In a lot of ways these photos could not be more different. The top one was taken at Beaverhill Lake, which at this point is a big marshy field in the prairies. The bottom was taken near the Saskatchewan Glacier in the mountains. The top was taken in spring, the bottom one in fall. The top is macro, the bottom is a landscape.
But when I was developing the top one today, my mind immediately went to this bottom photo that I took four years ago. The tones of the images help to group them, but what really strikes me is the similarity of composition. Both are triangles with the base at the bottom of the photo. They both have interesting lines thrusting up at angles through the frame.
When I’m composing an image, I don’t often consciously think about what to call a composition or what photo it will be like. I’m usually trying to balance the elements in the frame once an interesting line catches my eye. After the fact, when I’m looking through my images though, I start to notice themes. In some ways I like this — consistency is good. But I also don’t want to overuse themes and become boring. It’s a constant struggle of evaluation, and I probably overthink it. But it’s something I’ve noticed and thought was kind of interesting.
Finally starting to make my way through photos from the last few trips. This is from Abraham Lake, which has been extensively photographed by many Alberta landscape photographers. It’s easy to come up with the standard compositions here, but it’s also easy to come up with new stuff. There’s just so much variety in the ice, water and rocks. These are methane bubbles from decomposing organic matter. The bubbles form in the ice as the water freezes layer by layer.
In a shot like this, composition is everything. It has to balance the visual weight of light and dark. The three smaller bubbles on the left have to balance with the two larger bubbles on the right. The negative space and positive space both have to be interesting — here the textures in the ice and bubbles add visual interest. And because it’s nature and you can never control it completely, there will always be random elements to deal with. In this picture, the shadow of something deeper lies near the top of the frame. I like the visual reminder that in photography, art is created between the artist and the subject: you never have complete control.
The area around Elpoca Mountain looks fascinating to me, and I never got a chance to explore it. It was a forbidden land — closed because of grizzly sightings. But the vertical slabs of rock jutting from the warm grassy slopes was a magical contrast that caught my attention, and something I have not seen often in the rocky mountains.
Often I try to take pictures of the little scenes that are usually missed in favour of the big attractions. But I get distracted by the spectacular views too. Sometimes standards are worth capturing. Here’s the top section of Bighorn Falls.
I find wildlife photography difficult — not necessarily the photographing of an animal, but the photographing of an animal artistically. I’ve been watching these beavers (Castor canadensis) doing all sorts of interesting things over the last couple of weeks. I’ve watched them chew through trees, drag them down to the water, talk to each other, slap their tails on the water, and all sorts of beaver behaviour. But photos of these fascinating activities often end up as a standard photo of a beaver. Even in beautiful evening light, a lot of shots seem to be average or only mildly interesting shots.
I’ve been trying to challenge myself to take an artistic wildlife photo. To mix my landscape aesthetic with animal subjects. This is what I’ve come up with so far. This beaver created some beautiful sunset reflections in his pond for me.
Which do YOU like better? I’ve been going back to some of my older photos and trying this blowing-out-the-highlights thing. It’s a little different, and I’m still not completely sure what I think about it. So today I’m going to post two photos—from the same place, same time, and slightly different compositions.
Here’s the new one that I’m still getting used to:
Here’s the old one—this is the way things are usually done for landscape photography. I actually put my camera on my tripod, fully extended the tripod, and held it up as high as I could to get some perspective in this shot.
What do you think?
On Abraham Lake it’s easy to get sucked into the details—there’s so many fascinating ice patterns, but every once in a while I’d look up and see something like this.
There are photographs everywhere—online, in coffee shops, in museums, on billboards. That makes it easy to be aware of what photographers and artists are doing. Artists are often inspiration to each other, and I have definitely experienced this in my interactions with artists in all kinds of mediums. Sometimes the inspiration is conscious and sometimes subconscious, but it happens all the time. I want to acknowledge some of the photographers who have inspired me, and this could be a long list. So I’ll mention them as they come up. I already mentioned Darwin Wiggett a few days ago. This photo was inspired by Jonathan Martin-DeMoor, which I guess means we have a cycle of inspiration going. That is awesome, and often when you get new and interesting work happening—when two artists spur each other on.
Just so it’s clear, I’m not talking about copying. This also happens all the time, and I’m not a fan. This is one thing I was worried about going out to Abraham Lake after seeing photos of it. You actually have to work at avoiding taking the same picture as everyone else. Or maybe you have to take it to get past it, I’m not sure yet. But I am never happy to have the same composition I’ve seen before, even if the light or the weather is different. I’m a creative person, and I want to interact with the landscape myself, not just see it through someone else’s eyes.
Sometimes I want to go to the same places I’ve seen photographed when the area looks interesting, but I’m never interested in duplicating someone else’s work. That is how the landscape spoke to them, not me. I want my photography to share my personality.
A cross-section of ice at Preacher’s Point on Abraham Lake.
Today’s pic is a little late. I might even miss a few days over the weekend while I’m at the Camrose Spirits of Christmas craft sale. I’ll have a bunch of prints, cards, and tags for sale there. Also, if you want to see a few new products I’m working on, I’ll have a few of those there too.
And in case you can’t make it to Camrose, I also have prints and cards for sale through this website. I’ve updated the way I do things, so shipping is much less expensive and every print and card you get will be signed (and prints mounted or matted). On the downside, it will take a little longer to fulfill orders. I’m guessing around 1 month, unless I happen to have that print or card already in stock, in which case you should be able to get them in a week or so.
Finally, today’s photo – a cold and snowy early spring evening at Red Rock Coulee in southern Alberta.