Q&A with Kai Behrman and the Art of Creative Photography

As part of my interview for Kai Behrman’s Podcast: The Art of Creative Photography, Kai asked me the following questions. 

1) Favorite photograph – by whom and why?

My favourite photo at this moment is A Winter’s Night by me.  It is a photograph I took one night around 11 pm in mid-November.  The ice had just frozen over and people were beginning to walk on it.  I was unsure of whether or not I should venture out to capture the scene but I noticed a truck parked on the ice so it couldn’t be too bad.  I was alone with the exception of a fox that crossed my path.  I  love the darkness with a glimpse of light streaming through what seems to be an opening in the clouds, the storyline of traces of human life and community in barren and cold conditions.  And I especially love the stillness and mystery that it evokes. I currently have it hanging in my living room. 

2) Favourite inspirational quote about photography (or life in general)?

I have two favourite quotes:

“Work is love made visible” by Kahlil Gibran 


“We are making photographs to understand what our lives mean to us.”  Ralph Hattersly

3) Favorite book – by whom and why?

Fifteen Dogs by Andre Alexis.  I loved this book because it is a story about 15 dogs who received the gift of human consciousness from two gods on a bet.  The bet was that dogs would be even more unhappy than humans are if they were given human consciousness.  It was my favourite read because I love dogs of course and I like to think about these things i.e. what constitutes a good life and how one should achieve happiness and meaning in life.  Also, one of the key canine protagonists Majnoun reminds me of my 10-year-old Golden Doodle named Saydee. 

4) Favorite photographer – why?

Yousef Karsh - As you know, I have already mentioned how much I like the work of Annie Leibowitz however, I thought I should also mention a Canadian master portrait photographer who happens to be from my hometown in Ottawa, Canada.  His portrait of Winston Churchill is masterful.  I’ve seen an original print of it in the Speakers Chamber in the House of Commons and it is arresting.  He had an uncanny ability to know and connect with his subjects in a way that is congruent with their story.  He has photographed some of the great personalities of the 20th century:  Queen Elizabeth, Einstein, Bill Clinton, Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King, Picasso and others. 

5) One contemporary photographer, you’ve recently discovered?

David Burdeny… I love his colourful medium format aerial work.  He makes gorgeous very large prints. 

6) Favorite photography gadget?

I love my Peak Design Slide Strap.  It enables me to switch cameras effortlessly as well as distribute the weight around my shoulders.  

7)  The favorite song when traveling / for the road? Why? —> 

The new rendition of Paul Simon’s classic:  The Sound of Silence by American rock band:  Disturbed. He sings it with such passion and the song’s lyrics really resonate with me.  Actually, it might be a good theme song for my favourite picture. 

8) What’s in your camera bag?

I have both the Fujifilm XH1 and XT2, cameras along with several Fujifilm lenses:  XF16MMXF23F2, XF35F2, XF56APD, XF10-24, XF16-55 and the XF50-140.  I also have a Fujifilm EF500 flash as well as a Godox V860II Flash.

First published August 13, 2018

Anthropocene - An Art Exhibit

“Look at the things around you, the immediate world around you.  If you are alive, it will mean something to you, and if you care enough about photography, and if you know how to use it, you will want to photograph that meaningness …”— Paul Strand 

I was fortunate to attend Canadian photographer Edward Burtynsky’s new Exhibition: Anthropocene at the National Gallery of Canada. Anthropocene is proposed as a new geological epoch, “defined by massive changes that has occurred to the planet and its ecosystems as a result of human activity.” Burtynsky along with his team have been travelling around the globe for the past five years photographing and documenting this change. His images are large scale prints between 9 and 18 feet. The wounds that humanity continues to inflict on mother earth are undeniable. I am impressed with his ability to make scenes of destruction, wasteland and garbage dumps look so beautiful. It is as if he took to heart Richard’ Mosse’s advice:

“Beauty is one of the mainlines to make people feel something – it’s the sharpest tool in the box.  If you’re trying to make people feel something, if you’re able to make it beautiful, they’ll sit up and listen.”— Richard Mosse

Sadly, I began to imagine that in a few years time, this might be the only way people can experience nature. (Burtynsky’s images were supported by virtual reality technology where you could point your iPad or iPhone to an image and with the downloaded app, you could view a related video.) Perhaps it is already like that for many of us. While living in Yellowknife, come fall and winter, hotels were bursting at the seams with visitors, mostly from Asian countries, to experience the raw landscape, the solitude along with the nightly spectacle of the Aurora borealis. One visitor told me as he looked out my window overlooking a frozen yet barren Great Slave Lake that in China, where he was from, there wouldn’t be a square inch of open space.

