Early 2013 I made a commitment to myself to embark on one photography workshop a year. In 2013 I was in awe and wonder on a Heli-hiking trip to the Bugaboos with Canadian Geographic and Conservation Photographer, Neil Ever Osborne. In 2014 I found myself deeply touched and forever changed by the amazing encounters with spirit bears and humpback whales with John E. Marriott on the Great Spirit Bear Rainforest and Whale Adventure. This year, I decided to venture even further north to the Yukon with Paul Zizka and Dave Brosha.
How can one succinctly share about an experience with so many incredible elements? I will do my best, although I have a feeling this will be a long one.
A three hour drive on the Alaska Highway and west of Whitehorse, Kluane National Park and Reserve of Canada is a haven of natural wonders. One could spend days making this drive, so many hidden gems and places to explore. Our destination was Kluane B & B located on the shores of Kluane Lake at Silver City (you’ll get a kick out of this video about the history of Silver City).
Everyone gathered at 5.15pm, where we met our intrepid leaders Dave Brosha and Paul Zizka, as well as our Yukon guide Cathie Archbould. Viewing the incredible images that Dave, Paul and Cathie have captured as Professional Photographers was inspiration enough! I encourage you to view their websites – each of them unique in their craft, visions and approach.
“Shoot your passion!” both Dave and Cathie shared with us, encouraging everyone to find their own vision, and not get stuck in pre-conceived ideas. Which led into Dave’s presentation about ‘Finding Your Vision.” Dave shared something I have always believed, ‘get back to your basics,’ what inspires you, brings you joy, feeds your soul? Your vision lies there.
After Dave’s presentation dinner was served! Braised bison on a potato souffle with roasted carrots, beets and focacia, delighted my senses, and warmed my soul. There’s something to be said about food that is prepared from passion and love. Kari and Courtney of 14 Acre Farm Kluane Food Company fed us like Kings and Queens. Everything was enriched with natural ingredients and delightful flavours that tantalized the taste buds.
After dinner we ventured out on our first shoot, right outside of our accommodations – to the shoreline of Kluane Lake.
I had two techniques that I wanted to concentrate on at this workshop: composition and adding the human element to landscape photography. Given that Paul Zizka introduces more often than not, himself or a willing friend to the majority of his photography, I knew I would gain valuable knowledge. Also, Dave Brosha has captured some of the most beautiful portraits I’ve ever seen. Needless to say I am deeply grateful for the incredible suggestions, help and support that both Dave and Paul provided me. You’ll see from my first couple of photos and then the photos that follow as the workshop progressed that I definitely learned a great deal about composition and played around a little bit with adding in a human element and using filters.
An abandoned boat grabbed my attention immediately. As the majority of the group headed straight for the shoreline, I knew I had to somehow capture this boat in an image.
As I walked along the shoreline I was in awe of the many different textures, from ripples of fine grain sand, to pebbles, and even a heart in the dried up mud.
And of course introducing a human element to the composition. The master of being the human element was Aaron Von Hagen, whom I’m sure is in at least two photos of each of the 20 people in the group.
When Dave let everyone know that it was 10.30pm I was in disbelief. Firstly I was enjoying myself so much that the time had flown by, and secondly how light it was. The sun didn’t fully set till just before midnight, and even then it was not pitch black.
After a three hour sleep it was time to head to Sheep Mountain bend to capture the morning light. One side of the Alaska highway was mud flats with tufts of grass and thin channels of water, the other side was seemingly sparse. The majority of people went to the mud flats side, I decided to venture to the seemingly ordinary side. It wasn’t long before my eyes were drawn to many compositions, yet I kept coming back to one shot – I had a vision, it came to me, how I wanted it to look. I tried different compositions, took photos in different light conditions. The result, I believe is one of the best photos I took this weekend.
After the sun had risen, I ventured over to the other side of the highway, a completely different landscape lay before me.
At 7.30am we returned to the B & B for breakfast. Thankfully after breakfast I fell into a heavy slumber from 9am till 1pm. Four us took a little road trip for a couple of hours, marvelling at the incredible scenery.
Later in the afternoon, Paul did his presentation “Approaching a Scene.” In his opening line Paul said “Let the scene speak to you.” Paul, in my humble opinion, is one of the true masters of approaching a scene, and it is easily apparent that he is passionate about adventure photography. Everything Paul shared I took in with eagerness and excitement. Three of the most impactful suggestions from Paul for me were:
- Immerse yourself in the scene, look around and access it. Experience it with your eyes, not just your lens.
- What story do you want to tell?
- Simplify, eliminate, de-clutter, take out anything in the composition that doesn’t contribute to your story.
After Paul’s talk, Dave did a fantastic presentation on Lightroom. I learned so many simple tips that can take my photos from good to great.
After our delectable dinner of Arctic Charr stuffed with swiss chard and leek, served with quinoa, asparagus and a cranberry spruce tip sauce (is your tummy grumbling or your mouth watering yet?), we ventured off to our first of two stops for the evening – Boulder Bay.
I met my first creative and personal slump. Both Paul and Dave had warned us about being stuck in a vision of a particular composition. I knew our next location was Destruction Bay – where I had what I was hoping would be the image of the weekend for me. I was caught up in that vision, and didn’t have an open mind to what lay before me right now. I was also stuck in playing small and not good enough. The majority of participants in the workshop were experienced photographers and shared a lot of camera talk – fstops, aperture. After three years of learning I still struggle with the technical jargon (hmm similar story I shared in both my past workshops!). I was beating myself up. I captured a few images.
As we got to the car I shared my frustrations with the ladies. Surprisingly all three could empathize and relate in some way. It was a relief and a release to share my feelings, be heard and understood.
At our next location – Destruction Bay, right at the beginning Dave spent time with me showing me how to utilize a neutral density filter, gave me some tips on composition and technical settings. The time he spent with me helped me immensely and couldn’t have been more perfectly timed. I spent more time at two spots and worked at creating the image I wanted – I almost got there, not quite – almost.
Saturday morning was wet and cold, which equalled a welcomed sleep in!
In the afternoon we had a critiquing session. I always find these so beneficial. Everyone was asked to submit two of their photos for critiquing by Paul and Dave. All the images were anonymous, and it was definitely not like Dragons Den or Shark Tank. Paul and Dave were so helpful with what works in the image, and where improvement could happen. I find this to be such a valuable exercise, as I also got to see 38 other images filled with different perspectives, techniques, vision, and personality.
After dinner we went to our last evening location, a one hour drive to picturesque Kathleen Lake. What a sight for locals to see several vehicles pull in one after the other and 23 people pile out of the cars with loads of photography equipment. We were respectful and walked around to a less used part of the lake.
Walking through the surrounding forest was like venturing through a fairy garden, it was whimsical, playful, light, and airy. I decided to play around with macro for a little bit.
And then I played around with slow shutter speeds, neutral density filters, hearts on a mountain and a sweet little boy fishing with his Dad.
We got back to the B & B around 11.30pm, and even though we were starting at 4.30am everyone gathered for a drink. Let’s just say this image captures how we all felt – tired, goofy and happy.
After a very brief sleep we were up bright and early for our final morning of shooting. One of the many things I’ve learned from this trip is to look closer. At first the scene seemed uncompelling and then…
For a last hoorah Dave played around with Fish eye portraits and then we stopped for a group photo. Once again, amazing what can look like nothing special from the road can be so interesting.
Other than sleep deprivation, I am feeling super inspired and grateful. I am so grateful to Paul, Dave, Cathie and everyone who made this last four days a weekend to remember for a lifetime.