Archive for photo workshops

Spring Photo Results – Alan Ernst

Posted in Techniques, Workshops and Seminars with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 4, 2011 by Darwin

Below are Alan Ernst’s image from the Spring Photo Tour in the Canadian Rockies. For those interested in one of the best spring photo tours in the Canadian Rockies, I highly recommend the tour based out of Aurum Lodge with friend and fellow photographer Royce Howland. To sign up for the Spring 2012 Photo Tour (May 12-16) contact Alan at the Aurum Lodge (

©Alan Ernst

Driftwood at Graveyard Flats

Lumix GH1, 14-45mm lens at the equivalent of 42mm, ISO 125, 1/60 sec, f 13, +1/3EV

Landscape extractions and landscape detail are often overlooked when photographers are out to capture the grand mountain landscape, chasing after the magic light. When the light is less than spectacular, great foreground subjects can often be turned into interesting images on their own. I chose orientation, aspect ratio and focal length to exclude all the clutter around and behind my subject, moving back and forth, sideways and up and down until I had a composition I liked. Strong graphic images like this work great in black & white too.

©Alan Ernst

Mistaya Blues

Lumix G1, 45-200mm lens at the equivalent of 168mm, ISO 125, 1/3 sec, f 10, +1/3 EV, Cokin blue/yellow polariser

Tele-zooms are the ideal lens for landscape detail, as they allow you to crop close and refine your composition from any vantage point, while minimising surrounding distractions. The light was flat and visiting Mistaya Canyon ten times a year or more, I wanted to try something different. I rarely use the blue/yellow polariser and if I do, I generally try to “dial” it back from the peak saturation to avoid that artificial looking colour cast. In this case, I decided to max it out though, to emphasize the mill hole in the rock. Again, I spent a lot of time trying different orientations, angles and aspect ratios, until I found the one which showed only the components I wanted: the mill hole and the rock strata which seem to radiate away from it.

©Alan Ernst

Misty Morning in Kootenay Plains

Lumix GH1, 14-45mm lens at the equivalent of 28mm, ISO 100, ½ sec, f 11, 2-stop hard edge grad, solid ND

Fog is rare in our valley but it always makes for interesting moody shots, no matter where you are. The group of pine trees against the background mist attracted my attention first. After a few shots at various angles and orientations, it just seemed too flat however, so I started looking at foreground more closely to generate a feeling of depth. The young aspen tree worked well compositionally, but the flat backlight made it look dull, even though to the eye the leaves were a strong green. I tried fill flash first, which was too directional and affected the entire foreground. It then crossed my mind that light painting might do the trick, so I mounted an extra ND filter to slow down the exposure and shone a small LED flashlight top down onto the little tree.

©Alan Ernst

 Morning Dew on Shooting Star

Lumix GH1, Olympus 50mm macro lens (100m equivalent), ISO 125, 1/30 sec, f 10, + 1 2/3 EV, silver reflector

Mist on a calm and cool morning sets the stage for dew on just about everything. Spring is a great time for wildflowers in the area and the soft light created by the fog was ideal. To remove the flower from the distracting background, I had to go as low as I could and point the camera upwards, which created a silhouette against the bright sky. I did want to capture the subtle colours of the Shooting Star however and thus overexposed as far as I could without washing out the background sky. A small reflector to bounce the light back in to the flower was all that was needed to get the right balance, as fill flash would not have worked at this close distance.

©Alan Ernst

Rock and Water on North Saskatchewan River

Lumix G1, 100-300mm lens at the equivalent of 516mm , ISO 125, 1/125 sec, f 8, + 2/3 EV

Rocks around fast flowing water are usually polished smooth, showing the strata and seams very prominently. Various rapids and canyons along the North Saskatchewan display some very interesting patterns in the rock. In this location, the rock is intermittently covered by water gushing over a small fall. Thank God we have digital cameras nowadays… I took over 100 images of this scene at varying shutter speeds to create different blur and they range from no water showing to water only. The best results were the ones which were about half rock, half moving water as in this case.

