This Old House and the Skunk

•July 5, 2015 • 7 Comments

infrared, landscape, dan jurak, alberta, fineart, black and white, fineart, black & white, prairie, summer,

The Alberta prairie is dotted with hundreds and maybe thousands of these old, abandoned wooden structures.

This one is about an hours drive east of Edmonton where I live.

I first came across it last fall when I was driving back from photographing my favorite church. Taking a different way home can sometimes reveal undiscovered treasures like this one. When I first saw it the grasses around this old house were from waist to chest high and dead. It was autumn after all and most things had gone dormant for the year.

I took a few photos of it if only to remember it for the future. The light was bad and the sky horrible.

This photo was done in infrared which meant that I would not have to be up before dawn or out late just before sunset to catch the best light in color. Nope. With infrared the middle part of the day seems to be the best.

It was about one o’clock in the afternoon and on a hunch I drove out of town. The skies at that time were perfectly clear. Not usually a good thing for the kind of landscapes that I like. Because on previous days the cloud had started to form around noon I figured that if I got lucky the clouds would just be forming by the time I had gotten to the house and I was lucky. They had.

Just out of sight behind me was a sun dried skeleton of what I think was a moose lying in the tall grass. I never saw a skull so I wasn’t sure but it was a large mammal. Maybe an elk if not a moose? Beside the house the faint odor of underarms. As the wind blew I would catch scent of it. A skunk maybe?

Sure enough a few feet from the door of this old building lay the remains of a skunk. Maybe it had been shot or did it die a natural death? I dunno. What kills skunks?

Happy shooting,


The Delights of Walking the Less Traveled Trails

•July 4, 2015 • 5 Comments

infrared, landscape, fineart, black and white, black & white, Dan Jurak, prairie, summer, pasture, farm, trail, road, leaves, trees, poplar, dreamy, ethereal,

Summer is here. I am retired. Banff and Jasper National Parks are only a three or four hour drive from where I live and yet I choose to stay close to home. Oh sure, I will make it out there but more for a change of scenery than to take photos.

It is easy to see the obvious. Too easy. Stand at the viewpoint at Peyto Lake in Banff and you can’t help but be impressed. A turquoise lake nestled against a tall mountain range. Wow. I’ve taken that photo as have millions of others. It is a photo not to be missed. Add it to your trophy wall of world class landscape locations.

After a time the obvious starts to become old. If you haven’t photographed it before you no doubt have seen hundreds of others like it. It is time to start looking. Really looking around yourself and seeing what you have been ignoring all these years.

The world of infrared is kind of like that. There is a whole world unseen and to be discovered in the infrared.

Summer is probably the best time of year in Alberta to do infrared photography. Even though it has been dry here there is so much green and green goes white when shot with a camera modified for that kind of photography.

On the same afternoon that I photographed the church in the previous post I was aimlessly driving side roads looking for anything that would catch my eye. As I dipped into a small river valley and came out on the opposite side  I saw a small road leading through poplar trees into a cattle pasture. To the eye it looked unremarkable. To my mind it had possibilities. All that green foliage which was in shade might go white. The blue sky would become black. The clouds up in that sky would jump out against the darkness.

So I stopped the Rav, grabbed the infrared Nikon and did a bunch of grab shots. No tripod. No thinking about what I was doing just look through the viewfinder, frame what was interesting and snap away.

When doing this kind of photography the display on the camera back is almost useless. The image is a dark pink. I can’t tell accurately how it will convert so my main concern is to get the composition right. That I can do through the viewfinder.

lifepixel, infrared, RAW, landscape,

I have a preset in my RAW converter that I made up so that I can one click the RAW and get an accurate idea how the final might look. It is then I do most of my editing. I edit a lot because I bracket these photos heavily. Metered light is not the same as infrared light. What the meter might indicate one day could be over or under exposed so for every scene I take five identically bracketed shots weeding out the too dark and too light ones.

If you haven’t thought of infrared you really should. It shows the world in a whole different light. Literally.

Happy shooting,


Never Be Afraid

•July 2, 2015 • 20 Comments

long exposure, church, fineart, fine art, black and white, landscape, Alberta, low key, clouds, sky,, religion, Dan Jurak,

It was scorching hot sitting on the dry grass this afternoon. The lack of rain has made the grass around this old church brown and brittle. It crunched underfoot as I had earlier opened the chain link gate and made my way towards the solitary building.

