The prairies aren’t all flat and Secret Places

It’s just after 6:00 a.m. and as I sit at the computer writing, I can hear the wind rushing through the leaves of the maple trees in the back yard while rain pelts against the side of the house. Today is a fine example of the “bad weather” that I avoid. Bad weather can be good weather, like when it’s -30 Celsius outside and the world is covered in a thick ice fog and frost. Today’s bad weather is not the kind for my photography.

No matter where you live, there are interesting places to photograph nearby. Part of the joy I get from shooting landscapes is by being creative. Drive on the highway outside of Edmonton and you’re first impression will probably be that of hundreds of miles of flat, boring and uninteresting prairie. It isn’t. Your photography is as much about what you EXCLUDE in your photos as it is what you include.

A few miles from where I live, there is a small prairie creek. Creek is a very kind word because for most of the year when the water is not frozen, this creek looks like an algae filled pond. It’s muddy and slow. When I read creek, my mind conjures up visions of splashing and sparkling waterfalls, mountain wildflowers, etc. Not the case with the Sturgeon River. Hundreds of years of erosion have created a deep and wide valley that it flows through on it’s way to the North Saskatchewan. Through most of the valley it is either pasture land or fields left for haying.

This little creek has provided me with a source of “different” prairie images without having to drive hundreds of kilometers.

No matter where you live or what kind of a landscape you live in, there are places like this that can provide a “different” kind of landscape than what you’re used to seeing.

A great part of the fun of photography is the discovery part. Finding little treasures like this make it all the more worthwhile. I sometimes get emails asking me exactly where a certain photo was shot. I never reveal that. Not because it’s my spot or that I want to keep it a secret but because I want someone else to discover it the same way that I did. I want them to feel as if it’s their special, secret place.

I see photo tours being advertised here in Alberta where the photographer will show you their secret places for photos and on so many levels that is just so wrong and so misleading. I know of many of those places and really, there’s nothing you can’t or won’t find by spending a few hours or days outside. Remember that it’s not so much the place that’s special, it’s WHEN you photograph it. That’s hard to teach when you’ve got a dozen customers following you around the mountains in their vehicles. Kind of like the kindergarten classes that I see downtown where all the pre-schoolers are being led by a leash to keep them safe and off the street.

Live a little. You don’t need a leash and you don’t need someone to hold your hand to take those special photos.

Happy shooting,


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~ by Dan Jurak on July 4, 2012.

7 Responses to “The prairies aren’t all flat and Secret Places”

  1. Well said! I’m going to steal this, “A great part of the fun of photography is the discovery part.”

  2. Thanks Dan, its so refreshing to constantly hear that you don’t have to travel far for good images. It definitely fine tunes a photographer’s composition instead of just shooting the popular. Thanks again.

  3. Nice post Dan. Although I have never personally attended a photo tour, I can see why some find them appealing. Some are comfortable in a pack,others are more of lone wolf. To each his own. Like you though, I enjoy just getting out there and finding what I find. Either way, it’s not always about the destination, the journey can be a lot of fun too.

  4. @ Andrew, I’ve many emails from readers regarding workshops that they’ve attended both in Canada and the U.S. The vast majority stated that they found them to be a waste of money. A couple said that they found them helpful and would do them again.
    It probably depends a lot on your personality if they will work for you. I’ve not heard of any that I could recommend to a friend. Workshops have become a major source of income for “professional” outdoor photographers. Odd isn’t it that they don’t make the majority of their income taking pictures but instead leading customers around to places that you or I could quite easily discover on our own.

  5. @ Jason, if a photographer can’t take a good picture close to home, they probably couldn’t take a good one far away either. LOL

    Thank you for visiting and commenting,

  6. Interesting! I have a river near my home, I never thought of going there because it’s too bushy, I might give it a try. ;)

    Secret places (sigh) I have hard time keeping them secret. lol If someone ask me : where have you taking that picture? Well… I feel bad not answering them. But you know, many times, I want to keep it for myself.

  7. @ Anne, secret places really don’t exist. If I told people exactly where to go I have no doubt that they’d be disappointed because it’s not the where but the when that’s important in shooting landscapes. On one of the groups I moderate on Flickr, I am sure I upset a lot of photographers because I won’t accept their photos of beautiful places into the group. The place might be beautiful but if the mood isn’t there, the photo doesn’t get in.

    BTW, you might surprise yourself with what you come up with when you photograph your river. Enjoy!


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