My Photovation Challenge Week 3 | Details

Life is stitched together by details. Probably a number of details so immense that we can’t even begin to comprehend it. Think about the space you are in as you read this.

What is around you? Are you outside? Are you inside? Is it light? Dark? Are there plants around? Do they have leaves or flowers? What kind of colors stand out? Is there anything on the ground? Anything on the walls? Are there people around? Animals? Are there very large items around you? Or are they mostly small items?

These are just a few things that you can think about to start noticing details right away.

As this post is being written, there are about 7 details that catch the eye right away. The pattern of our favorite yellow rug on the floor, the pattern of the buttons sewn on our upholstered sofa, the names of influencial people in history on our bookshelf, the tiny needles of our candelabra cactus, glittery flags from our wedding cake topper, a fluffy white blanket, and an owl.

Details of a room

Once you know how to look for details you can use that skill to enhance your photography as an art. This article by Dan Bailey has a lot of great information on creating detail!

Here are the five points he gives in that article:

  1. The single detail
  2. Details that give a sense of place
  3. Larger details
  4. Lines and textures
  5. Human details

Now here are some photos from us that illustrate those points:

The Single Detail


Close up of a snap dragon flower on a sunny morning. © Tabitha Friesen



The empty exoskeleton of a crab found on the beach at Caesarea, Israel. © Tabitha Friesen


Examining the details of a dragonfly found on the back porch. © Tabitha Friesen


A rusty lock on a frosty day. © Tabitha Friesen

Details that give a sense of place


Fresh fish sits on a bed of ice at the Souk in Jerusalem, Israel. © Matthew Friesen


Women sort through fresh breads and bakeries at the outdoor part of the Souk market in Jerusalem, Israel. © Matthew Friesen


The detail is the log, but it gives a sense to where you are. © Tabitha Friesen

Larger Details


An iceberg at the top of one of the peaks towering over Moraine Lake. This is a perfect example of the “larger details”. © Matthew Friesen


These two red chairs sit on the side of a huge mountain. That’s a pretty large detail. © Tabitha Friesen

Lines and Textures


© Matthew Friesen

Train Bridge_TDF-7965

Walking path on a train bridge. © Tabitha Friesen


Dry, cracked earth left behind after a lake dried up. Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado © Matthew Friesen


Drops of rain on a mountain top lake in Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado. (Nice contrast to the one above!) © Matthew Friesen


Cracked paint, and rust on a weathered sign by the railroad. © Tabitha Friesen

Human Details

Train Station-3934

© Tabitha Friesen


A woman sobs at the Wailing Wall, Jerusalem, Israel. © Tabitha Friesen

2013-04-15 at 14-12-01

A man welds a broken tractor piece. © Matthew Friesen


Getting help with directions. © Tabitha Friesen

As you can see from the details above, detail shots don’t necessarily mean macro shots. In fact, we don’t actually have a macro lens at all. Details can give clarity to your surroundings and showcase interesting or unique things in common places.

Detail photography has some nice benefits too! Here are three points from us:

  1. It challenges you to see photographs in elements, rather than the whole scene.
  2. It’s also helpful in story telling or photo journalism. It creates more compelling and informative photos, than general snapshots.
  3. It helps you learn the basics of composition, by forcing you to think outside the box focusing on a little piece of the big picture. Rather than just snapping a photo of a pretty scene.

Share your detail photos with us, use #MyPhotovation when posting your photos on Twitter or Instagram.

Thanks for reading!

-Matt & Tab

My Photovation Challenge Week 2 | Contrast

Our My Photovation weekly photography challenge is aimed at helping us sharpen our photography skills. But, it’s not just about us. We want anyone who is interested in getting better at photography to join in.

Whether you’re shooting with a DSLR, point-and-shoot, or a smartphone this challenge is for you. Like what Matt wrote about in his last post, you don’t need fancy equipment, you just need to take photos!

So, don’t be shy! Join in at anytime! You can search #MyPhotovation and see examples from other people who have contributed. If you wish to join our challenge, just use #MyPhotovation on Twitter or Instagram.

This week’s theme for the My Photovation Challenge is: contrast.

Contrast is an important tool for a photographer. It serves compositional tool that adds interest and allows you to direct the attention of the photo to the subject.

There are a lot of different types of contrast.

  • Tonal contrast
  • Color contrast
  • Light contrast
  • Texture contrast
  • Size contrast
  • New and old
  • Still and moving
  • Young and old

Tonal and color are probably the most popular and well known forms of contrast.

In preparing this post, we realized that contrast was a weakness for both of us as photographers. Going through our archives we realized we didn’t have many examples other than tonal contrast.