©Alan Ernst

 Spotlight on Grizzly Bear

Lumix G1, 100-300mm lens at the equivalent of 200mm, ISO 250, 1/160 sec, f 5.6

Springtime from mid May to early July is the best time to see bears in this area. We have been fortunate to see and photograph a few black bears on virtually every spring tour and on some occasions have encountered grizzlies, like this one sauntering along the Icefields Parkway. When driving in this region, it is always advisable to keep a camera with long lens attached and all settings ready for grab shots. I tend to set my camera to Programme exposure mode, ISO 250 or higher, image stabilisation on, and continuous drive. Often there is only time for one or two shots, so preparation is the key.


Fire and Ice Photo Tour 2010 – Marko Kulik

Posted in Inspirations, Workshops and Seminars with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 3, 2010 by Darwin

Marko Kulik who runs the popular photo blog came along on the Fire and Ice photo tour this year. Here are Marko’s six favorite images from the trip.


©Marko Kulik

Icy Sunrise at Preacher’s Point, Abraham Lake

The ice formations at Preacher’s Point were just awesome. I could have easily stayed there the entire day and the sunrise was also one of the best that we had. I spent a good part of the morning on my belly sliding on the ice looking for cool ice formations. Although the ice I laid on was solid, the lake was not totally frozen and I kept hearing ice cracking sounds which freaked me out quite a bit.


©Marko Kulik

Ice Cave at Beauty Creek, Jasper National Park, Alberta

I must have 20 shots of this ‘ice cave’. I kept moving closer and closer and closer until my footwear would not let me move any closer or my feet would have been soaked with ice-water. I was super-intrigued with the ice-forms to the right of the central rushing water as they seemed smoke-like to my eye.


©Marko Kulik

Waveform at Coleman Creek, Banff National Park, Alberta

I really dug Coleman Creek and had the 105mm Macro on for close up details. The great thing about the l05 (I have the Nikon version) is that it’s also a lovely portrait lens. When I spotted the interplay between the water and the ice here, I immediately focused a few feet in front of me. I thought of surfing as I captured this waveform.


©Marko Kulik

Junction, North Saskatchewan River, Banff National Park

The rushing water, the icicles, as well as the rock faces all caught my attention in this composition. I was also struck by the strong shapes and the interplay between them.


©Marko Kulik

Icy Tree Reflection at Waterfowl Lake, Banff National Park, Alberta

I was struck by the painterly feel of this reflected tree in the ice. The cracked ice and textures made for a nice canvas for the tree’s reflection.

©Marko Kulik

Ice Disks, Abraham Lake

This was a challenging shot to get because I cut my pinky finger on the ice maybe 5 minutes before taking this shot. I was bleeding a bit and tried to stop it with kleenex and it worked for a while. Every time I needed real dexterity though I moved the kleenex and it started up again. Anyway it healed up nicely. Sorry if I spoiled any macro compositions for anyone. Wait a sec the interplay of blood and ice – that might have been cool! I chose to convert this image to black and white because the natural colours of rocks in the background were interfering with the form of the ice disks I wanted to highlight.

Light Matters Masterclass – We have moved the date to 2011!

Posted in Art of Photography, Artistic Development, Good News, Image Processing and Software, Inspirations, TCBlog, Techniques with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 28, 2010 by Darwin

When Royce Howland, Samantha Chrysanthou and I  introduced the idea of the mentor-ship based Light Matters Masterclass: Creative Expression Photography Workshop in September of this year we got a lot of positive response. The response was so good we thought we had better get the workshop set up sooner than later and we planned the event to take place in early November 2010. Well many of the people who wanted to come simply could not because 2 months was too short of notice (I guess people have jobs and stuff eh?). So we have moved the event to November 2011 to give anyone interested lots of time to plan. Below is a little summary of the event followed by our promo video.

