Your vision… your style

•November 4, 2014 • 6 Comments
Dan Jurak, long exposure, black and white, fine art, fineart, prairie, minimalist, clouds, sky, style, vision, Alberta, landscape, 

“Your visions will become clear only when you can look into your own heart. Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakes.”

― C.G. Jung, Swiss psychiatrist and psychotherapist who founded analytical psychology


It’s only been a few weeks since I focused on black and white images and already I can start to see the beginnings of a direction.

I think that Jung had it right when he said that “your visions will become clear only when you can look into your own heart.” Look to the work of others and you are dreaming. Seek approval from others dream. Look inside and awaken.

Kind of deep words but then life and photography exists on many levels.

I am finding black and white to be more about seeing potential in a scene and then developing it when I get home. Color for me has always been about seeing the shapes, colors and textures and magnifying them on the computer. I usually have a fairly solid sense of what the final image will look like from the moment I release the shutter. Black and white is the complete opposite.

On the Alberta prairie there are buildings of every shape and description every few hundred meters. Some are hidden in trees others, the ones I like are out in the open against the sky.

The conditions that worked for me in color are not the best the kind of black and whites that I am reaching towards. Because I am usually shooting with long exposures of from two to five minutes the skies for the time being at least are completely unpredictable. What direction are the clouds traveling? Are they side lit? Back lit? What direction are they moving? How much blue sky is there around them? Is it completely overcast? These are some of the things that are making this so interesting for me.

RAW image

This is where the part Jung states about looking into your heart comes into play. Once I open up the RAW image I have an almost blank canvas with only a rough framework to play upon. In the RAW there are the bare bones of shape, shadow and light. Photography becomes less at this point about photography and more like playing with a pencil and paper, lightening this, darkening that and moving forward with the result. Only when looking at this RAW again do I see the lines of the dirt road doing the narrowing perspective thing towards the top of the hill. I was aware of it when shooting but did NOT make a conscious effort to frame it this way, it just “seemed” to fit better like this.

Where before I would process a color image in less than ten minutes and be finished, now I find myself, playing for an hour, saving the photo and re-visiting it and changing or moving it forward. It’s a completely different way of doing things.

Places in the landscape that I would drive by before I now see with fresh eyes. Is this barn photo worthy? How about that tree out in the open worn bare by grazing cattle?

It’s fresh. It’s new. It’s fun. It’s me on a different level. It’s my vision. It’s my style.

Happy shooting,





I Photograph PooP

•November 2, 2014 • 14 Comments

Dan Jurak, landscape, fineart, fine art, long exposure, black and white, poop, manure, clouds, sky, prairie, farm, rural,

Some people make it their mission to visit the most photogenic places on the planet to shoot landscapes. There are well known landscape photographers that I have no clue as to where they live. They are always in Death Valley, the Yukon, Zion Nattional Park, Banff, Jasper, etc. but will I ever see a photograph of where they live? There is something about the grass always being greener on the other side of the fence that applies here.

Nothing wrong with traveling to faraway and exotic places. Nothing at all. I think though that many mistakenly believe that being in the Tombstone Range in the Yukon or some similarly far away place will indeed push them over the top whatever that is. Or maybe it’s because those photos are much more popular and get the sought after “likes” and “faves”. Whatever.

Exotic for me yesterday was kneeling in a field of freshly spread manure taking in that fragrant aroma as a cool autumn wind pushed the clouds across the sky. Against the distant western horizon was a regal and magnificent pile of cow manure from the nearby dairy operation waiting to be spread. Clouds swirled around it as the do near the summit of Everest. Standing alone and dwarfing the flat prairie it dominated the landscape. :) Maybe one day I would climb it I thought.

How did I end up here when I could have just as easily driven to the mountains? I know that if the light and weather is right, interesting photos can be taken almost anywhere. I have seen a gazillion poor pictures of Mount Rundle and Vermillion Lake in Banff that don’t deserve a second glance. Why? The shooter wasn’t aware of the light or the weather. Those are as or maybe MORE important than your subject. That is why I didn’t drive the 400 kilometers to take me to the “other” mountains.

I don’t usually venture far from home with my camera these days and had been by this poop filled field many times. Until yesterday the photograph never seemed to be there when passing by. It was always the buildings on the nearby dairy farm that caught my eye. Not so on this trip.

