Archive for the Artistic Development Category

Last Chance in 2011 for Intensive Photo Learning

Posted in Art of Photography, Artistic Development, Instruction, Monthly Photo Contest, Techniques, Workshops and Seminars with tags , , , , , , , , , , on September 15, 2011 by Darwin

Whew! Autumn is just getting started and Samantha and I are very busy with tours and workshops.  Fall is always a prime time to be out either photographing on a tour or learning the art of photography in a workshop, and this year we’re seeing a lot of keen shooters out there! In fact, almost all of our joint workshops are sold out at this juncture! Luckily, though, we still have some space in the PhotoCram Workshop held in Edson, Alberta Sept. 30 – Oct. 2, so if you are looking to invest in your photography, this is a great opportunity (and last chance!) to catch some fall colour while also honing your craft. Edson is not too far from world-famous Jasper National Park so you may want to extend your learning with a little side-trip to catch the start of the elk rut in Jasper.

©Darwin Wiggett

What is PhotoCram, you may be thinking.  Well, Sam and I have developed a special, intensive learning experience that strikes the balance between improving your technical skills (and we mean REALLY understanding creative use of aperture, shutter speed, histograms etc.) and artistic development.  (You can see the topics we are covering listed below).

Class sessions are reinforced with practice during field sessions, and student assignments ensure that concepts are understood on a working level so that your learning stays with you after the weekend is over.  We have designed this event so that both beginners and advanced shooters will gain significant benefit. The folks in the Edson Camera Club have done an excellent job in keeping the costs for this workshop low so that price is less of a barrier.  The workshop costs $300 for Edson Photography Club members and non-members are welcome at only $350.  These prices are a steal for such a concentrated burst of learning (just compare to other workshops — including our own!) so thanks Edson Camera Club for bringing this opportunity to photographers.

To sweeten the deal, we are giving away as a door prize a custom 16×20 canvas print ($350 value). Also we are drawing a name from registered participants for a 1/2 hour, 20-image private portfolio critique with Samantha and me ($200 value). Anyone registered in the Edson PhotoCram I event will have their name entered in the draw.

Creative Camera Controls Made Easy

Are you mystified by f-stops and shutter speed? Want to know how to pick the right aperture and shutter speed every time? We will reveal the three simple rules that will take the guesswork out of the technical aspects of photography. Think of it as ‘new math’ without the hard numbers. Once camera controls are mastered you will have the tools needed to master artistic expression.

The Camera and the Creative Eye

The most essential skill you can master as a photographer has little to do with camera controls and everything to do with conceiving a photograph before you snap it. We will guide you on the path to mastering the ability to ‘see’ the potential of an image in the jumbled, visual world around you.

Personal Style and Creative Vision

Are you afraid of your photographs being lost in the vast array of images out there? Does  photography feel stale to you? We will speak on the evolution of personal style in photography. What is personal style and where does it come from? Learn to shoot from your soul and let your inner artist flex its muscles. See how two photographers shooting the exact same subject at the same time will produce very different results when each photographer is shooting from the heart for personal expression.

How to Make Money with Your Photography

The industry of photography has undergone a sea change in the last decade. Learn the essential tips and techniques used by the pros to help sell and market your photos. You can make extra money selling your photos but being an artist is not enough, learn the business skills needed to get your photos seen and purchased by the world.

For more information about the Edson PhotoCram event contact We are looking forward to see you there!

©Darwin Wiggett


2011 Tours and Workshops – Something for Everyone

Posted in Art of Photography, Artistic Development, Good News, Instruction, Techniques, Workshops and Seminars with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 26, 2011 by Darwin

Below is a listing of tours and workshops available for 2011 and into 2012. Their are only a few spots left in these events so if you want to boost your learning in photography then come join us for a great time:

Fire and Ice Photo Tour – November 10 – 13, 2011

This event is sold out but to be added to the wait list contact the Aurum Lodge or sign up for the 2012 photo tour. This is one of my favorite tours because of the short days with great light and the intersection of new ice with the fiery skies of late fall.

