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

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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

Two red chairs side by side at the top of the Mt. Norquay viewpoint

Discovering Banff | Part 2 | Mt. Norquay Road

After our first visit to Banff, we spent over a week in Osoyoos (you’ll hear about that soon). We originally planned to drive straight home after our stay in Osoyoos, but after our experience with two 7-8 hour trips (and an enjoyable time in Banff!) instead of one 14-16 hour trip, we decided to stay in Banff on our way home too.

We got in late, it was gloomy and rainy, we were tired, so we just went to the hotel. Matt had done some research on Mt. Norquay road (conveniently located right behind out hotel) and he wanted to check it out the next morning.

Sunrise above Mt. Rundle from our room at the Juniper Hotel. © Tabitha Friesen

Sunrise above Mt. Rundle from our room at the Juniper Hotel. (Taken with Samsung Galaxy s4 Mini) © Tabitha Friesen

Sunrise was fairly late in the morning, so we took advantage of the extra Zzz’s.

Tab peeked out our window and saw a stunning pink and purple sunrise. Light and color bounced off the dark, moody clouds lingering from the day before. Unfortunately, she only had her phone camera. She snapped some pics, then we snatched up our luggage and headed out. In 10 minutes we were at the viewpoint.

Hello sunrise! © Tabitha Friesen

Good morning, Banff! © Tabitha Friesen

We arrived just as the morning sun was saturating the clouds with a fiery orange glow. There were three others already there, a cute Asian couple (the man had a camera in each hand) and a man with a leather jacket and hat with his Sony camera perched on a tripod.

Some of the other visitors. © Matthew Friesen

Some of the other visitors. © Matthew Friesen

Matt changed to his 35mm lens for a wider angle and Tab went to the edge of the road to get a better view of the grassy slope below.

Her eyes filled with glee, she wanted to squeal, and she tip-toed back to Matt as fast as she could.


Matt asked where they were, and changed his lens back to the 70-200mm so he could zoom in on the herd of goats.

(Click the image for a bigger view)

Turns out they were bighorn sheep. But, they were the first wildlife we had seen, so Tab got excited.

We spent about half an hour taking photos and enjoying the last bit of fresh mountain air we would experience for a while. Just before we left, the sun’s rays graced the tips of some of the stately peaks,  crowning them with glorious, golden light. It was truly a wonderful piece of art to behold.

Photos from Mt. Norquay viewpoint:

(Click the image for a bigger view)

We drove back down the winding road, checked out of our hotel, and after the essential stop at TImmy’s for a dark roast and breakfast (Yay turkey sausage and egg english muffin!) we set out for home. 

So, have you ever been to Banff? Do you love mountains? Sunrise? Trees? Sheep? Timmy’s?Leave us your comments below!

-Matt & Tab

Discovering Banff | Part 1 | Moraine Lake

If you’ve read our past couple of posts you know that we recently had a road trip to Osoyoos, BC. Osoyoos is about a 14 hour drive from where we live, and we didn’t really want to make it in a straight shot. We checked out Google maps and were pleased to find Banff is almost an exact half way point between our place and Osoyoos. We booked a hotel for one night on the way there, and one night on the way back.

We left Saskatchewan early in the morning and arrived in Banff and 2:30 that afternoon. We checked in at our hotel and headed straight for Moraine Lake.

The view from our room at the Juniper Hotel in Banff. © Matthew Friesen

The view from our room at the Juniper Hotel in Banff. © Matthew Friesen

As we got closer to the lake, we noticed cars were parked along the road leading to the lake. We got worried that 1) It would be full of tourists and 2) We would reach the parking lot, just to turn around to park on the road like everyone else.

Thankfully only worry #1 was true.

We parked, gathered up the gear, and headed toward the sea on the lake. The sea, being one of people, not water. At first we were a bit sad about the massive group of snap happy humans, but we quickly discovered the numbers dissipated  as we walked just a few feet down the path along the lake. It’s amazing what a little extra effort will open up to you!

We spent about 3 hours, roaming the wooded beaches, admiring the towering peaks, and gazing at the crystal blue water. (Tab hails from a land where crystal and clear are never used to describe local lakes: Oklahoma. So, this was nearly incomprehensible for her.)

It's really that blue! © Matthew Friesen

It’s really that blue! © Matthew Friesen

A lovely light began to make its way through the trees illuminating the path. Golden, flickering light trimmed the the edges of every needle it could find. The glistening trees made it hard to leave the path. But, we were there on a mission. We wanted to capture the golden light hitting the lake from above.

