Category Archives: Speaker Night

The articles under this category are recaps of our special Guest Speaker nights.



This month, our guest speaker is Jens Gaethje.  He comes to us with a wealth of knowledge, skill, and talent.  He was born in Germany, but came to Canada when he was 34.  By this time, he had experienced a condition that rendered him visually handicapped.  While this halted his future as a graphic designer, it ultimately led him to explore his creativity in other methods, including music and dance.  Through determination, and later, technological advancements, he was able to find ways around his visual disability and discovered ways to pursue his visual arts and fine art photography.  This week he will speak about “The Creative Spark – seeing the world differently”.

Please join us on Wednesday evening to hear more from this talented artist and photographer. For more information, please visit his website:  He can also be found on Facebook and Instagram: JensGaethjePhotography.


October Guest Speaker Spotlight

I am pleased to welcome Mr. Bert Crowfoot as our guest speaker this week.

He is highly respected in many areas, and has graciously provided us with a brief biography:

Bert Crowfoot

Bert Crowfoot has two Indian names. His Siksika name is “Kiyo Sta’ ah” or Bear Ghost and his Kwakwaka ‘wakw name is “Gayutalas” or Always Giving. He was adopted by the Kwakwaka ‘wakw  at a potlatch in 2008, by Chief Adam Dick.

 Bert is a photographer with an intuitive eye developed over the past 30 years. Known for recording Aboriginal events and cultural knowledge through out North America, his travels always take him to new levels of perception. Most of Bert’s work is for sale with the exception of spiritual imagery.

Bert’s Siksika/Saulteaux cultural roots give him the inspiration to record and to preserve many spiritual practices with different nations. His images are taken with a highly respectful and sacred awareness of the protocols, sanctity and supernatural forces that are present in Indigenous spiritual rituals, nature and life. As part of this awareness, he believes these spiritual images are gifts to be shared with present and future generations to bear witness of the power of the Indigenous ways of life. Spiritual images cannot be sold.

 He is founder and CEO of the Aboriginal Multi-Media Society (AMMSA), General Manager of CFWE-FM, an Alberta-wide Aboriginal radio network and the Publisher of several publications including Windspeaker and Alberta Sweetgrass. AMMSA is Canada’s largest publisher of Aboriginal news and information and a recognized leader in Aboriginal communications in North America.

 Bert’s many honors over the years that include: a Lifetime Achievement Award from the province of Alberta; Venture Magazine’s “50 Most Influential Individuals in Alberta” (2004); Venture Magazines “100 Entrepreneurs who built Alberta” (2005); nominated to CBC’s Alberta 100 list (2005) and inducted into the Aboriginal Walk of Honor in Edmonton (2006). He is the great great grandson of Chief Crowfoot who signed Treaty 7.

Please come join us on Wednesday evening to hear more from this accomplished individual and learn a little bit more about his work and the culture that surrounds us here in Alberta and across the continent.

Please Welcome our First Guest Speaker for 2017/2018

Hello all, and welcome back after the summer break! We have rearranged September’s schedule a bit, and this week we will have Alexis Marie Chute joining us as a guest speaker! I am sure that we will have a wonderful evening as she speaks about the evolution of her photography practice over the past 15 years.

Alexis Marie Chute Expert Artist Author Photographer Infocus web

Ms. Chute has a wide educational experience, having traveled the world during her studies to institutions near and far. She is an experienced writer and photographer, having received a number of awards for her work, such as the 2015 John Poole Promotion of the Arts Award in Edmonton, and the 2014 winner for The Ultimate Photo Composition competition by Method Art Gallery. Ms. Chute was also cited in the 2013 Top 40 Under 40 in Avenue Magazine.

She is also the curator for the 2018 InFocus Photo Exhibit, which is currently accepting submissions until October 29th.

Please plan to join us for an enjoyable evening!  We are looking forward to seeing you there!

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


Photo Tour To Grasslands National Park

Our thanks to Ralph Fuchs for providing this month’s Speaker Night presentation

On Wednesday, January 11, Ralph Fuchs, a member of the St. Albert Photography Club, gave a presentation on the photography tour he and his son Ryan took to Grasslands National Park in 2015.  For those who aren’t familiar with this park, it is located in southwestern Saskatchewan, about 165 km east of the Alberta/Saskatchewan border and right on the Saskatchewan/US border.  Grasslands NP is one of Canada’s newer parks, having been established in 2001.  Within the park is found one of the few remaining areas of the native prairie grasslands and a number of quite rare animals that are found nowhere else in the country. It is a great destination for anyone wishing to photograph them in their natural setting.


Some of the species of wildlife you’ll be almost certain to see include: Plains Bison, re-established in the area after many years from animals moved from Elk Island National Park in 2006; Black-tailed Prairie Dogs, found only here in their natural environment in Canada; Pronghorn Antelope; Whitetail and Mule Deer; rattlesnakes; coyotes; and several others that are not so easy to spot, such as the Black-footed Ferret, burrowing owl and badger.  Most of these animals can be spotted from the main road through the park but for those who are more energetic there are several hiking trails of a variety of lengths as well. pic2pic2bpic2cpic2dpic2e

Other places that might warrant a visit while in the area are: the ghost town of Orkney, just west of the park; the Great Sandhills; and Cyprus Hills Provincial Park.  The Town of Val Marie has a couple of restaurants, grocery store and liquor outlet, a card lock for gasoline and diesel fuel, bed and breakfast, a campground with full services, a hotel (questionable quality).  Nearby is The Crossing, with a campground (a couple of sites with power), teepees and a couple of suites for rent.  In the park there is a campground with basic facilities.

If you like spending time where there are not too many other visitors, lots of wildlife (some of it quite unique) and different scenery, you will probably enjoy Grasslands National Park.

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