Just Announced! Do to popular demand we have added a second Fire and Ice as of Oct 10. Tour starts Wed. Nov. 16th 5pm to Sunday Nov. 20th 1:30 pm (four nights at Aurum Lodge!), with the option to join a day later (Nov. 17th) for those who cannot make the four nights, but wish to come for three nights only. Cost is C$ 1,359 for the four night tour or C$ 1,019 for the three night tour all in. Contact Alan at Aurum Lodge to book. Only two spots left

©Darwin Wiggett

Ice Bubbles on Abraham Lake – Winter Magic Tours 2012 – Feb. 23-26, and Feb. 29 – March 4, 2012

It seems that the Ice Bubbles out on Abraham Lake have now gotten a bit famous especially after my 2008 Travel Photographer of the Year Win which featured my Abraham Lake shots. I have taken many photographers out on the ice at Abraham Lake and now their great photos are circulating around and getting lots of views. I have been leading these tours since 2005 (see the results from back then when almost everyone was still shooting film!).

It might seem an easy proposition to just drive up to the lake in winter and get great shots on your own; and yes that is possible. But the ice bubble locations change from year to year, and most people are unaware of the extreme dangers of Abraham Lake and of the other great locations near the lake. That is where your guides (Alan who lives on the shores of Abraham Lake) and I can make sure we get you to the best spots in the best light no matter the weather. And plus you get the fantastic accommodations of the Aurum Lodge which is a nice retreat after a few hours out on the ice at -25 degrees C!

In 2012, there are two tours available; Feb 23-26, and Feb. 29 – March 4 (this latter tour is already sold out). So if you are keen to photograph Abraham Lake and other great spots this coming winter, then sign up for the Feb23-26 tour before it sells out!

©Darwin Wiggett

©Darwin Wiggett - could you find this place on your own?

Some new interview links

Posted in Art of Photography, Articles about Photography, Artistic Development, Controversy, Good News, Humor, Instruction, Photography Gear, Techniques, Workshops and Seminars with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 16, 2011 by Darwin

Sam and I were lucky enough to be invited to a cool photography podcast based out of Calgary called I am Aduro. This podcast is run by Al Del Degan of Aduro Phorography and Andrew Bolton of Zombie Darkroom. We had a great time chatting and laughing with Al and Andrew. Check it out (click on the Listen Now button on the bottom of the link page) and learn what Sam really thinks of Peter Lik’s photography and why I have little respect for most Leica photographers! As well you’ll learn what it really takes to make a living at photography and the underlying theme for the show is fine art nude photography plus there are lots of cool and interesting links.

Speaking of Fine Art Nude work, check out an interview just posted where Sam and I talk about our upcoming Gaia Nudes, Nudes in the Landscape photo workshop. Click here for more.

©Darwin Wiggett

For the Ladies…An Opportunity to Photograph Fine Art Nudes

Posted in Art of Photography, Artistic Development, Workshops and Seminars with tags , , , , , on June 2, 2011 by Darwin

Based on feedback, Samantha and I have decided to make a change to the upcoming Nudes in the Landscape workshop.  We’re changing the second day, Sunday August 14, 2011 to a ‘Ladies Only’ day.  After talking about the workshop to various photographers, we realized that there is a bias out there that only men photograph nude women in this area of photography.  Definitely that is where most of the images seem to come from, but that is also where our Gaia Nudes concept is vastly different:  not only are we not photographing ‘sex’, but we are also not gender-biased in sourcing our models.  Traditional fine art nude photography ranges from abstract studies of the human form to more glam, playful and sexual posing.  Our workshop focuses on the former idea, with photographers working with both male and female models.  We are also relatively unique in that, as landscape photographers, Nature is always our first love.  How to fit and meld the human form into the landscape is the question of concern to us.  We are not bringing props.  Our models are not wearing high-heels (male or female), gobs of makeup or anything with fur, feather and leather.

So, if you are a female photographer who appreciates natural beauty, but are a bit intimidated or put off by the more er… titillating aspects of fine art nude photography, then this is your chance!  Grab a girlfriend or two and come out to this exciting day.  For the men, we do still have a spot or two available on Saturday, but don’t delay!  You can register at our website,

Who Is This Workshop For, Anyway?