Tonal contrast is about the darkest and lightest elements of the photo, and the grey areas between.

It’s important to black and white photography. As Tab mentioned in a post a while back, black and white are great at conveying emotion. Contrast can impact what kind of emotions you bringing out in your photo. A high contrast image will be stark and dramatic, while a lower contrast image can have a lighter, airy feel.

For example, your subject often determines the mood, or emotion you will want to convey. A dramatic portrait of an individual, a mountain, a piece of impressive architecture, these you would want to create a more powerful, dramatic mood. Silhouettes are a great way to practice this one!

Examples of high contrast black and white images:


A dramatic, thought-provoking portrait of Matt © Tabitha Friesen


Close up of one of the Ten Peaks at Moraine lake © Matthew Friesen

Tel Aviv-1667

A silhouette of a man on a paddle board, at Tel Aviv beach © Tabitha Friesen

Low contrast images are great for portraits where you want the mood to be softer and lighter. For instance if you are photographing people laughing, or a child playing having a lower contrast image may be best.

Examples of low contrast black and white images:

20140831-Jeremiah Breanna engagement_D3S7558

© Tabitha Friesen (2014)


© Tabitha Friesen


© Matthew Friesen

So that’s tonal contrast! The rest of this week we will be working on strengthening our ability to capture the other types of contrast. These different types can create really striking images that not draw the viewer into the photo, but into the story. It will probably take us more than a week to get this technique down, but it is well worth the try.

Other important types of contrast to remember:

New and old
Still and moving
Young and old

Do you have a favorite type of contrast? Is it something you think you need to work on as a photographer? Join our challenge this week! Post your contrast photos on Twitter or Instagram using #MyPhotovation!

Thanks for reading!

-Matt & Tab

Capturing the Stars

By Matt

I made my first attempts at astrophotography nearly two years ago. Landscapes have always been one of my favorite photography subjects. But, I had never tried merging landscapes and astrophotography together. I stumbled across a few photography blogs that gave tutorials on star trail and night sky photography. After reading up on technique and gear, I decided an upcoming group backpacking trip to the Ozark mountains in Arkansas was the perfect opportunity to try it out.

The first night we were blessed with a perfectly clear night sky. Being far away from any major cities or sources of light pollution allowed for a pitch black sky which revealed infinitely numerous and brilliant stars. So far, so good!

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First photo with stars! © Matthew Friesen

I made a few test shots to see what would happen. I read a fair bit about how to photograph the stars before hand, but I ended up doing what I normally do with photography—winging it. Experimentation and learning from mistakes is one of the best ways I have found to improve my photography. Reading alone won’t help much until you put it into practice. You will learn far more from trying and failing, or trying and succeeding.

Looking back at my first few attempts, it is clear that I completely forgot about the whole composition thing. But, I was excited because I had stars in my picture! My wild guess at exposure showed where I needed to make adjustments. I was ready to try for the super-long star trail exposure.

Just before crawling into my 0 degree sleeping bag, I set up the woefully under supported camera on a flexible mini tripod and pointed it towards the tops of the trees and sky. A small piece of bark jammed between the shutter button and a small bungee strap served as a forest version of a remote shutter release. The mirror flipped up and a masterpiece was in the making, so I set an alarm for an hour later to wake up and end the exposure and put the camera away.

As it turned out, my alarm was too quiet because I woke up a while after the planned hour had passed. I rushed to check the camera, only to find it had shut off already. Dead battery. I was too sleepy to worry about blowing my first attempt at star trails I put the camera away and went back to bed.

The next morning I popped in a fresh battery and made two delightful discoveries!

  1. Nikon is brilliant. They made the D700 end the exposure and turn off after saving the picture when the battery died in the middle of the lengthy star trail exposure.
  2. Sleeping past the alarm didn’t ruin the photo, it ended up being exposed quite well. Success!
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Star Trails © Matthew Friesen

I learned so much more by just trying out a new technique and seeing what happened than I ever would have just reading about the technique. Since that first attempt, I have been able to experiment further with much nicer views to compliment the starry skies. Night time landscapes with stars have become one of my favorite subjects to photograph.

The lesson for me from this experience was to just get out there and experiment. There comes a time when you don’t need to read more—you need to take more pictures. You don’t need the fancy new piece of photo gear becuase a chunk of bark and an elastic band might work just as well. If there is a subject you have always wanted to photograph, or a technique you have been meaning to try, go do it!

Photos of the Night Sky:

(Click the image for a bigger view)

Photovation Challenge Week 1 | Light

By Tab

This photo challenge is all about the basics! We are starting out with light, because, well, light is photography.

