IRIS Get-together in Rowley

I left home recently at o’dark hundred and set off on the quiet Alberta country roads for the town of Rowley. The plan was to meet up with the good people of IRIS for a group shoot. Rowley is an amazing little ghost town on the prairies. Here’s a little background on the place…

Less than a year before the new millennium, the last train passed through Rowley. And now the Alberta prairie town’s future may once more belong to the ghosts. In the mid-1970s, Rowley, which once boasted a population of about 500 in the 1920s, was a beat-up dying community, with rows of empty houses and businesses, and inhabited by only a few dozen prairie-hardened souls.But one night, a few party-happy locals, whose liquor supply was fast dwindling, decided on a quick solution – a “B & E Party” at a boarded-up old saloon. The bar was fixed up and named Sam’s Saloon after one of the previous owners who had been a respected member of the community. The brazen men then got talking about sprucing up the pioneer community to make it a heritage stop for tourists. For the next quarter century, locals restored old homes and businesses and soon visitors were attracted from all parts of Alberta, Canada and the U.S. The highlight of the community’s new fame came in 1988 when a cinema production team used Rowley as the set for the hit Canadian movie Bye Bye Blues. Part of Rowley’s charm is that while locals have spent thousands of dollars fixing up many of the old community’s homes and buildings to reflect the town’s pioneer days, there are still many others left abandoned, and offer ghost towners wonderful photo opportunities. But 1999 also saw the regional train service through Rowley end and locals are worried about the community’s future. “That’s really going to hurt our cash flow”, said one old-timer, noting as many as 900 train tourists a week would get off at the Rowley station, which also serves as the town’s museum.However, the town, which now has an official population of 8, is still hoping word-of-mouth will keep tourists coming. Locals meet at the community hall year-round, and gladly offer visitors a tour even in the cold winter months. ~Wikipedia

As I drove along in the dark and left the light pollution of the big city behind, I enjoyed the incredible number of stars visible to the naked eye thanks to the clear sky. Could I afford the time to stop for a quick photograph or two and still make the meeting time at Rowley? I could. Though nothing I was driving by caught me eye as an interesting scene for a night shot. Then as I crested a hill a little pond caught my eye. I looked back and a road and some reflectors lit up in the lights of a passing car! Brakes! I thought to myself, “Oh this will do just fine.” A little trial and error with lighting the rails with a flashlight and I got this…

_PC18370-2© Peter Carroll

Time was a tickin’ so I enjoyed the awesomeness of the universe for a few minutes and then hit the road again for Rowley. I met up with the IRIS group and we had a wonderful morning photographing the cool prairie town. Here are a few of the photographs I made…

_6100427© Peter Carroll


_6100350-Edit© Peter Carroll

_6100397© Peter Carroll

_6100379© Peter Carroll

After a mid morning break for some fresh fruit and chocolate covered croissants we all hit the road for the town of Trochu where saw this scene…

_6100430-Edit-2© Peter Carroll


Good times with good people and a few photographs were made along the way. I’d call that a good day!

Workshop – SOLD OUT

We are officially SOLD OUT for the Storytelling in the Cypress Hills workshop myself and Royce Howland will be co-leading September 5-10, 2014. I’m looking forward to time at Historic Reesor Ranch and working with a group of enthusiastic photographers in a beautiful part of Alberta/Saskatchewan.

_PC14100b

Stay On the Bus

I share with you an article I recently wrote for The Camera Store in Calgary, Alberta…

London Tube© Peter Carroll

A wonderful theory was recently brought to my attention and I share it with you because I believe the ideas presented set the foundation for a creative and fulfilling lifetime in photography. During a good discussion in one of my photography circles about personal work and finding your own vision in photography, someone referenced Arno Rafael Minkkinen’s Helsinki Bus Station Theory. The Helsinki what? I was intrigued.

Finnish-American photographer, Arno Rafael Minkkinen, gave a commencement speech at the New England School of Photography in June 2004 and in that speech he introduced the graduating students to a bus station in Helsinki and his theory of how to be the caretakers of their vision. The bus station, according to Minkkinen, can be seen as a metaphor for creative continuity in a life-long journey in photography. The following is an excerpt from Minkkinen’s speech. Your bus is ready for boarding…

“Some two-dozen platforms are laid out in a square at the heart of the city. At the head of each platform is a sign posting the numbers of the buses that leave from that particular platform. The bus numbers might read as follows: 21, 71, 58, 33, and 19. Each bus takes the same route out of the city for a least a kilometer stopping at bus stop intervals along the way where the same numbers are again repeated: 21, 71, 58, 33, and 19.

