Developing your own style on the internet

•April 23, 2018 • 2 Comments

landscape, dan jurak, foggy, summer, farm, rural, morning, dawn, prairie, travel alberta, moody

“Perhaps the less we have, the more we are required to brag.”
―John Steinbeck,East of Eden

I am writing this because of a post that I just saw on Instagram. The person is a well known European landscape photography. He has some exquisite photos.

I follow people on Instagram for only two reasons. I admire their work. I have some kind of relationship with them. That’s it.

There is an unspoken etiquette on Instagram that my internet savvy daughters told me about. If someone follows you, you follow them. It can be a sure way to build followers which is a good thing for someone with insecurity issues and desperately wants to be reassured that they are liked.

I would have people follow me and I noticed that my numbers were staying very much the same. Odd. The numbers should be going up I thought and then I remembered the follow game. So smart Dan searched and found an app that tells you who unfollowed you. When I got a company representing hostels follow me and then unfollow me I realized that they weren’t interested in photos but were simply trying to boost their numbers. Using that app now I promptly BLOCK those accounts.

If my numbers stay where they are for the next one hundred years that is fine by me because a long, long time ago, I learned from my mother that my sense of self comes from how I feel about myself not what I am hoping people think or feel about me.

Anyway, back to the John Steinbeck quote. It is very appropriate even today so many years after it was written.

The famous European landscape photographer who has well over 140,000 followers posted a beautiful image and then ruined it for me. In the accompanying text he boasted about having won or placed very highly in some prestigious photography contest.

I thought to myself, why does this artist need to brag? Damn, he takes such fine photos. And then it hit me like a bag of bricks in the face. It was a call for reassurance. It was a validation of his photography or of himself. You choose.

Now I find myself not idealizing this person but instead only admiring his work as I probably should have done in the first place. A wonderful photographer. A frail human being like all of us with his own insecurities.

I love his photographs for what they are. There aren’t many photographers in my mind that can consistently knock it out of the park like he can.

Bragging doesn’t look good on anyone. I can’t recall Warren Buffet or Bill Gates publicly bragging about how much money they have. Like Steinbeck wrote, perhaps the less we have the more we are required to brag?

In order to truly develop your own style for as difficult as it might sound disregard both the praise and the criticism that you receive for you images.

Follow your heart. If you love something that you created look at it objectively and if it works for you keep it. If you have doubts about it but everyone seems to say that they love it, throw it away.

Developing your own style is not about pleasing anyone but yourself that is unless the goal is to be popular. It is sometimes a lonely road to travel but I find it the most rewarding.

Happy shooting and follow your heart,

Dan

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Sometimes Mother Nature does all the heavy lifting

•April 22, 2018 • 2 Comments

storm, summer, tornado, supercell, super cell, alberta, travel alberta, landscape, Dan Jurak, severe weather, barley, farm, rural, prairie,

I have been having so much fun these past few weeks. Going thousands upon thousands of RAW images taken here in Alberta.

Because of how my brain works or doesn’t work, always looking forward to the NEXT thing I would usually process ONE image from a drive and everything else would be forgotten.

It turns out that is not a bad thing.

Back in the summer of 2012 I was getting out quite a bit. Chasing the skies when they looked interesting on the horizon. Watching the weather forecasts carefully to see if conditions looked right for fog filled sunrises. As always it would be process one image and forget about the rest because I am always interested in what I am about to do than what I have just done.

My favourite landscape is always the one that I am about to take. Never falling in love with your work is a good thing and there is no doubt that I never got too caught up on what I had just taken.

Here in central Alberta the seasons can be very distinct. By mid July we can experience some incredible weather. With crops ripening and a daily dose of rain overnight and sunny days the combination can make for some fierce weather.

By mid to late August the severe storm period has usually however from early to late July it can be a lot of fun if you keep an eye peeled to the horizon and today your smart phone weather app on.

It turns out that central Alberta can have some of the best storms in North America, something that I never realized until I saw a documentary on storm chasers last year.

One evening while looking west I noticed the horizon getting darker than it should. Maybe some interesting weather?

I grabbed my gear, told my wife that I would be back in a few hours and headed out.

Very quickly it became apparent that the good weather would be happening sooner rather than later. There was a huge swell of clouds coming my way as I left Edmonton. I was less than ten minutes from my driveway when the clouds were almost overhead. I stopped the car, got out, snapped a few shots, one of which I processed and later became an album or CD cover for an American music group the name of which escapes me.

I followed the storm for maybe twenty minutes taking various shots as the clouds worked their way north east.

The sun was almost setting when I snapped this photo. I haven’t seen it in almost six years and had forgotten about it until looking at it, the image came back to me.

The colours were incredible to witness in person. In fact while processing it I did nothing to enhance them. Instead I purposely took a ton of blue out of the clouds because they appeared so bright. Unnaturally so.

With the high clouds being illuminated from behind, the pouring rain being lit by a setting sun and the ripening barley glistening under the evening sun, Mother Nature did it all for me.