(Click the image for a bigger view)

The sunlight in the trees on the wooded path alongside Moraine Lake.

We  made our way back to the dwindling sea and hiked up a little trail that gave you a view of the lake from higher up. There were about 15 people already there, so we found a large boulder to perch ourselves on while we waited for the light. Once it came, our shutters were non-stop. The clouds would change ever so slightly, the sun would expand its golden glow to the mountain across the lake, the trees would be gloriously highlighted, we just couldn’t stop taking photos!


Matt taking photos from our perch. © Tabitha Friesen

Quicker than it arrived, the sun ducked behind the peaks.

We left our perch, said goodbye to Moraine, and headed to Lake Louise. We probably spent a grand total of 13 minutes there. It was getting dark, we were tired, and to be honest it’s much less spectacular when you see Moraine Lake first. Sorry Louise.

A trail of rocks leading to a boat shack on Lake Louise. © Matthew Friesen

A trail of rocks leading to a boat shack on Lake Louise. © Matthew Friesen

After heading back into the town of Banff for burgers and poutine, we returned to our hotel exhausted. Not too exhausted for some night sky photos though! Matt set up the tripod on our hotel room’s balcony and snapped some shots of the night sky over Banff. (Stay tuned, he’s working on a post about astrophotography!)

(Click the image for a bigger view)

We left for Osoyoos the next morning, saying goodbye to Banff until the next time (which we will talk about in Part 2 of this post!).

Photos from Moraine Lake and Lake Louise:

(Click the image for a bigger view)

Have you been to Moraine lake? Lake Louise? How do you think they compare? Did our photos do this grand place justice?

Leave your comments below!

-Matt & Tab

Showin’ Saskatchewan Some Love

In just a few days we will be setting out on our first major road trip together. We will be making our way through Saskatchewan, across Alberta, and down to Osoyoos, British Columbia. We visited this area last fall, and we are excited to head back.

This time it will be a little different.

  1. We are married, rather than dating
  2. We are driving, rather than flying

Both differences add a lot of anticipation and excitement for the whole trip. The trip will be long, yet short at the same time. Long because it’s a 14 hour, 1,355 km trip; short because there are a lot of photo-ops between here and there.

Banff is a world famous town inside the world famous Banff National Park inside the world famous Canadian rockies…And we will be spending an afternoon and night there. Within this park you will find stunning snow-capped mountains delicately laced with winding roads, rushing waterfalls, breathtaking canyons, turquoise blue, glass-like lakes, and a cutsie mountain tourist town. So, yeah, we are pretty stoked.

We will leave this majestic fortress early in the morning and continue our trip west to British Columbia. We are hoping to have a short stop for breakfast in the town of Golden, which is just about half an hour from the BC/Alberta border. It is also surrounded by some stunning views. Basically, once we hit Calgary, until we get to BC we are in for some nice sites. We’ve been researching the best spots, looking at amazing photos other people have taken, and getting really pumped about this exciting opportunity to grow our portfolio and add to our list of experiences.

That being said. We don’t want to leave out poor Saskatchewan. We call this humble province home. I call it humble, because it doesn’t boast the majestic mountains, crystal clear lakes, fertile pacific rainforests, towering pines, and rugged coastlines like the other two provinces we will be visiting. Many people traveling from the western side of Canada remark how once they hit Saskatchewan they stopped seeing trees. Or that they liked “the tree”. It is flat, and a little boring at times. But, it does have some impressive sites of its own, however.

We’ve been able to see just a few glimpses of Saskatchewan’s beauty on our photo jaunts closer to home (like really close, none of the photos in this post are more than 30 minutes away from our house).

One thing to note is that one thing Saskatchewan has to offer to photographers is a big sky. A big sky that can provide some incredible cloudscapes, sunsets, sunrises. A popular slogan for this province is “The Land of the Living Skies”, which seems to suit it well. The land is full of fields of canola (which are a lovely yellow in the summer), barley, wheat, and in some places flax. The North Saskatchewan River flows through Saskatoon and nearby the outlying towns, providing some nice scenery. It may not be a rugged forest landscape, or staunch mountainous terrain, but it is certainly beautiful in its own way.

So, we want to show off some of Saskatchewan! Hopefully, in the near future we can explore more of Saskatchewan’s diversity. But, for now. Here’s some of our favorites from our own back yard! (Practically).

(Click the images below for a bigger view)

So there you have it, Saskatchewan is pretty too! How about you? Do you live somewhere “flat and boring”? Or somewhere that doesn’t seem very interesting? You might be surprised how many cool things are just outside your front door!

-Matt &Tab