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Reaching for the night sky.

Some of you might not know this about me, but back in the day I studied astronomy at the University of Manitoba.  There was of course the necessary prerequisite knowledge that we studied in the lecture hall, but as we got further into the program we were able to literally take our studies to the stars.

Twice a week I would head out with a team of students to the Glenlea Astronomical Observatory to log time on an immense telescope pointed at the dark night sky.  Taking observations over many months, we could analyze the changes in different wavelengths in light to identify and study supernovas, relatively unstudied galaxies (there is a lot to look at up there, and so much is still unstudied!), and the sorts.

The telescope tracked (ie: moved) along with the stars so you could take long exposures without the light sources turning into streaks caused by the movement of the earth, and the camera was cooled to very low temperatures to help reduce the noise (the static look that images taken in dark situations take on) in the images it captured.  I wasn’t deep into photography yet, but the complexity of taking photographs this way really forced me to learn about light.

That was over a decade ago now, and technology has come a long way since then.  The types of images we see coming out of space organizations these days are miles ahead of what we used to be able to capture, but I still am fond of the low-resolution photos of distant galaxies I’ve saved on my hard drive.  Despite manually creating and subtracting averaged bias, dark, and flat frames, the technology was definitely a limiting factor for this sort of distant observation.  Okay, enough astrophotography geekery: I’ve included a colored image of the spiral galaxy NGC 3184, which I studied extensively in this previous life.

Flash forward to today and I no longer see pages out of an astrophysics textbook when I lay down in a field and look up at the night sky.  I’m back to gazing up with wonder, much like I used to as a child.

This is all on my mind today because of a new piece of equipment I just added to my kit: a teleconverter!  It’s a piece of glass that fits between a camera and lens, and essentially is an extra magnifier that allows me to get closer to a subject I otherwise wouldn’t be able to.  In anticipation of heading back to Churchill this summer, I was looking for a way to get some extra reach out of my camera kit and this fit the bill.  Pointing this telescope-ish setup at the full moon seemed like a good way to test it out and so I headed out of town with a fellow photographer to howl at it.  Check out some of these first images.

Clouded Sunset

In the distance, the sunset is shrouded by clouds but beams of light hint at the fire behind. Beautiful, but hopes were running thin that we would be able to see the moon amidst the cloud cover on this night.

Moon Closeup

In a moment between the rolling clouds, the full moon made an appearance for about ten seconds. Luckily, the camera (and me!) were ready to snap a portrait of it.

NGC 3184 Spiral Galaxy

An image of NGC 3184 Spiral Galaxy from 2008.  I colored the image to highlight H II regions.

 

Announcement: New partnership with Offset for license management.

Winter in Winnipeg is dark and cold – a season that is characterized by a natural tendency to quietly retreat.  The seasonal cycle of change influences the way we live our day-to-day lives, and each season tends to strike a balance with its counterpart: long summer days contrast with long winter nights, and the new life of spring contrasts with the necessary death of fall.  So too are our lives influenced by our environment: summer encouraging extroverted energy and adventures, and winter facilitating space for introverted retreat.  In my creative work, I find this cycle so necessary.  Summer and the shoulder seasons are times for fieldwork, while winter is a time for processing and integrating the collected raw materials into bodies of cohesiveness.

I am excited to announce that part of this past winter’s work was building a new partnership with a premium stock photo agency named Offset.  Offset is a hub of great people that provide quality images from hand-picked photographers at affordable prices, and I am honoured to join the team amidst other world-class professionals.  Over the winter I have slowly been going back and forth with their editors to build up my collection with them, and will continue to do so over the coming years.

It has been interesting to revisit photos from assignments many years ago.  My style, both in composition and processing, has changed so much as I have found my distinctive photographic style.  There is a mine of quality images on my hard drive that I’ve been tapping into, and I plan to start posting “throwback” photo essays from years past here on the photoblog as I rework my way through them.  Keep an eye out by subscribing to my newsletter if you are interested – there are a lot of visual stories in the queue that I’m looking forward to sharing with you.

Check out my OFFSET Artist Page to peruse my growing, curated collection of available imagery for commercial and editorial use.  If you are interested in licensing a specific image that isn’t listed, please inquire by getting in touch and including a link to the image(s) of interest.