Now let’s say, metaphorically speaking, that each bus stop represents one year in the life of a photographer, meaning the third bus stop would represent three years of photographic activity. Ok, so you have been working for three years making platinum studies of nudes. Call it bus #21. You take those three years of work on the nude to the Museum of Fine Arts Boston and the curator asks if you are familiar with the nudes of Irving Penn. His bus, 71, was on the same line. Or you take them to a gallery in Paris and are reminded to check out Bill Brandt, bus 58, and so on. Shocked, you realize that what you have been doing for three years others have already done. So you hop off the bus, grab a cab (because life is short) and head straight back to the bus station looking for another platform.

This time you are going to make 8×10 view camera color snapshots of people lying on the beach from a cherry picker crane. You spend three years at it and produce a series of works that illicit the same comment: haven’t you seen the work of Richard Misrach? Or, if they are steamy black and white 8×10 camera view of palm trees swaying off a beachfront, haven’t you seen the work of Sally Mann? So once again, you get off the bus, grab the cab, race back and find a new platform.

This goes on all your creative life, always showing new work, always being compared to others.

What to do?

It’s simple. Stay on the bus.”(1)

It is simple. Stay on the bus! That’s great advice. It’s great advice if you are a graduate about to embark on a career in photography. It’s equally great advice if you are a hobbyist who simply finds joy in creative expression with a camera. Stay on the bus.

Cameras are everywhere these days. The sheer volume of images being made and shared daily is mind boggling. Social media and photography sharing sites can be great ways to connect with people who share a passion but they can also cause photographers to ring the bell, get off their bus and take a cab back to the station. If exposure to the photographs created and shared on a daily basis results in copying the work of other photographers and telling their stories instead of your own, you fall into a trap and never give yourself the chance to find your own voice. If you are to have a creative and fulfilling lifetime in photography I truly believe you must stay on your bus. In the early stages of our journey in photography we are greatly influenced (let’s be honest – most of us copy) the work of photographers we admire. As we gain experience and confidence and find our own creative voice we eventually leave the city center and end up on our own bus routes. That’s when we produce work which is different not because we are trying to be but because we actually are all different. We have different backgrounds and different personalities. When we invest ourselves into our work we create our most interesting photographs. Don’t fall into the trap of comparing your work to that of other photographers. They are on their journey. You are on yours. A journey requires personal investment and it takes time. According to Malcolm Gladwell, getting good at something takes 10,000 hours.(2) Minkkinen’s message to the graduating students back in 2004 was not that putting in the time and staying on the bus guarantees you success. His message was that getting off repeatedly and taking a cab back to the station ensures you never get anywhere.

A friend of mine who is a wonderful portrait photographer once gave me this great advice – “Everybody has a story. The first thing we should do as photographers is listen.” He was talking about making a connection with the person you are photographing. His advice also applies to making personal work, work with vision. If you are to have a creative and fulfilling lifetime in photography, it’s important to listen to yourself. Trust your gut. Create from within. Yes it’s important to learn various aspects of the craft from those who are more experienced but what we say and how we choose to say it needs to come from within. You have a story to tell. Tell the world your story, not somebody else’s.

I’ll end this article with these words by Arno Rafael Minkkinen, “We don’t have to be number one in this world. We only have to be number one to ourselves. There is a special peace that comes with such humility.” Stay on your bus folks and enjoy the ride.

If you are interested in working on the storytelling qualities in your photography, in a supportive atmosphere, where you will be encouraged to create personal work, then consider joining Royce Howland and myself for our photography workshop in the Cypress Hills, September 5-10, 2014. The purpose of the workshop is to help participants set creative goals, and provide frameworks for improving their photography with a specific focus on visual storytelling. We’ll use seminars, field exercises and image portfolio review sessions to achieve these goals. With a small group, two instructors who work well together, and an intensive event plan, the group will be able to put a concentrated focus on creative development. Workshop details can be found here.

Royce Howland and I will also be giving a presentation on July 19th from 1:00–4:00 pm titled “Telling Storied with Your Travel Photography” at The Camera Store presentation facility, Unit 210, 3060 9th Street SE Calgary. Come on out for a talk about visual storytelling on your travels. You can register for the talk via this link.

