i♥Edmonton

I Heart Edmonton is a one stop guide to everything ‪#‎YEG‬ and the site’s founder Emil Tiedemann recently asked me a few questions. My answers, shared below, are part of a posted profile piece which you can see here.

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i♥Edmonton Interview

i♥e/ Where were you born?

PC/ Montreal

i♥e/ When and why did you first pick up a camera?

PC/ My first connection with photography was the Christmas when I was 16 months old. I’m told that after unwrapping all the gifts I was more interested in an empty film canister than any of the toys I had been given! I’m not sure when I first picked up a camera but I do remember buying my first camera. It was a Nikon N2000 and I bought it on a trip to New York City with my family when I was 16. I actually still have the camera in my photography office because I keep all the cameras I have ever owned.

i♥e/ Tell us about when you realized you had an eye for photography and when you decided that this might be what you want to do on a professional level.

PC/ I’ve had three career phases in my life. After university I became a helicopter pilot in the Canadian Armed Forces. I left the military at the end of 1999 to become a stay-at-home dad. I’ve always been interested in photography but I started to make more photographs as a stay-at-home dad because I wanted to capture the different stages of my kids’ lives.

Then in 2004, my wife and I took a trip to Venice and that trip changed how I approached photography. I wanted to do the work necessary to improve. Photography then changed from an interest to a passion and now that passion is also a business. Looking back, I’m happy that as I started to work seriously on my craft I was able to experience a couple of years shooting slide film before digital hit the scene. I love digital now because of the convenience and the workflow but shooting film taught me to approach photography with an emphasis on seeing.

There’s a slippery slope in digital photography where an attitude of “I can fix that in Photoshop” or a “spray and pray” shooting mentality can make for some pretty weak photo skills. Shooting slide film taught me to connect with the world around me, to take time to observe and to create photographs with the aim to communicate my reaction to the moment.

i♥e/ What is your personal favourite photo that you have taken?

PC/When the American photographer Imogen Cunningham was asked that question she famously replied – “The one I’m going to take tomorrow.” I do have favourites in my portfolio but, in the spirit of Cunningham’s reply, as I continue to make photographs I continue to learn and improve my skills so while I am proud of the work in the portfolio today I look forward to seeing what I create tomorrow. The learning never stops.

i♥e/ Do you have any photographers you look up to, or that inspire you?
PC/ I’ve got plenty. A few names from the list of greats who are no longer with us would be Henri Cartier-Bresson, Ansel Adams, Galen Rowell, Yousef Karsh, Richard Avedon. A few names from the list of contemporary photographers whose work I enjoy would be Michael Kenna, Guy Tal, Joe McNally, Freeman Patterson. The lists go on and on and on. I love work by photographers who put great care into what they create.

i♥e/ Do you prefer one subject matter over another (i.e. landscapes, people)?
PC/ I started out primarily making landscapes and travel photographs. I thoroughly love time spent in the various Alberta landscapes. I feel a wonderful peace when I am creating nature images. I love the fact that Alberta has four distinct seasons (some years less distinct than others!). The changing seasons help me as a photographer to appreciate light and as a person to appreciate time and how change and nature’s cycle is all part of life.

As I have progressed in my photography career I have enjoyed photographing people more and more. Creating a good portrait is a fun challenge. A good portrait hinges on making a connection with your subject. Challenges are good because they often get us to step outside our comfort zones and that’s a good thing because that’s when we learn and grow. So I really don’t prefer one subject matter over another. I just love photography.

i♥e/ What is your main camera that you use for your photos? 
PC/My main camera right now is a Nikon D800. When I am asked by people to recommend a camera I always answer that photographers need to match the equipment options out there to what they like to shoot and how they like to shoot.  After that it’s simply a case of picking up the various models that meet your needs and seeing which one just feels right.

Each brand has a distinct feel due to button placement, menu design etc. More than likely one will just feel right to you. Don’t worry about whichever brand is in the “lead” as far as specifications goes. More than likely six months from now they’ll leapfrog each other and do the same again six months after that.

