So Dan, what kind of camera do you use?

•June 19, 2018 • 5 Comments

prairie, summer, road, rural, foggy, fog, Alberta, trees, farm, Dan Jurak, landscape, horizontal, camera equipment, Nikon, Sony, Canon, clouds, stormy,

I was asked this very same question on Instagram last week.

I actually had to go back to the image and open it up to view the EXIF data to see for myself.

I have only used three different camera models since I started shooting digital in the early 2000’s. The first was a 10 megapixel Canon Rebel, then a Canon Mark 1DSlll and finally I made the switch to Nikon about five years ago.

Aside from the Canon Rebel which is now old and amateur technology I never have noticed the difference between the newer Canon and Nikon.

Sure the Nikon has almost the resolution of the newer Canon but quality wise you really have to look closely to see any kind of difference.

I’m not a commercial photographer. The most extreme use of any of my images might be for a large print and both the Canon at 21 megapixels and the Nikon at 38 are more than adequate for my needs.

Some people still mistakenly believe that if they get Brand X camera body and lens that they will be able to take photos like the ones they like and they are partly right but they are mostly wrong.

Photography is probably 90% the person using the camera and the remaining 10% are the physical limitations of the lens and camera sensor.

Just like it was thirty years ago there are still “experts” on the internet forums today telling you why a Sony is superior to a Nikon or Canon and they might be but the differences are something that you will probably only ever see in the lab.

I could just as easily use a Nikon, Canon or Sony and nobody but nobody would ever be able to tell the difference. Creativity lies between your ears and not in your hands.

With a photographer just like a painter it is the person and NOT the equipment that matters. Remember that the next time you go shopping for gear.

 

Happy shooting,

Dan

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An evening of storm chasing in Alberta

•June 10, 2018 • Leave a Comment

storm chaser, supercell, tornado, bad weather, storms, clouds, Alberta, prairie, horizontal, landscape, Dan jurak,

Those who are hardcore weather chasers had been predicting extreme weather central Alberta this past weekend.

We had been having a few days in the high 20’s Celsius to close to 30 Celsius and with a cold and damp front moving in from the west the result might, just might result in severe storms.

That weather usually passes closer to Red Deer which is a couple of hours drive south of me. What was unusual was that it was all supposed to happen just a half an hour or more east of where I live.

Friday the predicted foul weather never appeared. On Saturday morning I awoke to clear skies at 5:00 am and warm temperatures. Because our dog doesn’t like the hot weather I took him for or regular hour long walk and returned not being sure if the weather would turn foul.

Then around noonish the skies became uniformly grey and the air was feeling heavy and humid.

The latest forecasts were predicting storms by 6:00 pm that day and at least a couple of hours east of me. I keenly watched a Facebook group for severe weather chasers and started seeing pics of rain, grey clouds, etc. but nothing too impressive.

Closer to six the good pics had started appearing and there was even a tornado warming for a small town two and a half hours away from me. The weather was in fact moving AWAY from where I lived.  If I were to start driving out there, I figured that I would miss it. Meh.

Laziness got the better part of me and the fact that there was a UFC preliminary fight on that evening was all the more reason to stay at home.

Out of curiosity I checked the weather radar app on my iMac and to my amazement saw that there were BIG storm clouds west of me and not too far at that.

Putting the VCR on record I grabbed my stuff and headed north west. As I drove I kept my eye on the west and could vaguely see a large cloud. It didn’t look special but I kept driving mainly north and a bit westerly.

I was probably forty five minutes from home and then the cloud started to take shape. If I could get to the front of it I thought I might see the shelf that was probably at that end.

When things started to look good I pulled over and snapped a few pics. Nothing great but looking west the shelf I had been hoping for suddenly appeared. In the Rav and hightailing it across gravel roads as I got closer and closer to this great looking cloud formation.

I continued taking pics, moving on, stopping and taking more pics for about twenty minutes before the storm broke up and I gave up.

Less than an hour later I was home and realized that in my haste I had set the PVR to the wrong channel. LOL Oh well, the results would be on the internet in the morning so I headed to bed looking forward to the rain that was predicted for the following day.

Happy shooting,

Dan

What I know about Photoshop 26 years later…

•June 8, 2018 • Leave a Comment

Maligne Lake, dawn, reflection, jasper, rockies, photoshop, monochrome, summer, foggy, Dan jurak, landscape, travel alberta, tourism jasper,

My introduction to Photoshop was I think in 1992. The version at the time was 2.0 and a few months later we were upgraded to 2.5. They were heady times.

The transition from a wet darkroom to a digital one was exciting. Exciting because I love to learn. That enthusiasm for learning stood me well over the years.

Every upgrade was like opening a gift at Christmas time. There was always something new and yet to be discovered.

