Saturday, December 21, 2013

Best of 2013

2013. Damn this year went by fast.

I remember the day that I wrote down my resolutions for this year like it was yesterday. Talking about those resolutions, which ones DID I accomplish this year? Maybe this post is the perfect way to reflect on what has been a very successful year for me. Here goes.

As a recap, my 2013 resolutions where:

- Getting Published again.
Well that has a huge check mark next to it. My work was published in Dodho Magazine, Camerapixo, Blur Magazine, Extraordinary Vision, Fstop Magazine and I had feature interviews in Adore Noir, Stark Magazine, ƒ11 Magazine and Slices of Silence. Check!

- Show my work in at least one gallery and learn how to write artist statements.
I did better. Ian Tan Gallery out of Vancouver now represents my work. I hope I can add a couple more galleries to that list in 2014. Check!

- Enter international competitions.
In 2013 I received 7 honorable mentions in the 2013 International Photo Awards and won a bronze medal at the 'La Prix de la Photography' international competition in the non-professional Nature/Trees category. Check!

- Shoot more film and dabble more in 4x5.
This was the first full year of photographing on film. Loving it! So much that I bought a 4x5 camera and that's going to take all my focus for next year. Check and Check.

- Meet up with more photographers.
A very long list. I had the pleasure to meet up with Chuck Kimmerle, Kevin Boyle, Marc Koegel, Rob Tiley, Benoit Jansen-Reynaud, Aleksandra Miesak and Didier Demaret. All who I greatly admire. So a big fat Check.

- Devour more photo books.
My wife bought me 2 signed photo books by Michael Kenna. I love those things. Every time I see something different where I go 'that's brilliant!'. I've also read 'The Camera', 'The Negative' and 'Examples' by Ansel Adams from front to back. Check.

- Explore more.
I didn't do a lot of exploring. I never went hiking this year deep in the mountains for example. But I keep exploring the Prairies though.

- Build my darkroom.
That did not get accomplished. The plan still sits in my head. But we are talking about moving in a few years time. It would be a waste of money to get completely set up and then have to take everything down again. Too bad though because I am really looking forward to printing my work in a wet darkroom again.

SO all in all a very successful year. But let's go over the photographs. Because that is why you are here.

Somewhere in February I found this tree close to home. It was days after a fresh snow fall and the air was still humid and full of fog. This photo has so much meaning to me personally.

This was photographed in Yellowstone in March when I met up with Chuck Kimmerle and Aleksandra Miesak. Yellowstone is a beautiful park (although we only saw the north part of it due to winter road closures)! Funny story though. We were driving back and I saw this tree on this hill from a long ways away. It was like my eyes were constantly scanning for things like this. Turned out... This little one was on a hill besides the Yellowstone National Park Training Center.

Yeah I know.

We went back to Belgium in May for the very first time in 5 years. Here are 2 photographs from the same day. One of the rare occasions where I was actually able to do some work (between drinking beers, meeting friends for beers and family duties). Priorities right?

During the summer I disappointed myself with storm chasing. Not only where the storms not really all that great, but photographing thunderstorms on film is ... let's say ... interesting. Nothing came out of that endeavor.

In September I made this simple photograph. Again, very close to home. I love simple scenes like this. This is what I thought was a fresh cut hayfield and I named it that way too. Now I think it's actually canola...

Another one from September. A month in which I started experimenting with long(er) exposures. Here is a 2.5h long exposure of the moon gliding across the sky over Ghost Lake Reservoir.


Here are 2 photographs from a weekend I spent in November alongside Paul Zizka at Abraham Lake. I was super super pleased that I came back with original photographs from this place. It was a very creative weekend. Probably the best photographs I made all year.

Riding on that high from November, I went to the Spray Lakes Reservoir for a sunrise shoot. It was again one of those mornings where everything fell in place. Very pleased about the results from that morning.

And finally, on my way back from that shoot, I saw these out of the corner of my eye. Definitely one of those gems I would have missed in the morning. I thought this would make a perfect Christmas card don't you agree?

Thursday, December 19, 2013

The story behind the photograph

A few weeks back I photographed the Spray Lakes Reservoir area on the edge of Kananaskis in Alberta.

It was a glorious day. I photographed from sunrise to deep in the afternoon. Initially I set out to photograph the lake. I know November is a great time to photograph the big lakes in the Rockies. It's cold enough for the first snow to start falling but most of the time, not yet cold enough for these massive bodies of water to freeze over.

Long story short I had a blast.

But at one point in the afternoon I decided that I had had enough fun and it was time to start make my way back home.

The sun was low – maybe 90 minutes from setting. I was driving on a snow covered highway doing maybe 80–90km/h with tress on either side as far as the eye could see. I wasn't prepared to see anything that was worth photographing when out of the corner of my eye I see something. Something interesting. I checked the rear view. Good, nobody behind me. I slammed on the brakes. I come to a stop in a cloud of snow dust and pull a U-ey making my way back to where I approximately saw ... something. I come to the spot and YES, it's bingo time!

I quickly gather all my gear and make my way through the knee-deep snow of the embankment to this spot. A beautiful circular stand of trees on the edge of the forest.

It was a bit of a tricky exposure. Having a combination of sunlit snow and shadowed snow. Both have pretty solid Zone placements that can't really be misplaced in any other Zone without consequences to the negative. Oh, and I have to somehow combine these deep shadows (the trees) as well.

This was going to be interesting.

I screwed on the red filter to bring out the most contrast I could get in the sky (which had developed gorgeous high altitude ice clouds by now). I measured the light and decided that the shadowed snow should fall in Zone V. The sunlit snow then fell in Zone VII. A little hot but still ok for Delta. The dark trees fell in Zone III with the clouds falling somewhere in the Zone VI area and the blue sky around Zone IV.

Composition was tricky too. I wanted the photograph to be simple. Excluding as many trees sticking in the frame as possible. I changed lenses about 4 times to finally land on the 65mm I believe. Good. That is one of my lenses that has multicoating on the elements. Because I noticed the sun and was photographing straight in it. By stepping about 30 cm to the right from where I initially stood, I could let the sun shine through the trees. The coating would help me keep reflections to a minimum. I choose a small aperture (I believe ƒ16 or ƒ22) to get the smallest sun star possible without affecting the quality of the negative.

A few weeks later, I developed the film. Developing time was normal and I chose 1+1 Perceptol. In the end it's a beautiful negative with great densities throughout and superb detail. I hope it will print pretty easy in the darkroom once I'm set up.

In post I raised the contrast (as usual) and burned in the sky to add even more separation between the tonalities. I also burned in the sunlit snow areas. That gave them a little bit more definition.

It was definitely a scene I had not planned on. But I was very pleased about stopping. In total I shot 3 frames with varying composition. I settled on the last composition.

I sincerely hope you like this photograph and the story behind it.