 

Graduation

Last Friday I had the pleasure of photographing a young lady who I have photographed every year for the last 4 years. The collaboration started back in January 2011 with a fencing themed photo shoot on white seamless. Since then I have done a “Meet the Beatles” themed shoot with her and her family. We have done a long exposure light trace shoot where we used pen lights and birthday sparklers to put a little twist on the typical fencer portrait. We have shot an aviation themed family portrait in a hanger at the Edmonton international airport. She is a pleasure to work with and the shoots are always so much fun.

Time flies and now the young lady will soon be graduating high school. With the prom dress already bought she wanted to have a trial run with the hairdresser and get some portraits done the same day. So on Friday the whole family came over to our place for pizza, some laughs and some photographs. Here’s what we came up with this time…

This is a 4 light set up. Main light is Elinchrom Ranger through a 60cm Lightrein octo softbox on a boom high camera centre pointed down on the model. One speedlight through a Lastolite Easybox putting some light on the black paper background. One speedlight camera right as fill bounced off of a silver reflector disc. One speedlight camera left and behind in the background pointed at the model for rim lighting. All lights except for the fill were controlled by the PocketWizard i-TTL system (MiniTT1, AC3, FlexTT5, and Power ST4). The fill was controlled by the good ol’ PocketWizard Plus II and leg power (walking back and forth to manually adjust the power).

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A speedlight was placed in the background of the set pointing at the model for a little light flare to give a paparazzi/glamour feel to the portraits.

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Winter

We had wonderful winter conditions yesterday morning in Strathcona County so I enjoyed some photography in the morning with a little snow, cold temps (but not so cold you’d say… “son of a biscuit it’s cold”) and a little fog. Then in the afternoon I lit the fire and watched the football games. A good day.

What I Love About Winter by Douglas Florian

Frozen lakes
Hot Pancakes
Lots of snow
Hot cocoa
Skates and skis
Evergreen trees
Funny hats
Thermostats
Sunsets blaze
Holidays
Snowball fights
Fireplace nights
Chimneys steaming
Winter dreaming.

_PC19461-Edit© Peter Carroll

The 12 Bens

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The 12 Bens mountain range as seen from the Gap Road outside of Clifden in Connemara, Ireland

Connemara by Thomas Horton

West of Galway lies a land
Scorched by the chill of northern winds
Where ancient hills stoically contemplate
Their grey reflections in dark, misty lakes

Roiling stormclouds serve as the canvas
For a monochromatic panorama
That lulls the local folk
Into an inescapable monotony
Their lilting language itself
A murmur that recalls the falling rain

The plodding passage of days
In this dreary, silent landscape
Is a hell all its own
For those accustomed
To urban bustle

But the ginger natives of this grey land
Sing bright céilí songs
Drink their lager by golden firelight
Dance reels and jigs
And tell stories of a time
When giants roamed the hillocks
And heroes sailed the roaring seas
In search of mythic monsters

Descended from hearty stock
Of shepherds and saints
These rustic people still regard
The old ways as new
Discover their future through their past
And are never bored
As long as there’s a tale to be told
A smile to take in
Or a pint to share with a friend

Children of the Gaeltacht
Sing your rowdy songs
Remind me once again
Of that night in Ballyconneely
When I was one of you
That night you turned me Irish

2014

Here’s a little sample of what I got up to in 2014…

This capture is from a trip to Ireland in 2011 but the processing is new this year. I challenged myself to explore the black and white side of photography more in 2014…
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On a trip down to Cypress Hills, Alberta, to prepare for a fun storytelling in photography workshop I co-lead in September I stopped in at Dinosaur Provincial Park and photographed sunset on the Badlands Trail…
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In August, I had the pleasure of photographing the band Tess and the D’linquint for their new album Autumn. The image on the right was used by the album’s graphic designer for the cover…
Album Shoot 3

 

While on the way to photograph Jasper in January I pulled off the Yellowhead Highway to make a phone call and saw this scene…
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Mount Chephren in all it’s glory from Lower Waterfowl Lake from a shoot along the Icefields Parkway in November…
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I love the fact that Canada has four distinct seasons. I’d hate to wake up to relatively the same weather everyday. I feel as a photographer the changing seasons help me appreciate light and as a person the different seasons help me appreciate time.
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I’ll let Van Morrison speak about this next one…

“hark, now hear the sailors cry,
smell the sea, and feel the sky
let your soul & spirit fly, into the mystic…”

~ Van Morrison

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I love winter the way Clavin and Hobbes loved winter…