All that was needed was to frame this, release the shutter and hop back into the Rav to take more photos. It turns out that this was one of the easiest images that I have ever caught.

Sometimes you really have to work hard to get something that works and then there are times like this that even from my smart phone the scene would have looked special.

Sometimes, just once in a while Mother Nature does all the heavy lifting for you and I had forgotten that I had even taken it until finding it six years later. 🙂

Happy shooting,

Dan

Taking pictures with my father

•April 20, 2018 • 11 Comments

landscape, spirituality, dan jurak, alberta, prairie, sunrise, foggy, farm, rural, misty, lush,

For me there is an almost spiritual experience when outdoors taking photos.

Usually I am by myself. Who in their right mind would want to get up before sunrise and make a drive in the dark not knowing where you are going to end up only to take a few photos.

Recently I was at the funeral of one of my aunts. I’m not much for keeping in touch with relatives. I think that I inherited that from my father who would gladly go out on fishing trips with his buddies while I had to go visit relatives with my mother. LOL That has always stayed with me. My dad died when I was just seven years old.

At the funeral I went up to talk to one of my aunts who was unable to walk to the burial site. Too frail and weak, she sat in the provided limousine.

Aunt Jo was always one of my favourite aunts. Being the first born nephew/grandson in the family I was always treated wonderfully and my aunt Jo treated me extra special.

I was chatting with her before the burial and mentioned out of the blue how there have been times when taking photos and the atmosphere was heavenly that I could feel the presence of my father with me. Wishful thinking? I don’t know but to be creating things that you love in places that you love how can you not attract those loved ones that have passed before you? Many are the moments where I have felt connected with something much larger than myself. I was alone and at the same time in the presence of something else.

Just as music can move the soul and take it to another place the arts can also take us away.

Is it a connection to something that we cannot see? Why did prehistoric man feel moved to make representations of what they saw on the wall of caves? I remember seeing a documentary on television where archaeologists had discovered a flute like musical carved out of birds bone in the cave where Neanderthal man once lived.

Music and the visual arts have always transported us to special places. Photography has taken me to many special places and I hope that in some small way the photos that I post might one day take you there too.

I miss you dad.

Happy shooting,

Dan

Why didn’t I see this five years ago?

•April 18, 2018 • 2 Comments

When visiting this blog to write a new post I noticed that the last time I had done this was two weeks ago. Happy April Fools Day!!!

Maybe, just maybe one day I will offer something in the way of photography instruction in my back yard of the prairies or the mountains of Jasper National Park.

The weather where I live has been very uninspiring for photographs lately. Lots of gray days with fields either filled with rapidly melting now which doesn’t look good in pictures or mud puddles.

I have been keeping my eyes on the lunar calendar and the weather to try and get out for another milky way session either in the mountains or the prairies and so far all moonless nights have also been cloudy nights. Sigh.

As a result I have been going through old images. By old I mean as far back as 2008. Judging by how many images there are I wonder how I managed to work a full time job because I was out almost every day it seems.

The old images have been a treasure trove for me. Ten years later I see differently now than I did then. I also process things differently.

I came across a series of night images that I took near Nordegg in 2013. That is almost five years ago and because we change how we see things this image that I ignored at the time looked kind of interesting last night.

I fired up my RAW converter and saved it as a tiff. Half an hour later after playing with it in Photoshop I sat back and if I could have kicked myself I would have. I liked this better than what I had processed at the time. Duh!

There is a lesson here to all of us. Hang onto those RAW images. Even if you don’t see anything today you might end up throwing out a diamond in the rough. If it looked interesting enough to photograph once upon a time it just might be good enough to process it too!

Happy shooting,

Dan

Photographing the Alberta Prairie Workshops

•April 1, 2018 • 15 Comments

After many years of relenting and turning down offers to do workshops in Jasper and Banff by local hotels I am pleased to announce my brand new and all inclusive “Photographing the Alberta Prairie Workshops”.