Random House Kernerman Webster’s College Dictionary defines photography as: “The process or art of producing images of objects on sensitized surfaces by the chemical action of light or of other forms of radiant energy.”

Photos are produced from light! I don’t know about you, but I personally have not even thought to come up with “other forms of radiant energy”. But, I don’t have to. Because of light.

“Lighting is a key factor in creating a successful image.”
Shaw Academy, The Importance of Light in Photography

Anyone who has taken a photo, whether by a big expensive DSLR, Kodak disposable, tiny point and shoot, or their phone knows that light is essential photo making.

Good light can mean the difference between boring and interesting.

Photos lacking interesting light:

The same subjects, with interesting light:


“Light makes photography. Embrace light. Admire it. Love it. But above all, know light. Know it for all you are worth, and you will know the key to photography.”
George Eastman, Founder of Eastman Kodak Company

Light can be natural or artificial. It can be manipulated, transformed, and enhanced. Knowing how to use both is knowing the “key to photography.” Natural light can be powerful and stunning, or soft and graceful. I’ve always loved using natural light. For years I disdained the thought of flashes. I thought they were a hindrance and unnecessary for a good photographer (Oh, how vain and ignorant!)

Then I married Matt.

Matt has learned a lot about lighting from years of research and practice. Since Matt and I have been working together, I’ve been learning more about artificial light. He’s also helping me learn how to combine natural and artificial, and how to utilize the camera’s settings. It’s a learning process, but cameras are really smart! Well, they are as smart as you tell them to be, anyway.

“Photography is literally writing with light.”
-David Hobby, Strobist: Lighting 101

The photos in today’s post are mainly about natural light. The rest of this week I plan to focus on artificial light.

Learning to use artificial light is one of my goals as a photographer. Since I’m a full-time homemaker and I tend to stay indoors much more in the I wanted to use this week’s challenge to play with artificial lighting more.

Homes can actually have amazing natural light coming in through doors and windows. But, when it’s not there it can force you (me) to learn to create the light you want.

If you want to join this week’s photo challenge use #MyPhotovation when posting your “light” photos on Twitter or Instagram!

Thanks for reading!

Winter Motivation | December Photovation Challenge

It’s winter…in Saskatchewan. It will be long and cold.

Winter: the coldest season of the year that is after autumn and before spring (definition via Merriam-Webster online dictionary)

Winter: the coldest, longest season smack dab in the middle of the two most arguably beautiful, photogenic seasons (definition via Matt and Tab Photography)

For many (including us), this is the time of year where it can feel like you are scraping your motivation from the bottom of a barrel. It’s cold, it gets dark early, it’s easy to wish you were a hibernating Grizzly bear.


Artist unknown via the Berry

Winter does offer some unique photo ops such as; people in cozy sweaters and hats sipping a nice, steamy coffee, a glowing sunset above vast plains of smooth, glittering snow, detail shots of frozen plants, or cute animals sporting their puffy coats. Outdoor photography can get difficult, however. If it doesn’t snow much, or at all, the little bit of winter’s charm is left behind for brown, bare, boring landscapes. Not really the kind of scenery worth leaving your cozy warm house for.

With the “limits” presented with this long season, we decided we need a photography challenge! We need motivation to take photos. We need photovation!

So, we set some goals.

Starting with December, we will have weekly themes for each month of winter. (Maybe even beyond! Who knows.) The purpose of these goals is two-fold:

  1. To keep us motivated in our hobby
  2. To help us become grounded in some of the basics

At the start of each week we will write a post about the week’s theme, what we plan to focus on, and why it’s important to photography. During that week we will post our photos showcasing the week’s theme. Then we will end the month talking about what we learned.

So, here are our themes for December:

Week 1: Light

Week 2: Contrast

Week 3: Detail

Week 4: Shape

Week 5: Hands

Share your photovation with us this winter! If you’d like to join us, post your photos for the week’s theme to Twitter and/or Instagram using #MyPhotovation. Whether you are using an SLR, mirrorless, or smartphone; we would love to see your photos!

Let’s get snappin’!

-Matt & Tab

Hiking at Mt. Kobau

After a few days in Osoyoos, a friend of ours asked us to join him for a drive up a nearby mountain to check out some of the hiking trails at the top. Eager to get outside and experience something new, we accepted.

We left town, the vineyards, the fruit stands, and went on a new road we hadn’t been on yet. We drove past spotted lake (no pictures, sorry), and came across some ranch land at the base of the mountain. We turned onto a gravel road and began our ascent.

