More Highlight Experimentation

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?

Somewhat Abstract Reflections

My mind is whirling with weird scientific names and terms for animal-related phenomena. Who thought Haliaeetus leucocephalus would roll off the tongue nicely? And since when is plastron the bottom of a turtle and not a superhero name? So I’m going to take a quiet moment and post a couple photos.

Both photos are peaceful reflections in Horseshoe Lake, taken a few minutes apart.

Small Mountain Pond

I really wish I could have taken this photo from higher up. Maybe some day I’ll go back with a stepladder or something. But I still kind of like the photo.

Not sure if there will be photos tomorrow or the day after – my Wildlife Biodiversity and Ecology midterm is coming up quick, and lots of memorization is involved.

A small pond in Jasper National Park.


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.

Tripods on Ice

Tripods are extremely important for landscape photographers, and I have a couple good tripods that I’ve collected over the years – not my dream tripod yet, but close. I’ve heard of people at the camera store asking for spikes in the feet of their tripods, and always thought it might be a little perk but didn’t really matter. After all, in years of taking photos all over the place, I’ve never really missed having spikes on the feet of my tripods – rubber feet have always worked great.

Well, this week it all changed. Out on the icy surface of Abraham Lake, with the wind blowing constantly and extremely hard, my tripod was useless. In fact, it made everything less steady – it provided more surface area for the wind to catch. The rubber feet had no grip at all on the ice. If I let go of my tripod on the ice, it would start to move away from me as the wind pushed it across the ice. Luckily it never fell over. The best I could do was to hang on to it, put a bunch of my weight on it, and hope no super large gusts came up during the exposure (the gusts were blowing me around a bit too, despite my crampons).

So I now understand the desire for spiked tripod feet, although I’m still not sure how much they would have helped in this case. I think my conclusion is just that it is extremely hard to take long exposures on ice in extremely windy conditions.

I’m not finished going through my photos from Abraham Lake yet, but here’s a preview. This is from Wednesday morning.

Great Grey Owl

Aparently, besides showing photos from my Banff trip, I’m a little focused on birds, thanks to my class. Here’s a Great Grey Owl I spent some time with a while ago. In the last photo, if you look closely at his bill, you can see he’s recently had a meal (if you’re squeamish don’t look too close). Right around his bill (especially on the first photo) you can see his “rictal bristles” which help him feel his food while he’s eating, a little like a cat’s whiskers.

If you’re wondering why I’m using all these terms, no, I’m not trying to seem smart. I’m trying to do whatever I can to remember it all, and blogging about it should help.

Blue Green Mountain Lake

Here’s a pleasantly bright respite from the winter blues.

I’ve enjoyed this tour through past photos but I’m looking forward to moving on. I’ve been working full time at McBain through December and I’m really looking forward to January when I should have time to get outside and get some new material up here. I have lots of projects I’m eager to work on, and I’ll share them here as they progress.

Fall Birch Trees by a Small Lake

Paper birch trees (Betula papyrifera).

Yes, these are getting shorter and shorter. But at least I’m mostly keeping up. In January I should have a bit more time to expound on all things photographical. Till then, enjoy the photos.

Messy Photos

With a design background, I tend to be very line conscious in my compositions. Visual weight, positive and negative space, leading lines, rhythm – these are my photographic language. I like clear focus and simplicity. But sometimes it’s interesting to try another language. Every once in a while I’ve taken photos that come from a different place. They bypass my need for clear focus and, while still often being recognizable, are a mess of line and color almost in the vein of abstract impressionism. Here are a few that I think have worked over the last couple of years.

Magical Mushrooms

Mushrooms are one of those subjects that help photos feel just a little bit magical. Maybe it’s the books I grew up reading, but I end up wondering when a little gnome will step into the scene. In fact, a lot of my favorite photos I’ve taken have this fantastical feel. Not necessarily on the small scale, but something that hints at otherworldly creatures and epic adventures.