One more thing: I was able to arrange a special deal for my followers.  If you create an OFFSET account through this registration link you will get $50 off your first purchase – either of mine or any other content through the agency.  The rates are standardized at $250 USD for medium resolution images (1200 pixels wide on the long side) and $500 USD for high resolution images – with very generous licensing terms (royalty free with no time limitations).

Offset Artist Profile

Check out my artist profile and growing image library with Offset here.

A promo video of sorts for the Idea Spark iOS app.

I’ve been thinking of doing a promo video showcasing the Idea Spark iOS app for a while, but I just couldn’t decide how I wanted to do it.  The current trend amongst startups is to release glossy marketing videos with upbeat music, but in all honesty I am personally very tired of this sort of communication between creators and their customers.  Seeing something generic like that has very little impact on my own saturated senses, and I figure I’m not the only one.

So I thought to myself: what is it that I consider the most important thing when I am looking at buying an app?  Well, usability is what immediately jumped to my mind; I want to know how an app works so that I can envision how it will fit in my life.  Grand promises on a marketing statement don’t mean much to me amidst the plethora of other grand promises that are made constantly, and too often these promises are oversold and lead to disappointment.  I would rather be shown that something works and embodies those promises, without the superficial layer of varnish.

With that in mind, I put together a promo video that simply shows the workflow of the Idea Spark iOS app.  Simply put, the app is a tool to help artists get out of creative ruts by suggesting new ideas, but beyond that I’ll let the app speak for itself.  I composed the music myself and edited it up to my standards as a visual storyteller, and have released it to the world in hopes that it is clear and communicative about my vision for the app in the pockets of fellow creatives.  It’s simple, effective, and beautiful just like I designed the app to be.

Check out the Idea Spark Workflow Demonstration on Youtube:

2015: A year of valleys and peaks.

2015: it has been a year of deep valleys and high peaks for me, both literally and figuratively.

It began in the hospital, at the bedside of someone I deeply care for.  Here, winter and spring blurred by slowly in a haze of emotion, my life taking on a holding pattern as I entered a full-time support role for those around me.  The next thing I knew, it was summer.  At this point, the health challenges still had not gone away, but they had changed and those of us intimately involved have since been able to adapt to a new normal.

So that was the deep valley of 2015.  I am stronger for the struggle endured, but also grateful to have emerged from it to a few high points that inevitably followed.  Post-hospital bedside, I realized that in fixedly supporting others through their hardships I had forgotten to take care of myself as well as I should.  This realization, combined with a dream that had been percolating in my mind for some time, prompted me to embark on my Pedal Powered to the West bike tour.  With a combination of being alone on the road, travelling with a close friend, and visiting friends along the way, I was able to find a sort of personal healing.  Returning home, I was happy to be fired up and inspired about life again, not to mention strong enough to continue being a support to those who needed me.

Everything is always changing; this is one of the beauties and also banes of living, but one that is always worth keeping in mind when riding between the low and high points in life.  When we’re struggling…this will change.  Take the long view and realize that this moment is not forever.  When we feel like we’re on top of the world, this will change as well, so don’t be disappointed when it inevitably does.  This is the rhythm of life and it’s better to dance with it than fight it.

Today, I’d like to take a moment and focus on a few of the high points of 2015.  Before I get to that a few thank yous are in order, but read on for some photos and stories in the captions.

First, I am thankful for health: both my own and for those around me.  We all have different struggles here, but if you’re reading this then you also have health to be grateful for (just as I do in writing this).  Focus on the positive, not the negative.  Every moment we have is a gift in a life of constant change, and we will miss them if we take them for granted.

Next, a nod to all the clients I’ve worked with this year.  My sincere thanks goes out to all of my returning clients with whom I’ve had the pleasure to work with for yet another year.  This year I didn’t have much energy to spend seeking out new clients, and that makes me even more grateful for the established partnerships that we were able to forge even deeper.  That said, to the few new clients I did have the pleasure to work with this year I am very happy that we were able to connect.  Sometimes paths cross in ways that are natural and organic, and I can sincerely say that I feel that way about all of you.  As a freelancer, my time is limited and so I am careful about who I choose to work with.  One of the huge benefits of this is that I can honestly say that I believe in the work each of you do, and I’m glad we can work together in mutually beneficial ways where we are both happy in what we have to offer each other.