The sun's rays illuminating the dusty gravel road. © Tabitha Friesen

The sun’s rays illuminating the dusty gravel road. © Tabitha Friesen

The dusty road twisted and turned up the forested peak. Around one corner you’d see a wide open view of the valley below, the next you’d be face to face with a wall of pines, another turn, black, bare trees and a layer of ash.

A few weeks before our visit, parts of Osoyoos and neighboring towns were damaged by forest fires. We had seen clear evidence of this since we first arrived, blackened shrubs and trees bordering vineyards and orchards and wispy pillars of smoke on far off peaks. Now we were right next to some of the damage.

We all agreed that it was sad to see so much destruction, but it was also amazing to see how much was still alive. There would be an unscathed, green tree right next to one that was completely burnt. In some places you could see the line of where the fire raged, and where it didn’t touch. Our friend remarked how in a year or two, it would be lush and green again, as fires often bring on new life after their destruction.

We arrived at the base of the hiking trails at the top. We looped around a couple different trails. One trail the fire damage was everywhere, the other looked completely untouched.

The rest area at the starting point of the two trails, along with some curious cows. © Matthew Friesen

The rest area at the starting point of the two trails, along with some curious cows. © Matthew Friesen

We spent less than an hour hiking around the trails, leaving just as the golden light was entering the scene. It was a great trip. We enjoyed the fresh air, mountain views, and good conversation. I mean, who wouldn’t?

Golden hour shadows. © Tabitha Friesen

Golden hour shadows. © Tabitha Friesen


(Click the image for a bigger view)

How Street Photography Helped Me Photograph Couples

By Tab

Being an awkwardly shy teenager starting out with a little Canon point and shoot, people photography was not my first love. I liked details and macros (still do). After a photography class my last year of high school, and working as a school/event photographer my last two years of college, my perspective began to shift.

Then, while in Jerusalem working on a summer archeological dig on the Ophel, my love of people photography really took off. It was here that I went on my first street photography excursion. The official photographer of the dig site took a few of us out one day for a lesson in street photography. He lives in Jerusalem and has a lot of experience with street photography in the area. It was this day that really started my love of photographing people. There are two lessons that stand out to me from that day:

1. Learn to use light and shadows to create visual interest
2. Learn to see what is unique and different and capture it

I also learned to appreciate black and white photos, because they add to the emotion and interest of the photo by removing distracting color. This was something that my boss and mentor at work had been trying to help me see. I didn’t understand it until this day.

These two (sort of three) lessons have done a lot to shape my development as a photographer. This day laid the foundation for my style and my love of photography, especially when it comes to people.

Some pics from my first experience with street photography:

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It was also in Jerusalem when I had my first experience photographing a couple. This was the other foundational building block for my development as a photographer.

My dig supervisor asked me to take engagement photos for him and his bride-to-be. She was flying to Jerusalem from the States, and only staying for a short time. I had one shot at it.

I was terrified.

This was something totally new to me. I had only served as an assistant photographer for a few weddings. I would hold the reflector or flash and watch my boss masterfully instruct the couple in poses, while keeping them natural, relaxed, and sincere. Then I would photograph decorations and candid shots. I didn’t know how to deal with actual people!

I ran straight to Pinterest looking for pose ideas, when it came time for the shoot I forgot 99% of the poses I had liked (still happens today).

So, I jumped right in. I tried to pull together every bit of knowledge I had about lighting, posing, tricks to help the couple feel relaxed and natural, and I shot like crazy.

My first engagement photoshoot:

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I was terrified the entire time. But, I loved every minute of it! From this point I was hooked.

Thankfully, I have had a lot of friends become couples and ask me to do their photos, giving me more practice. I still get terrified before every shoot, I still pour over Pinterest, I still forget everything I researched, and I still just go in and shoot like crazy.

Thanks to my experience in Jerusalem and my job as a photographer (and photographer’s assistant) at Herbert W. Armstrong college, I’ve learned some lessons about couple’s photography. These might not work for you, or you may already use them. But, they are the lessons that have shaped my style and personality as a photographer and the strengths that will help us in making Matt and Tab Photography the best that it can be.

What I’ve Learned:

1. Don’t be afraid of light

Photographing at golden hour is a pretty basic concept. I love golden hour. In some ways, I think it hinders me because I only ever want to shoot at golden hour, which isn’t always possible. But, in my love of golden hour, I’ve also developed a love of the sun’s rays and lens flares.

Lens flares especially can be bothersome for some photographers, but I have learned to love them in my photos. I actively try to place the sun at the right spot to emphasize its rays, silhouetting the subject, or pointing my lens in the right direction to get some lens flare. I think it adds a unique, dreamy essence to your photo that you will never see with just your eyes.