I quickly framed the shot. Figured out the exposure. Screwed the 16 stop neutral density filter onto the lens and waited. In five minutes I would get to see what kind of motion the clouds behind the church would make. Clouds are everything in these kinds of photos and because the exposures are so long you can’t always or at least I can’t predict the outcome.

During the five minutes as the timer counted down I had the opportunity to get up and look for better, more interesting angles.

Photography like this is very contemplative. Alone on the open prairie the mind wanders from photography to other things. Family. Hockey, yes I am Canadian. Life and death. How long will remain on this earth? How will I pass? Will it be a quiet passing in my sleep? What will my wife and children do when I go?

From those thoughts to watching the clouds move overhead. How white are the clouds? What a dark blue the sky is.  Butterflies flitting in pairs across the dry grass. Where are they going? How long do they have on this planet?

I see the cemetery behind me. It is old. What kinds of stories would be told by the people whose bodies rest there?

Did they attend this church? Were they christened here? Were they married here? Was their funeral service here?

The mind wanders and then the five minutes is up. Time to compose another shot.

I sit down on the dry grass. A bunch of wilted clover is next to me. It is so dry. We had lots of rain two days ago but June is normally torrential and it wasn’t this year. It’s the driest on the Alberta prairies in ten years I hear on the radio driving out here.

It sure is hot.

In all of my thoughts I think about this different direction in photography for me. It is strange and a little uncomfortable. It isn’t flashy and glitzy like color. It too is more contemplative than the color.

What happens if we are afraid to take chances? This is a happy road I am traveling down. It is new. Exciting. A little scary.

I don’t get anywhere near the views and comments that I normally do on photo sharing websites like I did with color. Is it not as good? Do people not like it? I know deep inside that it matters not what people say or think. Do from the heart. Never be afraid to be unpopular.

Never be afraid.

Happy shooting,


Summer dreamin’ on the Alberta prairie

•June 27, 2015 • 4 Comments

infrared, lifepixel, landscape, black and white, summer, farm, rural, #explorealberta, road, rural, farm, Dan Jurak, landscape,

For those of you who live in the central and southern states the weather we have been having the past few days is something that you’d probably chuckle about. It’s kind of like when you get freezing temps and a few inches of snow and it seems like all hell has broken loose. Roads are impassible. Power lines are down. You’re just not used to it.

That’s kind of how it’s been in central Alberta for the past few days. Today we had a high of 31 Celsius. That converts to 87 Fahrenheit. It seems unbearably hot. There was even a weather advisory warning people to keep themselves hydrated and limit their exposure outside. LOL

I know that we humans are adaptable. I worked with someone who was raised in Chile and he would talk fondly of summer days where it would reach 40 Celsius. He said that he got used to it just like we get used to it being very, very cold here in the winter time.

A few days ago I went out with two cameras. Normally I only take the one body because I find it easier for me to visualize either black and white or infrared but not both. On that day I came back with interesting photos from both cameras but the one that really caught my eye were the infrared photos.

This body is modified so that no filter is needed in front of the lens unlike a regular camera body where you need a deep red almost opaque filter. This limits the camera’s use but on the other hand it allows for some free wheeling infrared photography.

I don’t even bother with a tripod. I grab the camera, walk around and shoot what captures my eye.

The clouds were perfect on this day for infrared. Cumulus clouds were popping up all around me. White, puffy, popcorn like clouds against a cobalt blue sky which when shot infrared turn jet black.

The photograph here is of a little gravel road going into a canola field. Just over the hill and out of site is an oilfield pump house. Foliage goes white. Clouds go white. Everything else goes dark.

It is like living in a dream world. Ahh, summer on the Alberta prairie.

Happy shooting,


Letting Your Imagination Run Wild – Black & White Style

•June 25, 2015 • 15 Comments

long exposure, low key, fineart, black and white, ukrainian church, greek orthodox church, prairie, landscape, Alberta, summer, clouds, cross, Dan Jurak, Alberta

The past few weeks of photography to say the least has been lots of fun and very interesting. I think that I got my mojo back to quote Austin Powers. LOL

After returning to photography after a long absence (it lost it’s sparkle when I started getting paid to shoot for someone else) color landscapes were lots and lots of fun. So much to learn shooting digital and using Photoshop from the old sheet film days.

