You are NEVER too old to learn

•February 21, 2018 • Leave a Comment

I love/hate learning. When I had to learn a new program at work I hated it. I hated being told what to do but I actually LOVE learning new things.

At 63 and having used a camera as an amateur and then as a professional for almost forty years you start to believe that you know everything. That is a dangerous thing. A closed mind is one that never grows or moves forward.

For the past week or so I have been exploring Instagram and being in a constant state of amazement. So many incredible images by so many talented people from all around the world.

Of course what interests me most is when these  very same people come to visit and photograph where I live. There have been hundreds of images taken in Jasper, Banff and of course the famous Abraham Lake which has become synonymous with ice bubbles.

It is interesting to see how these very creative individuals see what I have seen maybe a hundred times before and it has been an eye opening experience.

I have come to learn one thing about photography and that is being there and capturing a digital image is only the first part of the journey. Photoshop plays a huge part in the result.

For example, we have been visiting Maligne Canyon since my toddler days back in the 1950s. I could easily from memory pick out the exact colour of the rocks on a pallette. The colours are etched in memory. The limestone is a greyish and sometimes grey/blue colour.

One of the photographers that impressed me most was from Malaysia. It was obvious from his photos of Jasper and Banff that he was on a tour. His photos were the usual spots that buses take their clients.

Among his photos was what might have been the best capture of the Maligne Canyon that I have ever seen. The tones were rich and deep. The spruce trees were a vibrant green unlike the actual colours and the rocks of the canyon were get this, a rich golden brown!

To someone who had never visited the canyon they would not realize how different from reality the colours were and upon visiting and taking pictures would no doubt be disappointed that their photos didn’t compare.

It wasn’t only this photographer that was “interpreting” what he saw. The vast majority of photographers that I liked had done similar but not as drastic interpretations.

Photography is an art without rules. At least that is how I see it. You do and visualize  how you will. There is no right nor wrong in what you do. What matters is if you are able to carry off your interpretation the way that you intended.

For the past week I have been going through old images and imagining how I would see them today knowing that the shackles are off and understanding some of the techniques that are used in Photoshop to better your vision.

If you don’t have an Instagram it would be worth your while to get one and just follow from one photo to the next. You never know what will light your fire or what is possible.

A large percentage of the “popular” photos are do not reflect reality but instead the vision of the artist and there is nothing wrong with that. Just be aware that many of the things you like were helped along in post processing. Knowing that will help you to further your vision.

The post at the top of this page was from an evening trip I made last September. I definitely see the photo differently today than I did even a few months ago.

I call that moving forward. At 63 I still have a gazillion things to learn and am proud of it.

Happy shooting,

Dan

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Somewhere in the rockies

•February 12, 2018 • 8 Comments

somewhere in the rockies, Banff, Jasper, Nordegg, abraham lake, ice bubbles, Ice, landscape, mountains, glacier, Dan Jurak, Alberta

I get it. When pressed for time and in a new part of the world taking pictures you want results. Maybe that explains the over popularity of two places close to where I live.

The first time I saw these two spots was by Marc Adamus, a well known landscape photographer. Marc gives photo tours all over North America and in the farthest south reaches of South America.

As a result of almost living outdoors full time earning a living and guiding clients for photos he has become familiar with many on and off the beaten track spots.

The two places that I am familiar with that I saw photographed by him the first time was the river between Upper and Lower Waterfowl Lakes. It’s a great location that I had been to many times during the summer but never thought of making the two hundred meter walk from the highway through the closed campground to the open river to photograph Mount Chephren.

The second place I have driven by maybe one hundred time and that is the now often photographed Beauty Creek and Tangle Ridge near the Beauty Creek Hostel on Hwy 93 aka the Icefields Parkway.

Both places are relatively close to a well travelled and paved highway but both places require a little less than ten minute walk to get to them.

Until Adamus posted photos of these two places on the internet I had never seen any and now? Now it seems like every well known or aspiring photographer visits these two spots.

There is nothing wrong with that until you realize that part of the creative process is actually the discovery process. Why really talented photographers only post pictures of these now well known icons is a mystery to me.

A huge part of photography for me is the JOY of discovery. It can be in the middle of the mountains or twenty kilometres north of Edmonton on a snow covered prairie. I want to see what no one has seen before in a way that no one has seen before.

Kudos to Marc for finding these great places and maybe one day I will actually follow the path in the snow to where they are but until then I would prefer to discover where I photograph on my own. It is that much more satisfying.

Happy shooting,

Dan

ps. The above photo was taken in the national park and anyone who knows them really well will recognize this place immediately but for some odd reason I have NEVER seen a photograph taken here. Hmmm.

 

I suck at photography, thank you Instagram

•February 10, 2018 • 8 Comments

infrared, instagram, dan jurak, landscape, monochrome, black and white, farm, rural, alberta,

Having two girls in university I find that I am far behind the curve when it comes to the internet.