2. Spontaneous laughs > forced smiles

I like to make the couple laugh and flirt. I want them to feel natural and comfortable. A cutesy giggle or a hearty laugh because of a goofy joke, or just being flirty with each other, show joy and happiness you will never get by saying “Say cheese!” or “SMILE!!”. My aim is to capture their interactions with each other. When they look back at their pictures I want them to be reminded of their friendship and how much fun they have together!

3. Be natural when you pose

This ties in with the last point. I like spontaneity, I like interactions, I like a more candid feel. But, I know that a lot of people want to see the cute couple’s faces. So, I often try to get some nice photos of the couple looking at the camera. (I often say, this one is for the parents, and that almost always gets a nice genuine smile straight away.) I often try to give people posing ideas throughout the session, but they aren’t always looking at the camera. It helps add variety.

I try to think of poses that are natural, unique, and most importantly comfortable! Here are some tips I often use:

  • Use natural bends in the joints to create a more comfortable and natural look. Such as: a hand in the pocket (note: if you tell someone to put their hand in their pocket, also tell them to leave their thumb out, or they could look like an amputee, or on the hip and leaning back on something with a leg bent at the knee.
  • Tell them to hold hands and walk away from you, then back
  • Have only one person look at the camera (I usually do this with the girl)
  • Use props (these can also get in the way, so use wisdom!)

Those are the main three things I’ve learned from photographing people:

  • Don’t be afraid of light
  • Spontaneous laughs > forced smiles
  • Be natural when you pose

These three things are all built on the foundation I learned in Jerusalem about: using light and shadows and learning to see what is unique and capturing it (in the case of couple’s photography this is where flirting and natural interaction is key). On occasion I use the semi-third point and turn photos into black and white just to isolate the emotion in that moment.

You can see more examples of people photography on our portfolios page.

Thanks for reading. Leave your comments below!

Quick Stop: Kalamalka Lake

Upon reviewing our previous post, we realized we left out one piece of our Okanagan trip. We mentioned visiting Kalamalka Lake, just outside of Vernon, but we didn’t add any photos!

On our way to Osoyoos we passed this massive, blue lake and Tab loved it. The golden hills contrasting with the crisp blue lake was stunning. It was hard to believe it was a lake in middle of BC and not a cove somewhere in Greece.

Not having time to stop, Matt told her they would on the way home.

We just stopped at a lookout just off the highway to get a big view of the lake from above. Some of the trees were starting to turn to their fall colors, making a lovely palette.  Then drove down to the beach, where we were greeted by hundreds of seagulls.

It was a quick trip, but so worth it. We hope to visit again one day and spend a lot more time in the area.

Here’s a few shots from our stop.

(Click the image for a bigger view)

Kalamalka Lake

Thanks for stopping by. Leave your comments below! We’d love to here from you!

-Matt & Tab

Bits of the Okanagan

Sunny Osoyoos, our final destination!

Osoyoos is in the Okanagan valley, right on the border of British Columbia and Washington state. It’s dry, and arid, with a semi-desert-ish feel. Massive lakes stretch along the mountain valley, some are so large, that if you stand in the right spot, you’d feel like you were on an ocean’s coast. The mountain sides are stepped with vineyards. At the base of the mountains you find miles of orchards and vineyards. The winding road from Kelowna to Osoyoos is lined with what must be hundreds of thousands of fruit trees, and perhaps millions of grape vines. Dotted throughout this landscape are local fruit stands and wineries advertising their orchard’s or vineyard’s tasty creations.

Our main purpose of the trip wasn’t photography. But, we did try to capture bits and pieces of our various excursions around the Okanagan, including, vineyards and wineries around Osoyoos and Oliver, and Kalamalka Lake in Vernon. We also included some photos from last year, since we didn’t take as many this year.

So, here are some bits and pieces of the Okanagan from 2014 and 2015:

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mountains and lakes
vineyards and wineries
in and around Osoyoos

We hope you enjoy all the photos! Perhaps it will inspire you to visit this lovely place some day!

-Matt & Tab

Photo Friday | Moraine Lake

A panoramic view of Moraine Lake at golden hour from above. © Matthew Friesen

Matt’s favorite from Moraine Lake. A panoramic view of the Valley of the Ten Peaks, at golden hour, from a rock pile above. © Matthew Friesen

(Click the image for a bigger view)

Like this photo? See more from Moraine Lake here. Leave your comments below! Have a great weekend. Thanks for stopping by!

-Matt & Tab