Drew May Photography. ©

Scrabbling down to the valley of the Bighorn River at the foot of the second deck of Crescent Fall.
No modification, cropping or further editing is permitted with out with the expressed permission of Drew May Photography.

Drew does his own printing on an Epson 3880 printer and highly recommends doing your own printing, he says “it’s almost like printing in a darkroom and waiting as the image appears on the paper”. With a price of somewhere around $1500 I probably won’t be buying one anytime soon but I do get what he means. It’s a little disappointing to send off your file, wait a few days and get a substandard print back when you could do it at home and tweak it exactly how you want the print to look.

Drew does a lot of black and white processing using Nik Silver Efex Pro as a plugin for Adobe Lightroom and he says that he sometimes spends 3 or 4 hours processing an image. Wow, I feel positively lazy considering that I probably don’t spend more than 10 or 15 minutes on a favorite image!

Drew related a story about his early photography mentor sending him out to the back yard with the assignment to return with 30 “good” photographs, from a roll of 36 images. He managed to find 29 that were considered “good” and several times he returned to this lesson over the evening. What he learned and attempted to share with all of us photo enthusiasts in the audience is:

1. You don’t have to travel far from home to get “good” photographs, they’re right there in your own backyard.

2. Learn to see, look around and find those good images because they’re everywhere and all you need is a camera and the ability to see the potential in the world around you.

That’s what I picked up from Drew’s excellent presentation, thanks Drew! But there was one more thing, maybe it was subliminal from the shirt he was wearing that said something like this.

“Just One More Camera”

I suppose it wouldn’t hurt to pick up a full frame camera and a couple of tilt-shift lenses and a graduated neutral density filter and a lightning trigger and a good tripod and a suite of developing software and a printer and………my camera is obsolete and it’s time for a new one again…….and on and on it goes.

Visit Drew’s website here