On a broader note, you might be wondering who would benefit from a workshop such as this.  The answer is any photographer who shoots portraits, weddings, boudoir, and yes, landscapes.  The first three might be obvious, but why would a landscape photographer even consider attending a workshop such as Nudes in the Landscape?  The answer is simple:  most photographers who photograph nature appreciate beauty.  Developing your visual muscle to recognize and capture the fine art aesthetic can only help in your landscape photography.  Even more so if you find yourself in a rut and uninspired by your recent work.  Sometimes, a change of scenery jumpstarts your creativity again and infuses new life into all of your photography.  Not sure what the workshop entails?  Well, we will be discussing:

  • the use of natural light to illuminate the scene and the model
  • compositional tips and tricks and how to work with the elements of visual design
  • posing do’s and don’ts
  • communicating your creative vision to the  model.

So, if you are looking for ways to improve your photography, then join us for a fun, informal and creative day and learn how to appreciate beauty in new ways.  Head to Gaia Nudes to view images of this style of photography.

Seminar in Assiniboia Saskatchewan

Posted in Art of Photography, Artistic Development, Good News, Workshops and Seminars with tags , , , , , , , , , , on April 21, 2011 by Darwin

Samantha and I are headed to Assiniboia, Saskatchewan on Saturday April 30th to give a 2-hour seminar on The Complete Photo for the Group of 10 Camera Club. For a complete listing of the event and to register click this link. We are also giving some hands on field sessions on Sunday May 1 for interested photographers.  Take a road trip to a really cool spot in Saskatchewan and let the prairie light inspire you!

©Darwin Wiggett

Spring and Renewal

Posted in Art of Photography, Artistic Development, Good News, Instruction, Techniques, Workshops and Seminars with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 28, 2011 by Darwin

It has been a long cold winter but things are finally starting to change around here. Photographers are planning outdoor adventures, travel destinations are being researched, cameras are dusted off, shutter fingers are itchy. Time to get out and refresh your creative eye!

If you need a little help or motivation then you might want to consider one of the on-line courses that Samantha and I give over at Nature Photographers Online Magazine. Here you can learn about the The Essentials of Digital Landscape Photography – Part 1: Field Techniques or about Learning to “Speak” the Language of Visual Expression. In these six week courses you get one lesson per week with an assignment. Post your assignment results for critique by the instructor (that’s one of us!). You also get six week access to us to ask your burning photography questions or to get your non-assignment images reviewed (we are your slaves but we don’t do windows… or toilets). The more you put into the course, the more you get out of it. So if you are serious about getting better in photography then consider one of these courses (mine is about learning how to use your gear to express yourself,;Sam’s is about learning more how to hone your vision for personal expression). Both courses start April 1st (no foolin’!). Cost is $295 ($275 for NPN members). Have a great spring!

©Darwin Wiggett

February and March Tour Results – Alan Ernst

Posted in Art of Photography, Articles about Photography, Artistic Development, Inspirations, Instruction, Techniques, Workshops and Seminars with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 24, 2011 by Darwin

As always, Alan Ernst, owner of the Aurum Lodge and co-leader on the winter tours has shown his skill at seeing fine images in scenes most of us would pass by. This time Alan gave himself a themed assignment and that self-assignment led to great images. Check out his images and learn about the art of photography from his descriptions below each photo.

©Alan Ernst

Mt Outram and snag – Lumix GH1, 14-45mm lens, F8 at 1/125, – 1/3 EV, Polariser, HDR

When going on a photo outing or even for a week, month or year, try to set yourself a subject “goal”. Having accompanied many winter tours in the past few years, I have lots of images of ice, frozen waterfalls, winter landscapes, etc.. This year I decided to concentrate on Winter Wood i.e. anything tree. Needless to say, I will still point my camera at everything else that looks promising. However, shooting a theme is fun and hones your visual skills, as you will be looking for stuff much more focused. Themes can be specific subjects, patterns, texture, numbers, letters, colours, etc., etc.