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Corporate headshots became a bigger part of my photography business this past year…
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This last photograph I made back in May at the Art Gallery of Alberta in Edmonton. I think it’s a fitting photograph to finish off the samples of work I got up to in 2014 because, like in this image, there were times this year when I didn’t know which way was up. It’s been my most successful year to date both creatively and financially in photography but outside of photography it’s been a roller coaster ride with wonderful highs and heart breaking lows. Thanks go out to all my family and friends who were there, with personal messages and true support, when I needed them earlier this year when my son was diagnosed with Cystic Fibrosis and recently with the death of my mother in law. It’s the human condition but with life experience comes a deeper appreciation for the words – be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.

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I’ll end this post with some thoughts about the state of photography in 2014. For more of my thoughts on this subject I refer you to an article, titled Stay On The Bus, which I wrote earlier this year for The Camera Store in Calgary. I look at photography in 2014 and I think of Charles Dicken’s opening sentence to his novel A Tale of Two Cities… “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness…” I believe there is some absolutely amazing photography being created these days. Every day I am in awe at the creativity of the work and the quality of the stories being told. There are also, unfortunately, some disturbing trends in photography. When I am asked by photographers for some personal advice, I share the following – create for yourself and tell the world your stories, not somebody else’s. Trust your gut. Create from within. Connect with the world around you. Observe. Respond. Bring you to your work. Who cares what photographs are trending on Facebook or 500px or whatever the latest social media site is. Who cares how many “followers” you have or how many “likes” you get on your posts. Live your art by the wise words of Arline Feynman, wife of the great man and physicist Richard Feynman. When Richard seemed preoccupied with his colleagues’ opinions about his work, Arline would say to him, “What do you care what other people think?” Indeed. For deeper insight into these subjects I suggest you read the writing of Guy Tal (Hear No Evil, Forget Vision, The Meaning of Success). If you don’t already follow Guy’s writing I urge you to add Guy Tal’s Photography Journal to your reading list for 2015.

Cheers to Jim Goldstein for his annual “Your Best Photos From _____ ” project. As we climb our own creative mountains it’s important every now and then to stop and enjoy the view.  Every year I so enjoy looking through all the wonderful contributions to the project. Thanks Jim.

Here are links to my previous year in review posts – 2013, 2012, 2011

So here’s to life experiences to date, the battles and the triumphs ahead in 2015 and all the photographs made along the way. See ya after the New Year!

Tess and the D’linquint Album Shoot

Back in August I had the pleasure of shooting an album cover for the band Tess and the D’linquint. I recently attended their wonderful CD launch concert at The Club in Edmonton’s Citadel Theatre (love those funky chandeliers!). Now that the CD is officially launched and available on iTunes, I can share the photography from the project.

The album is titled Autumn and the theme is relationship challenges and the phases relationships go through. I met with the musicians prior to the shoot to discuss what messages they wanted the album photography to convey. From those discussions, we determined that discordant posing was going to be the cornerstone of the shoot. I really enjoy working on these types of projects because interesting work comes from collaboration. Collaboration sometimes takes your work in directions you unlikely would have gone on your own. I always start initial discussions with clients asking what ideas they have for the project. As I listen to clients describe their vision I get a good sense of what concepts they are set on and what areas they are open to suggestions. I then bring my shooting style and ideas to the discussion. From there we can throw the best ideas against the wall and see what sticks. Planning is good as it focusses everybody during a shoot but as the saying goes in the military – a plan is just a point from which to deviate. There always needs to be a dash of spontaneity on a shoot too. The shot that eventually was chosen for the album cover was made up on set. Here’s a little sample of the Tess and the D’linquint “Autumn” album shoot session…

Thanks to the Photographer’s Studio for the rental space for the shoot.

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The actual album cover…
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The CD party release poster…
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Taking the Long Way Home

A few weeks ago myself and Royce Howland gave a presentation at The Camera Store in Calgary titled Telling Stories with Your Travel Photography. I don’t get out to the Rockies as often as people think so I like to take advantage of the opportunities when they present themselves. I decided after the presentation I wasn’t going to return immediately to the Edmonton area. I was going to take the long way home. Here’s a little of what I saw…

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Waterfowl© Peter Carroll

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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…

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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…

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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…

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