Finally, a big thanks to all my friends, family, and students.  Whether you realized the role you played in my life this year or not, thank you for lending me your support.

And with that, here are a few personal highlights from a year that is now in the history books.  These selected moments do not necessarily reflect the daily grind of work or even daily life.  Rather, they are the fruits of one of my mottos in life: keep dreaming, and keep working day-by-day to get a little closer to living those dreams.

Minimalist Lake Winnipeg Portrait

Regardless of the season, my soul requires nature to recharge; amidst the busyness of our urban jungles, this is one of the ways I find balance.  This little slice of frozen heaven is on Lake Winnipeg, near a cozy little cabin I retreated to amidst the snow drifts on shore.  As a friend once told me in Alaska, “There is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing and bad attitudes.”

St. Patrick

The contrast of light and dark is beautifully observed when the elusive aurora borealis dances against the dark prairie sky.  In Manitoba, winter days are short and nights are long, but the darkness needn’t keep us from spending time outside.

Winnipeg Folk Festival 2015 - night life at Pope

Every year, the Winnipeg Folk Festival serves as a kickoff for my summer.  The festival is spectacular in its own right, but personally it has also become a meeting place where old friends come together despite the diverging paths we’ve each chosen over the years.  For five days every July, we erect a village together and live simply in each others’ presence.

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January 19, 2016 - 11:08 am

Daniel - Beautiful story. It’s really nice to hear about some of the lowlights too…makes me feel less alone in some of my own struggles. Looking forward to what the next year brings!

January 30, 2016 - 2:17 pm

Rebecca - What dynamic images! I followed you on your bike tour on Instagram, and can’t wait to see the rest of the images on here…this is a nice tease but I know you’ve got more. For now, I’ll just subscribe to your newsletter and keep an eye out. 🙂

Happy 2016!

Christmas is coming, and wintery greeting cards are flying out of the workshop.

It seems a lot of people still love sending print Christmas cards, and it makes me glad to know that I’m not the only one!  I am humbled by the amount orders and requests I’ve received regarding print products over the past weeks – thanks to each and every one of you who thought of me and value that which I create. Personally, I have been loving the opportunity to work with my hands and turn photos into tactile treasures for you.

A couple weeks ago, I had received an email from someone asking me to design a set of wintery cards to send out around the holidays.  Over the past month I had been mulling over the idea of having card sets for each season, but just hadn’t gotten around to it yet.  With this request however, I bumped it up on the priority list and am happy to announce the availability of two new greeting card sets just in time for Christmas!  Presenting: Winterscapes, Winter Animals, and the older-but-also-holiday-appropriate Polar Bears greeting card collections.

Until Christmas itself, I’m extending a 10% discount on everything for sale to my loyal followers.  Simply enter the following promo code when checking out through my Etsy shop (linked to below) and it will knock 10% off your order:
HOLIDAYS

Check out all the collections at my Etsy print shop.

David Cutting Prints

This bearded elf has been busy stepping up production in the workshop to get ready for Christmas.

Stationery Workspace

The workshop floor, complete with espresso machine.

Winterscapes Card Spread

This is one of the new wintery card sets available: winterscapes.  This, the polar bear collection, or the varied set of winter animals in their element make for great canvases to share your messages with your loved ones this holiday season.

Red Fox Card

Each card comes with a handmade envelope.  A quick note on the back of the card tells you about the photo on the front. All cards are left blank inside for you to write a personalized message.  Each 3.5×3.5″ print is created in house by me with carefully chosen paper and ink.  In the effort of avoiding disposable art, I’ve also designed all my cards so that after your friend receives your thoughtful words they have the option to pop out the print to enjoy it for some time to come.  Pen and thoughtful words not included.

 

November 28, 2015 - 10:19 pm

Andrea - So beautiful! (the products AND the photos. That fox…!)

November 30, 2015 - 1:48 pm

Henk - I thought you were supposed to use Canada Post and not fly them yourself?

December 2, 2015 - 5:18 pm

David - Ha! It’s a team effort.