Light Matters Masterclass: Creative Expression is designed to create an intensive,  mentor-ship style workshop designed to teach photographers the dynamic balance between the three  fundamental pillars of creative expression: craft, art and profession. This workshop is for those photographers who want to move into the realm of visionary photography. We give you a combination of insightful seminars, assignment-based field shooting, hands-on digital darkroom work, and instructive critique all while based out of award-winning Aurum Lodge in the heart of the Canadian Rockies. Small group size (9 participants max) ensures undiluted access to instructors. To learn more about this exciting and unique Creative Expression Photography Workshop just click on this link to download our detailed PDF



Visual Wilderness

Posted in Articles about Photography, Books about Photography, eBooks, Good News, Monthly Photo Contest, Photography Gear, TCBlog, Workshops and Seminars with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 27, 2010 by Darwin

I am happy to announce that today I am a proud co-founder of a new website called Visual Wilderness. Along with photographers Jay Patel, Varina Patel and Samantha Chrysanthou we are happy to create a web environment for  learning about nature and outdoor photography. At Visual Wilderness you can learn by downloading our instructional eBooks, by participating in our seminars, workshops, and webinars, by reading our informative blog and also by interacting on our forum.

As part of our launch we are excited to offer an online photo contest with a great prize, a Sigma 20mm f1.8 EX DG ASP RF lens. The Sigma 20mm is a fast, wide-angle prime designed for full frame and APS-c size sensors. This lens is a unique Sigma offering with an aperture of F1.8 making it the fastest super wide angle lens available from any camera or lens manufacturer. For the scenic or landscape photographer it’s important to have a wide angle lens with excellent optical performance and Sigma’s aspherical lens technology provides high quality images for the serious shooter. Sigma’s 20mm lens has a field of view of 94.5º and yet provides for a close focusing lens-to-subject distance of only 2.6 inches. Such performance parameters provide great creative freedom to the photographer who wishes to exploit its capabilities for juxtaposing very near subjects with the surrounding background. This extreme wide angle view also makes this lens ideal for creating “stitched” panoramic scenes for dramatic effect. The architectural photographer will find this lens attractive for shooting building interiors and the photojournalists will find its fast speed a life saver in low light conditions.This Sigma lens is available in Canon, Nikon, Pentax, or Sony mounts.

We would like to thank Gentec International for supplying us with this great prize. For more information about Sigma lenses, visit Deadline to enter the contest is October 31, 2010. For complete rules go here.

Finally, for readers of this blog I am offering a 20% discount code on the following two eBooks. We think these two offerings are critical for photographers to master and we have made aperture and shutter speed choice as easy as 1,2, 3! Check these eBooks out; you’ll finally understand how to pick the right aperture and shutter speed for creative photography. The discount code is niwrad (that’s Darwin backwards) and it is valid until 11:59 PM (EST) on September 30th, 2010. Just click on the eBook photos below to learn more. We want to help you become a better photographer and over the course of the next few months we will have lots of new goodies designed to make learning fun and effective. Give us a quick look, drop by and say hi and let us know what you would like to see from us.

The Grand Prairie Photography Club – Part III

Posted in Good News, Workshops and Seminars with tags , , , , , , , , , on September 17, 2010 by Darwin

Below are five more assignment photos from the Grand Prairie Photography Club. Part I was posted on this blog 2 days ago and Part II was posted on Sam’s blog yesterday. Here are today’s photos.

Photo by Michele

Photo by Darrel

Photo by Eleanor

Photo by Janice

Photo by Andrea

Prizes Announced for Harvest Moon Workshop Registrants

Posted in Good News, Workshops and Seminars with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 2, 2010 by Darwin

Hi all! Just a quick note to inform you of new prizes we have for those who plan to sign up to our Harvest Moon Photo Workshop on Oct. 21-24 in Banff National Park. We are encouraging early registration for the event so that we get the rooms we want for our participants, and we have placed a cap of 30 participants to keep a small instructor-to-student ratio. Baker Creek is holding our rooms until September 15th but can’t guarantee spots for participants after that date. So here is your incentive not to wait until the last minute to sign up!  Get free stuff just for registering.  We’ll announce the winners at the workshop.

1st person to sign up gets a 20 inch canvas print from Darwin (that’s me) worth $350 (We already have a winner for this one!)

13th person to sign up gets a $250 gift certificate from our sponsor, The Camera Store in Calgary plus a copy of my sold-out book How to Photograph the Canadian Rockies.

27th Person to sign up gets a $250 gift certificate from The Camera Store in Calgary.

For more information and to download a PDF about the event see this link. And remember to tell a friend!