Starting this June, I am going to be leading one of the biggest, and certainly most all-inclusive Alberta prairie trips ever designed.  This trip will feature the highest level shooting, and the post-processing instruction will be recorded and yours to keep!
The prairies have been a well kept secret for too long! No more I say.
The processing will be taught in 4 different conference rooms reserved for us along our route to learn my one of a kind processing techniques on custom calibrated big screens!
The shooting will be starting in Gibbons, just north of Edmonton the capital city of Alberta, we will find ourselves the first morning shooting the valley of the Sturgeon River. Fantastic willow and poplar stands line this slow flowing and under appreciated river.  During the days we’ll be doing long exposure photographs of the icons of the prairie, grain elevators and silos and that’s just the start!
As the trip moves north throughout the week we touch on every great Alberta prairie shoot there is this time of year, even adjusting our itinerary to fit the weather!  We could even visit locations as far away as Fort Saskatchewan, using our ‘flexible’ days in the middle of the trip, if conditions look right!  These locations will include but are not limited to:
  • The famous old churches near Fedorah
  • Dramatic cloud formation over the prairies as weather develops
  • Grain and plenty of it as it rises from the dark and fertile grounds of central Alberta
  • The most farm locations of any trip
  • The most gravel roads travelled on any workshop
  • Vast wide open expanses of the prairie parklands
  • The immense wildflower gardens of Redwater
  • Transportation for both trips can be arranged by procuring a rental car in Edmonton (often about $150 per week) or by bringing your own vehicle.  Edmonton is within a half an hour of our starting location for both trips and closer still to our ending locations.  If you prefer instead to carpool with others (who are not using their vehicles for camping) on this trip, and you prefer similar lodging arrangements by night, then this can often be arranged via a group email at an appropriate amount of time before the trip begins.  I help facilitate this in any way possible for you.
  • Lodging is easy to come by on these trips at most locations.
  • Your deposit is required to book your spot on any trip.  This deposit is normally (with 30 days advance notice) refundable minus a small cancellation fee should you be unable to make it, assuming someone can fill your spot.
  • Enjoy the sounds of farm animals as you make your way among them for pictures.
  • OUR TRIP STARTS MAY 20, 2018.
  • $2495 PER PERSON ($1000 deposit to sign up)
  • The trip price includes instruction, free access to processing videos, outfitting of all required  gear and hard goods, some transportation and many group meals throughout the trip.

And PS. APRIL FOOLS!!!!

 

After seven years I finally figured it out…

•March 28, 2018 • 4 Comments

before image, landscape, elm tree, farm, abandoned, snow, winter, monotone, frost, landscape, Dan Jurak,

I have always done things fast. Really, really fast.

In the time that someone might take one picture I might end up having taken half a dozen. That is how I have always been for better or worse.

On a typical sunrise at one spot there are probably a dozen or so different images that I will take before moving onto the next spot a few minutes away.

It’s not too different when it comes to processing images. I will pick out one from the dozen so that I have taken at a spot, process it and move onto something else. As a result there are many, many photos that never see the light of day.

Going back through old images always makes for pleasant surprises because there is always something to process for the first time.

Way back on March 19, 2011 I was making my way to a spot that always had a good chance to produce morning fog. So, it is up before the sun and making the half hour drive to this spot.

On the way there a long time before sunrise, I came upon an abandoned farm yard that had the most elegantly shaped elm. The area was about to be razed to the ground to make way for residential housing so the access was easy. Something that I am loathe to do is trespass. If I want access to a property I will always ask and I have never once been denied once I explain what I am up to.

So, I pulled over to the side of the highway, grabbed my gear and snapped a few different angles before proceeding on to where I figured the fog would be.

Over the years I have always returned to this image that was photographed about thirty minutes before sunrise. No matter how many times I tried to process it in colour it never seemed to click with me and I would close the file and process something else.

Yesterday I revisited this image and had yet another kick at the can. I figured that colour was the wrong way to approach it. Maybe a black and white version would work out better? I experimented with the image. Playing with different colour channels, doing different kinds of conversions until it hit me. I liked this image because of the shapes. It wasn’t the tones or the small details that caught my eye but the graphic quality of the trees.

after image, landscape, elm tree, farm, abandoned, snow, winter, monotone, frost, landscape, Dan Jurak,

Removing most of the middle tones in the snow, make that ALL of the middle tones, retouching out a few shrubs and giving the image a slight blue tone did it!

Seven years later almost to the day I finally have cracked the nut that had always presented a problem for me.

Perseverance pays off?

Happy shooting,

Dan

It Brings Peace and Calmness…

•March 25, 2018 • 2 Comments

calm, matisse, peace of mind, landscape, autumn, fall, soothing, Alberta, Dan Jurak,

“What I dream of is an art of balance, of purity and serenity devoid of troubling or depressing subject matter – a soothing, calming influence on the mind, rather like a good armchair which provides relaxation from physical fatigue.” – Henri Matisse

I’m certainly no Henri Matisse but when reading this I felt a certain kinship with Mr. Matisse. I only realized when reading up on him that he died on the same year that I was born, 1954. Even though he was born generations before me many of the same feelings, thoughts and emotions that he had we, that is you and I, share.

Just a few moments ago I received quite a few comments on my photos. They reflected exactly how I felt about the images when I was taking and then later processing them. Even though we were a world (Iran) and a culture apart there is a sameness that flows through us all.

If I feel it then it goes without saying that there must be many others who feel similarly.

What is it that compels us to find beauty in something? It does give us a joy and serenity.

I remember reading about archaeologists who had discovered a flute made from a birds’ bone. The researchers said that it had been played by Neanderthals. Going back sixty or even one hundred thousand years others found joy in the arts. Music, painting, photography, they are all the same.

Why when we hear a certain beat or kind of music do we want to move along with it? Even at a young age toddlers will find their rhythm and boogie with the music and that is what it is all about.

I find my rhythm when I am out in nature and finding shapes, light and colour that somehow soothes something inside of me.

It isn’t about competition or money or popularity or who is the best. No. There is a calmness that comes over me just as it did for Matisse and as it does for you.

Enjoy it.

Happy shooting,

Dan