When you use Photoshop everyday at work it becomes second nature to you. We used Macs at work, I had a Windows machine at home and I purchased my first copy of the program for around $500 I think. Even today that is very expensive for a program.

It took a little while to get used to the different keystroke combinations between a Mac and Windows machine but like almost everything else, repeat it a thousand times and it finally clicks with you.

I continued to use Photoshop over the years and eventually became a designer which meant learning more new programs, Illustrator being one of them.

My career has been full of challenges from learning Photoshop and Illustrator to learning to hand code html pages when we started designing websites for our national newspaper chain.

Now retired Photoshop is still used by me almost daily and I am still learning.

Puzzles can be fun to solve. I found myself stumbling across photos by the same photographer this week on Instagram. His photos had a unique monochrome or duotone look to them but it was obvious that they originally were in colour.

On his profile he had links to actions and tutorials to learn how to process photos like him. Tempted as I was I figured that it would be more fun to experiment knowing what I know about Photoshop and see if I could replicate what he had done or at least get close.

At the worst I wouldn’t be able to figure out how he had gotten his amazing results and at best I might learn something that new that had never occurred before to me.

So I sat down at my iMac last night and started playing with an image from 2009. The more I toyed with the image the more fun I found myself having. My photo was definitely not looking like his but I found myself liking this treatment better.

It ends up being very monochrome with a couple of exceptions. Very graphic and deliberately so.

What I do know is that if I ever tried to replicate this very same look it would end up looking different and that is not a bad thing because there is no “right” look for this image of Maligne Lake in Jasper National Park.

One day if I ever get motivated enough I will definitely make a video of my screen as I play in Photoshop because these days that is what it is. 26 years later I still find myself learning Photoshop.

And it is sooooo much fun!

Happy shooting,

Dan

Sheep or shepherd? Which are you?

•June 4, 2018 • 2 Comments

Emerald Lake, British Columbia,photography, landscape, foggy, summer, lake, reflection, clouds, moody, colour, trees, rockies, Canada, dan jurak, horizontal,

I came across a great saying the other day.

“When you’re younger, it’s all about conformity and being easily influenced – especially in terms of fashion. You just follow the trends. Whatever is hot at the moment, you want to get it. You basically just want to be doing what everyone else is doing. But as you get older, those things aren’t as important.” – Tia Mowry

I had to Google Tia Mowry to know who she was. Apparently she is on a television show that I have never heard of. That sounds like an old man doesn’t it?

Most of us start out in life needing to be/feel part of a group. It’s probably a genetic thing that helps ensure our survival and I am as guilty as anyone of trying to conform or at least I was when I was younger.

A funny thing happened to me in my early twenties. Instead of feeling the need to conform I had my own mini-rebellion so to speak. It was so mini that I doubt that anyone even realized that I was rebelling. LOL

You can see conformity all around us these days. What is trending on Twitter? What is hot on Instagram? From fashion to music to food there is an almost universal need to conform or is it be popular?

There is a trend happening in of all places, landscape photography. I see it everyday. Someone, lets call him the shepherd photographs a new place or an old place in a new way. And the sheep we will call them see this very popular shepherds photograph and copy it.

I can only speak of things that I am familiar with so I will tell you about Jasper and Banff national parks here in Canada. They are huge. Really big. In my twenties I would hike all the back country trails that I could in Jasper and still have not seen all of the park. Having said that why is it that most of the popular photos from Jasper and Banff are of the same half dozen places and almost without exception photographed the same as all the “shepherds”?

So when I get out to the national parks and see the obvious cliche I make an effort to do something different.

Popularity has never been something that I aspired to and in my senior years I find myself being more of a “rebel” than I ever was in my teens and twenties.

Maybe getting old means getting a little crazy?

Happy shooting,

Dan

Alberta’s Prairie Cemeteries

•May 31, 2018 • 3 Comments

prairie, cemetery, storm, black and white, monochrome, stormy, dramatic, landscape, summer, Alberta, horizontal, Dan Jurak,

I think that at one time or another all of us think about our mortality.

At a young age my father died and I was faced with the loss of a parent.

My views of life and death were in one way or another shaped by his departure.

Having only a mother left and knowing that we were all mortal I lived secretly with the fear that one day she too would leave us and my brothers and sisters would be left alone with no one to care for us.

Both parents have long since passed and recently a brother died after a long and painful battle with cancer.

Having said that, every time that I visit a prairie cemetery, especially when I am alone I stop thinking about photography and find my mind wandering to those whose remains were laid to rest.

The grave markers to me are more than concrete, wood or metal. They represent lives of real people who loved others and were loved. They were once children and some lived long enough to have not just children but grandchildren and great grandchildren. They were married. They fought in wars overseas. They lost loved ones before they departed.

There are so many untold stories in these old prairie cemeteries in Alberta and it isn’t just on the prairies.