©Alan Ernst

Big Bend dead tree – Lumix G1, 100-300mm lens, F8 at 1/1000, +1 1/3 EV

I had photographed this impressive snag on half a dozen occasions before, usually trying to isolate it completely from its surroundings, which tend to be cluttered with little trees sticking out of the snow all over the place. This year, with ample snow cover in the mountains, much of the clutter was blanketed in snow and I decided to go for a landscape extraction instead. Revisiting locations is important as conditions are always different and the more often you go, the more your eye will pick up all the amazing details.


©Alan Ernst

Cold Burn – Lumix GH1, 7-14mm lens, f10 at 1/200, +1 EV

The remnants of a prescribed burn two years ago make for great images along the North Saskatchewan River valley, from charred bark to the relics of an entire forest. The group was photographing from the road as the snow was deep and cumbersome to get through. There were great repetitive patterns there but somehow, it felt like looking from the outside in, rather than being part of it – I decided to romp through the snow bank and immerse myself in the trees, which paid off as I got some pleasing shots in there. When shooting a location, always wander around and look for angles, viewpoints, subject detail other than what caught your eye initially.


©Alan Ernst

Lychen Lord – Lumix GH1, 14-45mm lens, f10 at 1/100, + 1 2/3 EV

Returning from a short walk to a frozen waterfall, I was waiting for one of our participants to catch up. Whereas some people get bored once they’re “done” and stop looking as they’re keen to move on, I always use “down time” to scan my surroundings, looking for details, patterns, flora, wildlife, etc.. Very often it is in these situations, that I find interesting subjects, which most of us including myself would simply walk past or over in their quest of capturing a particular thing or place. This broken spruce twig had fallen on the snow covered creek upside down and reminded me immediately of the living trees in Lord of the Rings.


©Alan Ernst

Shadow Blue – Lumix GH1, 7-14mm lens, f8 at 1/500, +1 EV

Shadows in general and tree shadows in particular make for great subjects, with or without the object that creates them. In this location, where most participants were working on the grand landscape, I was immediately drawn to the interesting patterns, lines and contrast of the tree shadows along the river shore, the trees in themselves being nothing special at all. The location and angle of the sun were tough though and it was impossible to use the shadow as a leading line towards some interesting feature. Thus, I focused on trying to balance the one big tree shadow with the multiple shadows of smaller trees and sandwich them between the shoreline and Mt. William Booth in the back.

©Alan Ernst

Power of the sun – Lumix GH1, 14-45mm lens, f22 at 1/250, + 2/3 EV, ND grad

The Columbia Icefields / Athabasca Glacier area never disappoints, very much so because of the atmospheric conditions which are often different from surrounding areas.

The light during our mid day stop was fairly harsh and I decided to work with the sun, rather than against it… The smallest aperture on your lens will generally give you the nice starbursts, when shooting directly into a pointed light source. More or less flare will always ensue, so make sure your lens is squeaky clean as every fleck of dust will increase that flare. Then, try to work flare so it becomes part of the composition. You cannot avoid it, but moving the camera a little bit, can often make the difference between a nasty flare, an interesting flare or minimal flare.


©Alan Ernst

Stump Morning – Lumix GH1, 14-45mm lens, f13 at 1/20, + 1 2/3 EV, Polariser and ND grad

Continuing the winter woods theme from the previous week, I decided to work this field of dead tree stumps along the shore, while the others were frolicking on the ice. The strong side lighting made for an extremely busy foreground with lots of rocks and snow drifts with amazing texture. They made for great abstracts and detail shots, but I could not find a good leading line towards the background that I was looking for. I thus decided to break all the rules and place the big stump smack in the center, so as to provide an anchor of sorts for the many components included in the image.


©Alan Ernst

Millitreed – Lumix G1, 100-300mm lens, f8 at 1/250, + 2/3 EV

The group stopped along the Icefields Parkway to capture the Spires of Mt Wilson drifting in and out of the clouds. I decided to look for landscape extractions on the slope of the mountain since the light wasn’t that good and I was drawn to the contrast between dark treed ledges everywhere along the mountain side. Most are horizontal bands of trees, but I liked this one best as it made for an interesting diagonal, flanked by two additional lines, which all seem to radiate from one corner.