©Darwin Wiggett - Herbert Lake, Banff National Park

New Fall 2010 Photo Tour in the Canadian Rockies

Posted in Workshops and Seminars with tags , , , , , , , , , on July 12, 2010 by Darwin

The fall photo tours that I run out of the Aurum Lodge are very popular and sell out 2 years in advance mostly because we have small groups (6-7 participants), we go to lesser known places, we get you to the right place at the right time and we shoot hard core all day long. Plus the lodge is great and the price is really reasonable for an all inclusive adventure (except transportation which is by car-pooling).

I am happy to announce that the Aurum Lodge has added a second fall tour on September 28th to October 3rd of this year this time led by Royce Howland and Alan Ernst (owner of the lodge). Alan has been on every tour I have ever done out of Aurum Lodge and really knows the area better than anyone plus he is a fantastic photographer. Royce has been on three Aurum Tours and is also familiar with the area plus he is one of the best photo instructors I know of both in the field and in the classroom. I am confident anyone who signs up for this tour will get great photo opportunities and fantastic instruction.

If you want the pleasure of being on one of the best Rockies photo tours out there, then grab this opportunity before it is gone. For more info click here

©Darwin Wiggett - Canon EOS-1ds Mark III, 24mm TS-e lens

Extreme Saskatchewan Photo Tour 2010

Posted in Good News, Inspirations, Techniques, Workshops and Seminars with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 5, 2010 by Darwin

UPDATE – May 7 – Tour is now FULL

(if you want to be added to the mailing list for new and upcoming tours and seminars email me at and you’ll be on my ‘first notice’ list – this tour sold on in two days so being on the list gives you right to first refusal)

Over the years, I have had many requests for the ultimate photographers’ tour:  who would not want to immerse themselves day after day in gorgeous landscapes where the gentle hand of nature contrasts with the skeletons of human ambition? 

Well, that tour is here.  I am teaming up with Samantha Chrysanthou and Branimir Gjetvaj for Extreme Saskatchewan on June 16-20th, 2010.  On this tour, we will introduce a small group of keen photographers to the wonders of the southwestern corner of the Saskatchewan prairie:  imagine stepping softly in the giant, rippled dunes of the Great Sandhills, surveying the folded terrain of the South Saskatchewan river coulees or  training your lens on the intricate details of abandoned barns and the rusty relics of agriculture. Not only will we photograph the classic “big blue sky” and rippling prairie grass-scape , but we have also obtained exclusive access to private properties.  This means we have property releases and written permissions so you can sell your work legally. No worrying about trespass laws or angry farmers with shotguns! That’s handy, eh?

©Darwin Wiggett

As I mentioned, we are deliberately keeping group size small and are accepting only 7 participants.  Our focus is on ensuring you have the best opportunities to ‘get the shot’ and, as well, to have 3 instructors at your disposal for any questions you may have.  This tour is for all skill levels–with 3 instructors available and offering tips and advice along the way, all your photo questions will be answered. So if you want to learn how to light paint, use key landscape filters or work creative, long exposures then this will be the tour for you!

©Darwin Wiggett

But be warned:  this tour will be demanding creatively.  There is no Fairmont on the prairie!  No wimps, complainers or princesses – we are looking for photographers who are super enthusiastic about the photographic rewards available on this tour.  We will eat, sleep and breathe photography for the intense duration of the tour. The days are long but the rewards are huge – you will come back with some of your best work ever!

©Darwin Wiggett

So… if you are passionate about taking your photography to the next level, or you’ve always wanted marketable, property-released images of rural life, then email me at for details. Are you ready for Extreme Saskatchewan? We want to hear from you!

 Below is a sampling of images from some of the places we will visit: 

©Darwin Wiggett

©Darwin Wiggett

©Darwin Wiggett

©Darwin Wiggett

©Darwin Wiggett

©Darwin Wiggett

©Darwin Wiggett

The Daily Snap – April 11

Posted in The Daily Snap, Workshops and Seminars with tags , , , , , , , , , on April 11, 2010 by Darwin


©Darwin Wiggett - Canon G11

I snapped this shot of John Marriott this morning. I was out photographing some trees in the early morning light when I literally stumbled on John in full camo. I think I scared away his wildlife subject–he seemed a little ‘terse’ at my friendly hello but came around after I offered him a couple of granola bars. If you want to see John in action he is part of the SNAP! seminar coming up in Canmore, Alberta on April 24 and 25. The seminar is getting close to selling out, so if you want to see how John makes his amazing wildlife images, I suggest you sign up soon.