Back in the early nineties, I left the security of my job at the local newspaper to experiment with something new called “the internet”.

I knew what the internet was and had a really fast 2400 baud modem which I connected through Compuserve. Web pages loaded really slow on my Netscape browser. Files, even small 20 meg files would take a day to download while monopolizing the telephone line.

People that I worked with thought that I was crazy. Why wouldn’t they? Hardly anyone had a personal computer let alone the “internet”.

My new job was to learn HTML and design webpages for our national newspaper chain.

Fast forward over twenty years and those same people who said that I was crazy to leave the newspaper are now either bought out or took early retirement.

Today it seems that everyone, seniors included have smart phones or home computers. The world is changing and change is a wonderful thing if you can adapt.

So a few weeks ago somehow the topic of Instagram came up and my curiosity piqued I opened up an account  https://www.instagram.com/dan_jurak/ or already had one and forgot about it and re-opened it.

For a few days I have been uploading pics. The girls clued me into hashtags and what they mean and how they increase your visibility so I experimented with them and they did make a difference however small.

Then again curiosity struck me and I started searching using the hashtag function. I started browsing photos and found many, many more photographers, local and international who had used the #alberta tag.

This was like finding out about the internet all over again. I was amazed at the quality, quantity and creativity of incredible landscapes on Instagram.

The more I looked at these landscapes the less I felt like someone who had been taking photos for over thirty years and more like a rank amateur or gigantic failure.

Did that turn me off of landscape shooting? No freaking way!

When I saw all of the different ways that others interpreted where I live my eyes were opened up to the possibilities that I have yet to explore.

Sometimes you need to see the world through a fresh set of eyes to realize that there are so many more things yet to do and that is exactly what Instagram has done for me.

Happy shooting,

Dan

ps. A disclaimer, there are a gazillion mediocre and bad landscapes on Instagram but for every one thousand of those there are gems. Find a photographer that lights your fire and explore their stream. You too will be inspired.

 

Real or surreal, the choice is yours

•February 9, 2018 • 3 Comments

 

prairie, landscape, winter, Dan Jurak, Alberta, snow, cold, sunset, poplar tree, barbed wire fence,I have spent a great portion of my life in the great outdoors. From my earliest childhood memories visiting Jasper National Park when the Icefields Parkway was a two late gravel road to having a convoy of European supercars pass me on the same highway a few years ago when I was spending a few fine autumn days in the park. BTW, it was really cool to see Ferraris, Lamborghinis, etc. zipping down the same highway that I almost know like the back of my hand.

In all of those years of camping and visiting how many spectacular sunrises or sunsets have I seen? Generously I would say one out of ten is a memorable one.

Simply put, most sunrises and sunsets are not memorable but yet I see photographers with always spectacular colours and tones in their photos.

Do they live on a different planet than I or are they just luckier than me in capturing these great moments?

There is nothing wrong with Photoshopping any landscape to get the result you want in my opinion. This is such a personal thing that it must be said that there are no wrongs or right when it comes to taking and processing your photos. It is all part of developing your own unique style.

There are ways to increase the chances of you getting the desired scene that you want. A keen eye on the long and short term forecast can minimize the time spent on the road only to come back disappointed.

Your style will evolve as you develop both your shooting and processing skills. By exposing yourself to the pictures of others you unconsciously borrow a little from here and there and modify it to adapt to how you see.

Photography is a constant evolutionary process.

The photo at the top of this post is an example of how I have changed in how I see and process landscapes.

When I originally shot and sent it away to one of the stock agencies that represents me it remained fairly faithful to what anyone driving by might have seen with just a slight boost to the colours.

Today I found the RAW images from this shoot and exported both a light and dark version then blended them together. In the past I would have used an HDR program like Photomatix but over the past few months have been experimenting more with Ray Pro tools to do all my blending and am finding that I have more control this way than before.

That is part of my learning process. Even when you aren’t outside shooting you can still be creative. The creative process doesn’t end when you depress your shutter. That is just like going to the grocery store and buying the ingredients for a cake. What you do with the ingredients determines what kind of cake that you get and for me that is as much fun as taking pictures.

prairie, landscape, winter, Dan Jurak, Alberta, snow, cold, sunset, poplar tree, barbed wire fence,

So do you like your cakes real or surreal?

Happy shooting,

Dan

Competition makes us all better… right Sigma?

•February 8, 2018 • Leave a Comment
,sigma 14-24 f2.8, Nikon 14-24 f2.8, photography, landscape, nikon, sigma, wide angle lenses, Dan Jurak, Alberta

Photo credit Nikon Rumors website

If you have followed this blog for any length of time you know that I have absolutely no allegiance to camera brands.

For many years I used Canon here in Canada for one big reason. Canon Canada offered a reduced price on their camera gear to professionals. Nikon was not as generous. It was that simple.