(1) Arno Rafael Minkkinen’s commencement speech delivered at the New England School of Photography in June 2004
(2) Gladwell, Malcolm. Outliers: The Story of Success. New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2008

The Prairies

Calgarians Photographing Edmonton

I was recently contacted by the field trip coordinator of the Foothills Camera Club, Dana Naldrett, to see if I would be interested in meeting up with some of the club’s members and spending a day photographing Edmonton. Dana had bought my eBook, Photographing Edmonton, and there were members of the club who were interested in making the trip up Highway 2 and seeing some of the locations mentioned in my book. Last Saturday I met up with 5 members from the Foothills Camera Club and we had a great day photographing Alberta’s capital. We toured the downtown core where everyone had the chance to photograph city hall, the weekend downtown market, Churchill Square, the Art Gallery of Alberta and Grant MacEwan. Some of the group then made it over to the Alberta Legislature and enjoyed people photography along Whyte Avenue. Others explored the pyramid architecture that is the Muttart Conservatory.

I always enjoy meeting folks in the Alberta photo community and I had a fun day creating some new images too.

You can purchase my eBook Photographing Edmonton at http://blog.petercarroll.ca/?p=6042

Details about one on one instruction and how to book a session can be found on my website (www.PeterCarroll.ca).

Here’s one from the Grant MacEwan downtown campus which I created on the group outing. I have to give a tip of the hat to Marty Scrosese and his DP for the movie Hugo. How they chose to frame the clock in that film influenced how I interpreted this scene…

_PC16536b© Peter Carroll

This one is from the Art Gallery of Alberta. The AGA, recently redesigned by LA architect Randall Stout, is a fun addition to the downtown Edmonton scene. It’s so cool it has three suns…

_PC16517c© Peter Carroll

And another unusual perspective image from the AGA…

_PC16508b© Peter Carroll

Photography Gear Sale and IRIS Fundraiser

Gear Sale poster 8x10 vertical

Hear ye! Hear ye!
There’s a photography gear sale and IRIS fundraiser going on!

Sunday May 18
10:00 am – 2:00 pm

Lofts on the Bow
44077 George Fox Trail
Cochrane
Alberta

Great deals on quality gear including digital camera bodies, pro lenses, studio lighting modifiers, camera bags, prints, filters, books, photography accessories and much much more.

Unfortunately I am unable to personally be at the event but fellow IRIS members have very kindly offered to sell my gear at a table for me. Here’s a list of what I’ll have for sale on Sunday…

1. Lightrein 60cm (24”) octo softbox and Lighttools 40 degree egg grate
2. Lastolite “Joe McNally” 24”x24” Ezybox Hotshoe Softbox
3. Lowepro Nature Trekker All Weather
4. Tamrac Adventure 9 photo/computer backpack
5. Singh Ray circular polarizing filter (sprocket mount) for Cokin P holder
6. Singh Ray Galen Rowell neutral density 2G-SS filter for Cokin P holder
7. Singh Ray Galen Rowell neutral density 3G-SS filter for Cokin P holder
8. Westcott 43“ Collapsible white w/ black removeable cover umbrella
9. Westcott 43” Collapsible soft silver umbrella
10. Joby GorillaPod
11. Opus monopod OT-S10M
12. Roots photo/computer backpack
13. Beauty dish (Bowens mount + speedlight adapter) with grid and white diffuser sock

Check out what fellow IRIS members Darwin Wiggett and Samantha Chrysanthou and Royce Howland have for sale as well! Get there early!!

Westin Hotel Corporate Headshots

A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of shooting corporate headshots for 16 employees of the Westin hotel in Edmonton. The friendliness and professionalism of everyone involved in the shoot made my job easy. A company’s greatest asset is its people. The Westin hotel in Edmonton has the excellent reputation it does for superior service because of its people. Here are a few sample portraits from the session…

Westin 1© Peter Carroll

Westin 2© Peter Carroll

Westin 3© Peter Carroll

Westin 4© Peter Carroll

IRIS – Fun with Cameras workshop

A few weeks ago I instructed at The IRIS Photographic Society of Alberta “Fun with Cameras” workshop at the Chartwell Wild Rose retirement facility in Edmonton. We put cameras in the hands of the seniors there and helped them to creatively express their world in photographs. If you go to the link below you’ll see some behind the scenes photos of me working with one of the residents and a gallery of photographs which the seniors created at the workshop. Photography is fun for all ages.

Fun with Cameras IRIS workshop

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Fun with Cameras at Chartwell

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On March 13 I visited the Chartwell Wild Rose retirement residence, along with Kerry Smith, for an IRIS workshop. The aim of the workshop was to put cameras in the hands of the residents and enable them to creatively express themselves and share how they see the world around them in photographs. It was a fun day for everyone and they created wonderful work. The residents were the photographers on this project but when the scene in the photo above developed, as one gentleman was playing his guitar for me, and I just happened to have the shutter release cable in my hand… well… you don’t let such moments pass without pressing the button.