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,



Like Father, Like Son

•June 21, 2015 • 10 Comments

long exposure, fathers day, Alberta, Dan Jurak, black and white, Alberta, fineart, fine art, long exposure, minimalist,

Happy fathers day to all the dads out there both young and old.

I didn’t know my father very well or I don’t remember much of him. I was seven years old when he died. My memories of him are vague and fading but he still lives with me.

It was a sunny day in October when he was taken away to the hospital. Us kids never knew how seriously ill he was and in those days youngsters weren’t allowed to visit the ward that he was in. I knew he was sick but we all get sick and get better. Don’t we? Or at least that’s what I thought. He never returned home.

The next time I saw him was from the front row of his funeral. A few hours later they were lowering his casket at the cemetery. It was a cold and gray November day. The snow was falling. The wind was blowing. It was a miserable day.

Even at that young age I understood the finality of death. I didn’t understand why dad was gone. Why did I have to lose my father while all of my friends still had theirs. It didn’t seem fair but then as I grew up I began to understand life is not always about being fair. We have our fate and our destiny. My destiny was to grow up without a father one of five siblings with a young widow for a mom.

My consolation to losing my dad was having a great mother. It wasn’t easy for her. We didn’t make it easy for her because we never understood as children how difficult it was for her.

As I grew older, got married and had my own children I realized the importance that parents have on their offspring. For better or worse we become more like than unlike our parents.

One of my earliest memories of dad was him setting lights up in the house to photograph us. We were always being photographed by him and then if it wasn’t too late we would get to see him use the bathroom as a darkroom. The orange glow of the safelight and the strong smell of developer, stop bath and fixer are etched in my mind. That would have been around 1958 or 1959.

Over the years I would pore over my fathers’ negatives, prints and transparencies. I became fascinated with photography never intending to pursue it as a career. Somehow I ended up in photo school after I quit university and the rest is history.

There have been moments when I am out by myself chasing clouds that I have felt my fathers presence. In a way my photographs are both a tribute and a reflection of him.

I still love you dad after all of these years.


Old Friends Revisited

•June 19, 2015 • 3 Comments

long exposure, grain bins, granary, landscape, long exposure, black and white, low key, prairie, landscape, Dan Jurak, clouds,

I wrote in the previous blog post about maybe revisiting these to grain bins over the course of the year. On my very next trip out I ended up not by plan but by accident at the end of the day near these two bins.

The light was fading rapidly as the sun was hiding behind the clouds low on the horizon. This was a grab shot more than something that I was counting on as a keeper. The result was a slightly underexposed image that made for a better low key image than a normal one.

What this demonstrates to me anyway is how variable a scene can be depending upon the light and the weather.

I will return. :)

Happy shooting,


Two old friends that I want to keep in touch with…

•June 17, 2015 • 2 Comments

long exposure, landscape, black and white, minimalist, cloudy, low key, Dan Jurak, Alberta, farm, rural, #explorealberta,

Last fall a couple of old metal granaries caught my eye. There is nothing unique or special about them. They are two of thousands that dot the Alberta prairie.

They caught my eye because of where they are situated. On a hill, not far from a gravel road that I frequent. Alone in the middle of a treeless field. That is what makes them for me at least special. You see when area farmers erect barns, granaries, etc. they don’t do it based on aesthetics but on practicality. Usually they are nestled among trees lining the edge of a field where they are hard to see. Oh yeah, and out of the wind.

For photographs that isn’t such a good thing. These two metal friends are situated in the most perfect of places. There is even an access path worn through the new crops traveling up the hill to them. Very picturesque.

Hopefully the next year will allow me to photograph these two in all sorts of conditions. From clear skies, to windy, cloudy days. From morning til dawn the light and the sky is constantly changing. The perfect location to learn long exposure, what works and what doesn’t.

You’ll be seeing more of this special place and hopefully how different the same place can look through the year.

Happy shooting,


Westerly Winds

•June 16, 2015 • 1 Comment

Alberta, landscape, minimalist, landscape, black and white, fineart, fine art, landscape, Dan Jurak, clouds, black and white,

When I arose this morning the skies were almost perfectly clear. Not so good for photos. At least not for me.

I checked the forecast like I usually do and surprisingly there were thunderstorms forecast for the afternoon. Hmmm.

This early it seemed like a waste driving out of town so daily chores got done. Groceries. Laundry. The usual and boring and mundane that everyone has to do. A big difference being that as I am retired I can usually go out when I choose.

By noon the sky was dotted with tiny puffy clouds and the wind was picking up. There was also and Environment Canada weather advisory. Thunderstorms were imminent sometimes later.

What the heck I thought. I grabbed one camera body and one lens along with the tripod and a handful of neutral density filters. Ahh, the joys of shooting black and white. It’s been a long time it seems since I was up at 3:30 a.m. to beat the sun rising in the country to a fog covered morning. This was truly taking it easy. No groggy eyes. No dragging myself out of bed. Just get an idea and off I go.

And so I went. As I drove out of town I could see that the spotty clouds were quickly filling in with heavier cumulus clouds all around me. It wouldn’t be long before the sky was completely overcast. I had gone maybe ten minutes and came upon a familiar location that has been shot by me many times before. This very same hill was featured on a magazine cover a few years ago. The autumn sun was setting after a powerful storm had passed leaving golden streaks splashing along the recently harvested wheat. Today was different. One o’clock. A glaring sun. Lots of wind and clouds coming in from the west. Ahh, those westerly winds that bring us most of the weather here.

I took just one exposure. Four minutes @ f11 with a 16 stop neutral density filter and already the clouds were becoming heavy. Because the wind was blowing in my direction, I am facing westward, the clouds have streaks on their upper sides. This is to me both a mystery and delight. I haven’t done this long enough to accurately predict what the camera will see and after four or five minutes the clouds you saw just moments ago have moved or are gone. So very unpredictable right now and that is why I probably love this so much right now.

It always surprises me when I get home and open up the RAW image to begin the real creative part of it in Photoshop. This photo can look a hundred different ways. You get to decide which way it goes.

Right now I am still finding a “look” that I want to pursue for lack of a better term so the next year will be filled with lots of experimentation trying to find which way the winds of Alberta will take me.

Happy shooting,



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