When I was a small child one of the places that my parents would take us camping was past Cadomin. A few kilometres south of there were the remains of what was called Mountain Park. Today nothing is left of mountain park but a few pictures at a historic marker. Close by is a small cemetery where I remember wandering with my wife and kids.

It was fascinating to read the grave markers. Many of the adults were born in various parts of Europe in the 1800’s moved to the foothills of Alberta and were laid to rest there, thousands of kilometres from where they were born.

Some of the saddest markers were those of children who lived only a few weeks before dying. More lost dreams for those who came before us. How many forgotten or untold stories do these places hold that will never be told?

I am always reverent and respectful when I come upon these special places because to me they are more than just a photo opportunity. They are a place that represents real dreams and stories from generations ago.

Happy shooting,

Dan

If you can shoot landscapes at home you can shoot great landscapes anywhere…

•May 30, 2018 • 2 Comments

urban landscape, Edmonton, yes, yellow tansy, weeds, landscape, summer, dan jurak, Alberta,

If you really want to impress someone with your photos the easiest way is to visit an exotic locale. It doesn’t really matter how good or bad the photo is, just because the place you took the picture is stunning you will be sure to impress. People are impressed by shiny things. I see it everyday. Visit Iceland or Patagonia and the scenery is usually powerful enough to overpower any shortcomings in your photography.

There is nothing wrong with making trips to exotic places around the world but if you are going to do it, get the most bang for your buck by being a master of what you do BEFORE you get there.

For many years I was shooting stock photography. I mistakenly believed that everyone wanted photos of the national parks and after a few years I realized that what was making the most money for me were the local, rural agriculture photos that are only minutes away from where I live.

It’s not glamorous but it pays better than the photos of our national parks.

On my many trips out of town I of course have to drive THROUGH town to get to the city limits.

The photo above was actually taken in the city of Edmonton and I walk my dog through this area a few times a week while he hunts for partridge. We don’t shoot them, I don’t hunt anymore but Cooper figured out on his own how to scent, point to and then pounce to make the birds take flight. That is as close to hunting as I get these days.

The area where the picture was taken is now an empty and weed filled field. Perfect for partridge. Not so good right now for pics.

A few years back while the neighbourhood was being developed dump trucks would back into this field with their loads of clay and top soil. What was left were a series of piles of dirt and concrete and all other manner of refuse. Over time the exposed soil was overgrown with weeds some of which looked very attractive to me. On one fine summer evening while I was making my way out of town near sunset instead of driving any further I pulled over and walked into this weed filled field as the sky turned into a blazing show. It was one of those skies that you only see a few times a year.

I took a bunch of photos of the weeds and hills being careful not to include any of the new houses just out of sight. The result is above. Who would ever guess that this was taken in the city of Edmonton?

My point to this is that if you practice enough where you live to recognize light and the right weather conditions you will absolutely nail it when you get to Iceland.

Learning is so much easier when you can do it only minutes away from where you live.

Happy shooting,

Dan

 

Alone in the mountains under a starry night sky…

•May 25, 2018 • 11 Comments

milky way, astrophotography, long exposure, reflection, jasper, dark sky, jasper dark sky, Dan Jurak, lake, stars, galaxy, travelalberta, tourismjasper, Alberta, mountains,

Hernias. During my annual medical checkup my doctor always did the hernia thing. Guys, you know what that is. Cough. Cough again. Done.

At the age of 63 soon to be 64 I hadn’t ever encountered one. They were things that only “other” people got. Then a few months ago at my wifes insistence I lifted something very heavy and felt a twang. Damn, I thought, I pulled a muscle. Ah well, serves me right. It will get better in a few weeks. And then it didn’t. A month later, I noticed one day while coughing that I felt a little pop down below. Putting my hand to it, there was a little bulge. Aaack! A hernia!!!

Oh well, is that something that only old men get? It turns out that men and women of all ages can get them. Reassuring eh?

Make an appointment with my physician, only to get a referral to a specialist a few weeks later who would do the surgery. Long story short. Last week I went under the scalpel and had the hernia repaired.

Now I no longer have a bulging intestine that keeps me from doing things that I normally like to do but instead I am limited by how much I can lift for four weeks until the incision  completely heals.

It seems that things that are unavailable or out of reach become more attractive and appealing than they should be and I have a hankering. A hankering to get out to the mountains and hike tens of kilometres. Hike out in the mountains and carry an overloaded backpack until my legs are wobbly from doing the umpteenth switchback climbing out of a mountain valley and into a high pass.

I have a hankering to be out alone under a brilliant sky where the light of stars from hundreds of millions of years ago is finally reaching earth.

Soon I keep saying and the impatience isn’t easy to live with but I know that all good things come to those who wait.

Happy shooting,

Dan