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 PictureCorrect.com 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 Picturecorrect.com 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 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.

Submissions Night coming soon

Our Submissions Night runs on the fourth Wednesday of most months, so the next one is on Wed. January 25, 2017. Come and share your work with others in a setting that allows for supportive and insightful critique for both new and seasoned photographers. You can also receive no critique at all, if you prefer!

All the details are available at  http://stalbertphotoclub.com/submissions2.html. For the upcoming months, the themes are:

  • January: Pattern
  • February: Minimalistic
  • March: Line
  • April: Ice
  • May: Industrial


November 2016 Submissions Night – Shadows

Shadowy figures emerged — as winners of this month’s event. Congrats to all! See the photos here (go to Galleries to view):

Open Print

1st place Barry Ryziuk
2nd place Brent Bromilow
3rd place Brent Bromilow
3rd place Barry Ryziuk

Theme Print

1st place Catherine Page
2nd place Barry Ryziuk
3rd place Catherine Page

Open Digital

1st place Al Popil
2nd place (tie) Al Popil
2nd place (tie) Sylvia Labelle
3rd place (tie) Doug Petry
3rd place (tie) Sylvia Labelle
3rd place (tie) Hedy Bach
3rd place (tie) Jeff Wallace

Theme Digital

1st place Gordon Michon
2nd place John Vanveen
3rd place Steve Pedersen




October 2016 Submissions Night: Cityscapes

Well, submissions were up so we got to choose between many great photos. Thanks again to the always-enjoyable Ray Watkins for leading the discussion, even if we don’t agree on the definition of a cityscape. Here are our favorites of the night (go to Galleries to view):

Open Print

1st place (tie) Doug Petry
1st place (tie) Laurice Block
2nd place Doug Petry
3rd place Brent Bromilow

Theme Print

1st place Brent Bromilow
2nd place Catherine Page
3rd place Barry Ryziuk

Open Digital

1st place (tie) Al Popil
1st place (tie) Kelly Rombough
2nd place (tie) Al Popil
2nd place (tie) Barry Ryziuk
3rd place (tie) Brent Bromilow
3rd place (tie) Sylvia Labelle

Theme Digital

1st place Jill Routhier
2nd place (tie) Steve Pedersen
2nd place (tie) Barry Ryziuk
3rd place Jill Routhier

September 2016 Submissions Night – “Panning”

It was an interesting first submissions night of the 2016-17 season with excellent discussions as usual, and great photos, making voting challenging. The club has implemented some new guidelines for the evening, which seemed to roll out smoothly for the most part (see the changes here).  Take a look at the gallery of winning shots here! http://stalbertphotoclub.com/blog/sapcgalleries

Open Digital
1st place Al Popil
2nd place Steve Pedersen
3rd place Brent Bromilow

Theme Print
1st place Barry Ryziuk
2nd place Catherine Page
3rd place Catherine Page

Open Print
There were many winners in this category, but the record form went missing so we will have to rely on people to indicate which place they received. This is what is known so far:
1st place Barry Ryziuk
2nd place Brent Bromilow
2nd place Doug Petry
2nd place Laurice Block
2nd place Catherine Page
2nd place Catherine Page (again!)
3rd place? Steve Pedersen

Theme Digital
1st place Al Popil
2nd place Catherine Page
3rd place Steve Pedersen
3rd place Ken Collett


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, http://www.dansunphotos.com/

Written by Doug Petry

May 2016 Submissions Night: Signs of Change

With spring in full swing, it seems more members were out taking photos rather than submitting them! With a smaller set to discuss, we were able to take time to work on our critiquing skills and discuss our process and purpose. Thanks to all who participated. We look forward to more discussion about Submissions Night at our upcoming Banquet and AGM on Wed June 15, at 6:30 at the St. Albert Inn.

Theme Print

1st (tie) Doug Petry, Catherine Page
2nd David Oman
3rd Barry Ryziuk

Open Print

1st (tie) Barry Ryziuk, Catherine Page
2nd (tie) Doug Petry, David Oman
3rd no winner due to lack of submissions (total of 4 submissions)

Theme Digital

1st Steve Pedersen – Title: “New School”
2nd Brent Bromilow – Title: “Nip in the Air”
3rd Doug Petry – Title: “Changes Ahead”

Open Digital

1st Catherine Page – Title: “Over the Water”
2nd Steve Pedersen – Title: “Old Jalapa”
3rd Barry Ryziuk – Title: “Busy Day at the Market”

Storytelling: an evening with aAron Munson

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, www.aaronmunson.com  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