I do know that my dog was really curious about where I was when I got home. LOL Maybe next time I’ll take him with me.

Happy shooting,


All that is gold does not glitter

•October 31, 2014 • 6 Comments

Dan Jurak, landscape, fineart, fine art, black and white, photography, landscape, Alberta, minimalist, dark, moody, foggy,

“All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost;
The old that is strong does not wither,
Deep roots are not reached by the frost.

From the ashes a fire shall be woken,
A light from the shadows shall spring;
Renewed shall be blade that was broken,
The crownless again shall be king.”

― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring

 The first line from this excerpt form J.R.R. Tolkien’s, The Fellowship of the Ring, says it all.

One of the first lessons I learned when I went to photo school back in the seventies was that the human eye will naturally be drawn into the brightest areas of a photograph. That doesn’t just apply to photographs but to everything that we see. I saw a television show on the evolution of mankind a few months ago and the explanation for that was our eyes would notice bodies of water in the distance and be drawn to them. Maybe many millenia ago on the African plain when water might have been scarce those who noticed and were attracted to the brighter areas of the landscape survived and that is indeed a remnant of our evolution.

We are drawn to shiny things, gold, diamonds, etc. That also applies to photographs. Browsing the section of the website 500px and viewing the popular landscapes one thing is certain. Bright landscapes seem to be the most popular. People naturally are drawn to them. They can’t help themselves.

Just because our eyes are caught by all things bright doesn’t mean that we should ignore the darker landscape.  Although this scene is low key guess what? Our eyes are still pulled into the darkest areas first. We can lead the viewer around the photograph by consciously lightening or darkening areas of the photo. Somewhere there is a long essay written on this explaining what to do and how to do it.

When I go into a photograph like this lightening and darkening it, changing it to the way I wish to present it, I don’t think of those rules. Instead all of the manipulation is done by feel. Does the balance “feel” right if this area is dark? Is it too lopsided? Do I want it off balance? I don’t consider those things while doing it but on a level I am aware of them.  I liken it to sweetening a cup of coffee. You know how much sugar to add by taste.

Photography for some is a very deliberate act where everything is thought out and measured. If that works for you, great! My mind works the opposite. From composing a scene in camera to editing and then finally processing, everything is done by feel. Whichever way works for you is the right way. Now go out and seek your darkness.

Happy shooting,


The Road Not Taken

•October 28, 2014 • 9 Comments
Dan Jurak, landscape, fine art, fineart, minimalist, black and white, Alberta, prairie, rural, clouds, dark sky,
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
-Robert Frost

It’s a familiar poem by Robert Frost. Especially the last four lines.

There are two kinds of people in this world I think. Those that lead and those that follow. Those that need to be a part of the group and those that need to be apart. Those that conform and those that rebel.

I don’t think that you choose to be in one group or another. Why do caribou herd together while the wolverine is a solitary animal? We are probably born that way for better or worse. You only need realize where you fit in to find your happiness.

Why do we choose the path that we take in life, in art or in relationships? That is something that I will never understand but as I get older I understand enough to accept how I am and how those are around me. I have no need to be part of a group aside from my family. No need to lead people anywhere or to preach and teach to them that they should feel, think and act the way that I do. Famous? Heh. Fame is for those who love to look in the mirror at themselves all day.

We are all different but yet the same. Connected to one another somehow but not connected.

The path that I have taken with my photography in no small way reflects how I feel about life in general. Photography has become about exploration. It’s a journey that has no end. Where it leads who knows? Who cares?

The picture at the top of this post sat on my hard drive for a few weeks while I processed other images. Not sure what to do with it or how to treat it I left it in all of it’s brilliant colors full of hues of purple, and blue and magenta. It was taken on a beautiful autumn morning. The whole sky was awash with brilliant color but yet the final image is in black and white.

Creativity works at times in strange and unexplainable ways. With no final idea mind I lightened, darkened, burned, dodged and cropped. This went on and off for a couple of days. I would leave it for a few hours and come back to it with a fresh view and would change it again until I was able to open it up and leave it as is.  It becomes less of an intellectual exercise and more of a spiritual one. The final image was hidden in the RAW color image waiting to be released in the same way that a stone sculpture has hidden inside a block of stone the work of art that will be revealed. It was always there only waiting to set free.