Warning! Things You Need to Know About Photo Tours

Posted in Controversy, Ethics, Workshops and Seminars with tags , , , , , on February 5, 2010 by Darwin

This post is  for those photographers who plan on leading their own photo tours.

(And for those planning to participate in a tour.)

Making money in nature photography is a difficult proposition. The competition is fierce and the prices paid for photos is low. There is a glut of great images out there yet there are very few photo buyers. One way that many hungry photographers (myself included) supplement their income is to organize and lead photo tours. Not only are tours fun, but they get you out shooting with like-minded people. It seems everyone has jumped on the Photo Tour bandwagon, from high-profile shooters who never used to lead tours, to the local guy who just picked up a camera a year ago.  It makes sense:  what could be easier than taking a bunch of people out to your favorite locations and showing them how you do things… and get paid to do it?

What You Don’t Know Can Hurt You

Liability Issues

I’m no lawyer, and my comments here do not count of course as legal advice. But I would like to highlight some things to consider before you lead or take a photo tour.  First, once you take other people out in the capacity of a paid business venture, the issue of liability comes up. Do you have liability insurance for when you accidentally smack someone in the face with your tripod? What if someone falls off a cliff or slips on ice and breaks a leg? Nature is dangerous; do you have insurance to cover the eventuality of an injury? And do you have basic first aid training and a first aid kit with you at all times?

Another issue to think about are waivers.  Do you have a liability waiver form made up by a qualified lawyer? Do you get people to sign this form before your event? A document that you crafted at home may not cover you. You may need to pay a qualified person to help you craft a proper document.

Speaking of liability, if you carry paid participants in your vehicle and get in an accident, your insurance company will likely not cover you because personal insurance does not cover commercial activity. So if you want to taxi around participants, you’ll need commercial insurance on your vehicle. Things are starting to sound expensive eh? Still wanna do tours?


Most photographers lead tours to publicly owned land in the form of National, State, or Provincial Parks. These parks often require that you have a permit for any commercial enterprise. You can’t just take a group of people into a national park, have them pay you for the service without the need of a permit and payment to the parks administration of a fee of some sort. So do your homework and get the proper permits. Most parks will not give you a permit unless you can prove you have liability insurance.


If you want to shoot on private property you’ll need written permission or a consent form from the property owner. Do not take participants onto private property without landowner permission or your liability insurance will be voided. If you are taking participants to photograph old barns, or a funky old church and you want to be able to sell the photos from the shoot, then you will also need a property release form signed by the legal owner of the building. And if you photograph people on a photo tour, you better get permission first and even better get a model release for everyone you photograph. It is better to hire models specifically for your photo tour so you can get releases for payment. Also does your liability insurance cover paid talent?

Work Visas

If you are planning a photo tour to an exotic local, do you have all the proper documentation in place to do commercial activities in that country? Do you need a work visa? Do you have all permits and insurance to cover you? Foreign tours are especially tricky — you do not want to be booted out of the country in the middle of a tour simply because you neglected to properly set things up. I know of numerous foreign photographers who lead tours in the Canadian Rockies that do not have permits, work visas or insurance. They are a disaster waiting to happen.


You have to deliver something to participants beyond what they would get if they came on their own to a location. For instance, I get people to places they would not find on their own and I get people to the right places in the right light and offer help with instruction in the field as necessary. Other instructors offer formalized instruction. What are you offering? If this is just a way to get paid to shoot, then look for other avenues of revenue.

For those looking at joining a photo tour, ask important questions. Do you really want to go with someone who has shady business practices or is simply ignorant of the requirements needed for successful tours? If photo tour leaders cannot provide you with information about insurance, permits, permissions, releases and waivers, then steer clear!

©Darwin Wiggett - Rockies Spring Photo Tour