It also seemed to me that the best photographers have something meaningful to say with their work. I was reading an article this morning where a computer program in the 70’s called World1 predicted that human civilization is likely to collapse by 2040 and that we are on track for that. I also remember George Carlin warning us in the 70’s that we shouldn’t worry too much about the Planet as it will survive us having done so for thousands of years but that our time is running out and that we should “Pack your bags folks. The planet isn’t going anywhere… we are!” Perhaps Edward Burtynsky’s images will inspire change. Our way of life is not sustainable. One can only hope… 2040 is not too far off. 

First Published in October, 2018

Yellowknife Photography Tour

I had been saying for quite some time that I would probably like to lead a photography tour/workshop to the North.  Having spent much of my childhood there, I am passionate about Canadian northern culture and its vast landscape.  I tend to be a bit of a procrastinator preferring to have every single thing figured out before I take any action.  Having just moved back to Ottawa last October I didn’t really think it would be possible to coordinate a tour by the following March. However, one very cold night in December, Eddie and I ran into a lovely couple on Parliament Hill who had been following my Instagram posts and were quite excited about travelling to Yellowknife in March!  I still didn’t think it was going to work out but they sounded so disappointed I agreed to it.  Somehow in under four weeks I managed to put together an itenerary and reserve some hotel rooms which was the tricky part.  March is high season in Yellowknife.  Tourists from mostly Asian countries flock to Yellowknife at this time of year to see the Aurora borealis and experience the month long festivities of the Snowcastle.  

Mary Anne and Marty are both avid travellers and were wanting to upgrade their camera for the trip.  Mary Anne settled on a Fujifilm XT2 with the 18-55mm lens.  She really liked the the compactness of the camera, its weather sealing and the dials on the body.  Photography instruction would be included.  We set out a couple of days before leaving for Yellowknife to do a test run. It would be far easier to learn how to do long exposures in Ottawa spring like temperatures of 0 degrees celsius with not much happening rather than -30C with Aurora dancing overhead! 

We left for Yellowknife via Air North on the Friday and returned on Monday.  It was a whirlwind jam packed weekend of exploring Old Town, having dinner at Bullock’s Bistro, witnessing the opening of the XXIII Snowcastle, Ice fishing the traditional way on Great Slave Lake followed by a fish fry and then out the Ingraham Trail for a night of Aurora watching. 

The Aurora did appear that eveningbut it was very brief lasting only a few minutes.  The lights did dance overhead a wee bit and Mary Anne and I were able to get a few shots.  The following day we would go dog sledding and followed by dinner and another night of Aurora watching at Aurora Village.  We were hopeful. 

Our final day we visited the Legislative Assembly of the Northwest Territories and the Prince of Wales Heritage Museum.  All in all it was a great trip but I think next time we will need to stay a bit longer just to ensure the best possible odds of seeing the Northern Lights.  

Yellowknife which is located above the 60th parallel is truly a unique place - sometimes even magical.  

I’ve put together a slide show with some of the highlights.  I hope you enjoy it.  Of course all images were shot with Fujifilm XT2 and the following lenses:  XF35F2, XF16mm, XF23F2, XF16-55 and the XF10-24.  

Original Post March 11, 2018 

I am going to plan another trip for September of 2018. If you are interested, please get in touch with me as soon as my groups will be limited to six persons so that I can ensure personalized one-on-one photography coaching and feedback.  

Kind words

We are still exhilarated from our Yellowknife tour with Dyanne. Every aspect of the trip met or exceeded our expectations. 

Dyanne is a well organized and lovely woman with an amazing talent for photography. We took this tour because we wanted to experience Yellowknife with someone who knew the city inside out. Because Dyanne lived there for two years she has many contacts and a wealth of knowledge that we were able to benefit from. We prefer a small group local experience when we travel, so this trip absolutely met that criteria. It was great to not have to organize a thing. 

We thoroughly enjoyed the Snow Castle opening, walking around Old Town, Bullocks Bistro, going out ice fishing in a vintage bombardier and then eating the catch, dog sledding and sliding at Aurora Village, aurora viewing at a private cabin on a lake and tours of the Legislature Assembly Building and Prince of Wales Museum. 

The complimentary Aurora Heat sheared beaver hand warmers were a nice souvenir and helped to keep us toasty warm. 

Dyanne’s patience and expertise with photography helped me achieve amazing photos that I could not have shot on my own. I learnt so much about photography and feel much more comfortable using manual settings on my camera thanks to Dyanne.

We travel considerably and this trip rates up there as one of the best!

Mary Anne and Marty


Using Format