One of the things I like about the Lumix cameras are the variable aspect ratios, which can be changed on the fly. The 16:9 format is my favourite, but I tend to switch all the time, depending on subject and composition. A lot of photographers seem to stick to the 3:2 or 4:3 formats provided by their camera sensors without putting too much thought into cropping at the point of capture. It is important though to think ahead and decide on the spot, if the image will look better cropped. Very often, this means you will have to change the angle a bit or include / exclude features that might interfere when cropping later. I find that I can often get two or three images of the same subject, which are very different, simply by changing the aspect ratio right then and there.


©Alan Ernst

One of Three – Lumix G1, 100-300mm lens, f9 at 1/800, + 1 1/3 EV

Returning from Jasper along the Icefields Parkway, a stand of trees along the side of the road caught my eye because of the straight tree trunks and the angled shadows, which created a repetitive pattern. Check rear view mirror, stop, reverse and see what we can make of it. There were lots of young trees in front of the embankment as well as little trees and shrubs within the trees so it was hard to “extract” what I wanted. Pacing back and forth and zooming in with a long lens eventually got me a few images free of distractions with minimal subject matter but a pleasing effect. Working a subject, it is important to decide on what is important / makes it interesting and then either putting that into context with its surroundings OR extracting it for a strong graphic effect. You will need minimal gear for this: two eyes, two legs, a tele zoom and a brain, which can co-ordinate it all….


©Alan Ernst

Hang in there – Lumix G1, 100-300mm lens, f 9 at 1/800, +1 EV

Waiting by the car for the rest of the group to tackle the snow humps at Medicine Lake I was scanning the slopes of the Colin Range, which usually makes a great backdrop at sunset. In this case however, it was mid day and relatively flat front lighting, so the big picture was out. Small groups of trees clinging to life at tree line were interesting as they provided a strong contrast to an otherwise medium toned puzzle of rock slabs and snow.

For images like this, it is critical to use your tripod even when you have more than enough shutter speed to work without. Concentrating on your key subject (small stand of trees) and then zooming in and out, panning up and down, left and right, until you find a pleasing composition takes time and, especially when working with a long lens, you will never get the composition where you want it to be. Live view is a great help as what you see is what you get. In this case, there were distracting dark areas or lines, more trees, rock formations which would have been very distracting if included. It probably took all of ten minutes to get a composition which excluded it all and which I liked. The rule of thirds was dumped along the way.


©Alan Ernst

Dead Pine – Lumix G1, 100-300mm lens, f 11 at 1/250, + 1 1/3 EV

And more dead trees… A single dead tree surrounded by living specimens will always stick out and once it attracts attention, there is likely something to photograph. This one caught my eye as I was looking for the sun to see if we would get some clouds for another scene I had in mind. The cloud wasn’t forthcoming but the strong graphic component, extreme contrast and almost monochrome aspect of the scene, made me go for the long tele lens again and pace back and forth until I had it lined up with the mountain behind it. I then played with the aperture to find a setting, which provided enough detail in the background to make it identifiable, but not so much where it would compete with the silhouette in front.


©Alan Ernst

Shadow Dancers – Lumix G1, 100-300mm lens, f9 at 1/1000, + 1 EV

Half the group was waiting for the other half at an outhouse stop near the Crossing. When they did not show up, we decided to backtrack to the N. Saskatchewan River Bridge, where I had noticed potential for a high contrast river scene with a hazy mountain backdrop. The big scene worked, but as I scanned the riverbank for detail, the picture perfect S-curve of a snowdrift caught my attention. Back to the vehicle for the long lens and then try to find an arrangement that worked. Normally, this would call for a vertical orientation, but alas there were too many distractions of trees, rocks, and dirty snow both above and below the scene. I took the scene with 4:3, 3:2 and 16:9 aspect ratio and interestingly, the least likely format (i.e. the furthest from the vertical), worked the best.