But after a few years color landscapes lost their luster. I found myself less and less interested in getting out and doing what seemed to be the same old thing. I am sure that I will return to color one day. Maybe soon? There is something awe inspiring catching golden rays peaking over the horizon onto a fog covered valley.

Color is on hold for a while. Black and white gets me excited again and here’s the crazy part. When I HAD to shoot black and white in my first year of photography school back in 1971 I think, I somehow had it in my head that the “proper” way to photograph black and white was to pre-visualize and wait until the conditions were perfect and then release the shutter. It was a very disciplined kind of photography. I never would have thought of darkening a corner or lightening an area to draw the eye into it. I can look back on that time and say that it made me a better photography. You couldn’t be sloppy with your technique or the photo wouldn’t work.

Fast forward a few decades and my how things have changed. All the rules that I had learned long ago are now meant to be broken. I understand them. I know why they are rules but I use them and break them to my advantage and it is soooo much fun!

I’ve been to this old church a few times and shot it in color. It never quite looked right to me. Shot in black and white and this old church becomes more a figment of my imagination than a real place. Oh there isn’t anything added or removed here. Everything is in place but it is the interpretation of cloud movement and tones that makes it unique for me.

I’m at a time in my life where I care less or not at all about what others might think about what I do. It’s not just photography that this applies to either. Remember being in high school and worrying about your jeans looking right or that your hair was the “right” style? I do and looking back that was such a stupid time. Just as I dress in what I find comfortable I create what makes me happy.

Try it. You might like it.

Happy shooting,


I Am Always Surprised

•June 24, 2015 • 2 Comments

infrared, black and white, fineart, high key, landscape, summer, Dan Jurak, Alberta, clouds, pond, pasture, rural, Dan Jurak, infrared, surreal,

I just got back an hour ago from an afternoon drive in central Alberta. The forecast early this morning was for sunny and clear skies until noon at which time the clouds were to build up into possibly afternoon thunderstorms.

By noon there were a steady stream of clouds seemingly popping out of nothingness into the dark blue sky. It was time to head out.

I had a few places in mind the first of which was a long abandoned farmstead. That was a forty-five minute drive from home. I took a few long exposure photographs and then grabbed my camera body which was modified to photograph the infrared and walked around the building taking what I would call snapshots.

From here I knew of an old Ukrainian church that was close by. I was hoping to do some more long exposure photos which of course I did. While I was waiting for one of the exposures to finish (they were all six minutes long) I grabbed the infrared camera and stood on a nearby bridge which straddled an almost stagnant creek trickling into a slough. Because it was so bright out and the display of the RAW image is a bright pink I never bothered to see what I had waiting instead to edit when I got home.

I continued doing this until my long exposures were done and then took a roundabout drive home hoping to find and photograph anything that caught my eye.

This was one of those special afternoons. Although I was eighty or so kilometers from Edmonton it seemed like I was a million miles away. Watching the puffy clouds cross the sky. Seeing a solitary deer step out of the cover of poplar trees into a nearby field and cautiously grazing. The cares and worries of everyday life evaporated away.

Life at times can be so wonderful. Nature so incredibly powerful to take you far, far away.

I am always surprised.

Happy shooting,


Repetition is how I improve my photography

•June 23, 2015 • 6 Comments

long exposure, fineart, minimalist, low key, prairie, fineart, Dan Jurak, landscape, crops, field, farm, agriculture, rural,

Excuse the picture above. I am sure that to most of you it must look almost exactly like the previous ones posted here. Excuse me because I am learning.

The old saying is true. Practice makes perfect. I can happily photograph the same thing until I feel that I get it “right”. It’s about recognizing the right conditions in the field. It’s also about processing your image in a way that conveys your vision.

In a few weeks these kinds of photos will be impossible as the crops will have grown tall and wavy in the strong winds that push the clouds overhead. Then I have all kinds of ideas on what to do with wavy heads of barley and wheat. As the seasons change so should your photographs.

This repetition is actually building the foundation for later on. The really fun part. The creative part. It is when everything becomes second nature that your expression can really flow through you.

In the mean time, forgive the reps. I am a long way from being where I want to be doing this kind of photography. Miles to go before I sleep.

Happy shooting,




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