For what I was doing at the time with 35 mm which was mainly fashion photography in my mind the difference between Canon and Nikon was like the difference between a Camaro and a Mustang. Take your pick. It is as simple as that.

I was reading this morning on the Nikon Rumors website, that Sigma has announced that sometime in the near future they will be releasing a 14-24 f2.8 lens.

A few years ago I switched my gear from Canon to Nikon because Nikon happened to make the industry standard wide angle lens the 14-24 f2.8 which all these years later is still ultra sharp. It is such a well corrected lens that I wonder what Sigma has up their sleeves?

Right now I have no reason to sell my Nikon lens but if Sigma comes up with something significantly better than Nikon and at the same or lower price it is a purchase that I will seriously consider.

Over the past few years companies like Sigma and Rokinon have been giving the big manufacturers a run for their money offering higher quality offerings at reduced prices.

Will this new Sigma lens motivate Nikon to rethink their old design and produce a newer version of the old wide angle standard? I hope so.

Competition taken the right way is a wonderful means to improve whether it be in business or personally and I encourage it.

I think that I have become a better photographer by being exposed to the works of photographers/artists more talented than myself. Rather than being crushed by a truly impressive photograph I find inspiration and motivation.

I hope that Nikon feels the same way.

Happy shooting,

Dan

Gone forever but not forgotten

•February 7, 2018 • Leave a Comment

farm, landscape, Alberta, summer, storm, wildflowers, prairie, Dan Jurak, rural, granaries, granary, wooden buildings,

Just a few minutes from where I live is agricultural parkland. The prairies here were once and in some places still are a mix of open prairie and scattered plots of aspens, willows and birch trees.

Alberta is a recently new place to be inhabited by western civilization. Long before Europeans arrived the First Nations people lived and prospered here.

Theirs was a nomadic, hunter, gatherer existence. They moved where the game was. Staying in one place until the hunting and resources were better in another.

That changed a  hundred or so years ago here when the prairies started to be settled and farmed by emigrating Europeans.  The homestead where my ancestors arrived over one hundred years ago is no doubt gone. Turned into a pile of dust and consumed by the earth.

So many of the buildings on the prairie were built with the resources at hand and that meant there are very few stone structures like in Europe. The difference between old buildings in Europe and Western Canada is great. An old building here is one hundred years old. In Europe? Hundreds of years.

Over my lifetime the prairie has changed. The wooden grain elevators that once dotted the land were slowly but surely replaced by concrete buildings. The once quaint and familiar wooden elevators are but memories.

Maybe one day we will look at the large concrete fortresses with fondness and think of them as attractive but I doubt it.

A slower more gradual change is taking place here.

The small wooden farm granaries that farmers used to store grain until they shipped it away are disappearing. I have many photos of buildings in various states of decay that no longer exist.

The two old wooden structures at the top of this post were standing a dozen years ago. They withstood strong winter and summer winds for many years before being weakened and neglected only to fall under the weight of a winter snow or the winds of a strong summer storm.

They are gone forever but for as long as there are photos of them they are remembered.

Happy shooting,

Dan

The beauty of the seasons…

•February 1, 2018 • 9 Comments

snow, winter, landscape, dan jurak, black and white, mono, foggy, prairie, Alberta,

Up here in western Canada we are blessed with four seasons.

It seems odd to me when I listen to podcasts from Los Angeles and they are talking about their winter and wearing a sweater or light jacket when it drops to the high fifties in Fahrenheit that would be the mid teens Celsius I think to the rest of the world.

That is winter in southern California.

Up here in Canada things are a little different. Winter in central Alberta where I live can start as early as Halloween where the snow will sometimes last until mid to late April. I remember once the snow didn’t fall until Christmas eve and then it was 48 hours of giant snowflakes falling from the sky. So very pretty that even as a child of six or seven I could appreciate the beauty of it.

All of October, November and most of December that year was brown and cold. We don’t usually call it winter until the snow flies.

For me there has always been beauty in the seasons. Summer on the prairies starts out wet and foggy in the mornings, becoming drier through August and then into our short autumn. Autumn in Alberta is kind of spread out during September and October as things become cooler first in the mountains and from the north where we border the northwest territories it sweeps southward to the American border over a period of weeks.

Winter has always been special to me since I was a small child. Memories of playing outside with my younger brother until the both of us couldn’t feel our feet or fingers anymore and then into a warm bathtub to thaw our little selves out.

The first snowfall of the year is almost magical. Usually giant flakes waft slowly to the ground. On other occasions the snow will be slammed across the sky horizontally as a cold northern wind pushes it across the prairies.

For five months the snow can look one hundred ways different. It might look the same to the person who doesn’t really look at it but it is different. From soft, billowy powder to hard, cement like drifts, snow has the ability to change the look of the same place drastically making it look completely different from one day to the next.

I love winter. I love summer. I love spring. I love fall.

I love the seasons.

Happy shooting,

Dan