I think that all of us need to take the lesser traveled road at one time or another. Just as the road in the photo leads to the horizon and what lies beyond it you might be pleasantly surprised to see what lies over the next hill.

Happy shooting,


Darkness Dies

•October 26, 2014 • 12 Comments

Dan Jurak, fine art, fineart, long exposure, blacka and white, church, darkness, Alberta, landscape, Brush Hill, church


In Immortality’s Light,
Darkness dies
Infinity’s Smiles,
Eternity cries.

- Sri Chinmoy

I went out yesterday with the intention of photographing this old church. It has seen it’s better days. The chimney bricks are falling down. The steeple is disintegrating. After years of vandalism the front doors have finally been boarded up and the only residents now are the pigeons who flutter around the church to stretch their winds and coo quietly when inside.

Instead of getting up at the crack of dawn like I usually do when shooting color I have found mid-morning or mid-afternoon are best for these black and whites.

This church like me is getting older and one day the only thing left of us will be memories. While driving for an hour to get to the church the mind has time to wander and imagine. I got to thinking that over forty years ago I would be up before the crack of dawn with one of my brothers or a friend, lunches packed, thermoses filled to the brim with hot coffee and driving down this same highway to go duck hunting. I haven’t touched a rifle in all that time and hunting like this old church is a distant memory.

The air was fresh and cool, just above freezing when I finally arrived at this spot. As I walked around the church the silence was peppered with the distant pop pop pop of hunters. Duck or goose hunting I am guessing. It seems that almost no one hunts anymore. There was a time when every pickup truck seemed to have a rifle rack above the seat against the rear window with a few shotguns in it. Store flyers would have shotgun shells on sale and we’d make our way to Woodward’s (a long gone department store in western Canada) to stock up on shells.

Times have changed. For better or worse? I dunno. Like this old church nothing lasts forever and sometimes all that’s left are the memories.

Happy shooting,



•October 23, 2014 • 9 Comments

Dan Jurak, landscape, fine art, fineart, long exposure, black and white, landscape, prairie, Alberta, silos, Canada, dark, cloudy,

From childhood’s hour I have not been
As others were—I have not seen
As others saw—I could not bring
My passions from a common spring—
From the same source I have not taken
My sorrow—I could not awaken
- Edgar Allan Poe, Alone

Photography for me is definitely NOT a group experience.

One of the great joys in my life is getting out by myself. Going where I want to go. Stopping where I want to stop and for how long I want to stop.

There are times while taking photos that it is almost a Zen like or spiritual experience. It’s being in the “zone” for lack of a better word.

I have never understood the idea of a few people getting together, cameras in hand and taking photos. I once drove by a photo tour/workshop by Hebert Lake in Banff National Park and it seemed to be the most uncreative atmosphere imaginable. The leader of the group, a short, bearded fellow was herding and directing his clients to better shooting spots and giving advice. Seeing that was my signal to move on and get far away from the group to find the solitude I experience when shooting landscapes.

Is this being anti-social? Probably but if I want to go out in the country with a group of people I would much rather be fishing or something like that where it is a shared experience. Photography for me is not.

Like the poem from Poe,

“As others saw—I could not bring

My passions from a common spring—”

creativity has always been an individual act. As the old saying goes, “too many cooks spoil the soup”.

Happy shooting,





•October 21, 2014 • 14 Comments

Dan Jurak, long exposure, black and white, fine art, landscape, prairie, clouds, stormy, dark,

Forever nameless
Forever unknown
Forever unconceived
Forever unrepresented
yet forever felt in the soul.

- D.H. Lawrence (Belief)

I went for a short ride in the country this morning after I dropped off one of my kids for university. I didn’t go for very long or very far before I stopped the dusty Rav4 and looked out at the horizon.

This is a new way of seeing for me. It’s a challenge. It’s new. It’s exciting.

I think I now know why I neglected my camera so often in the past year. I was bored. I needed a new reason to get out and start seeing all over again in a new way.

The accompanying words by D.H. Lawrence in a way reflect how I feel about this place. People drive by it everyday. It’s unremarkable and quickly forgotten but it somehow pulled me into the moment never to be forgotten.

This for me is new. I hope you find it a pleasant change from the usual.

Happy shooting,



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