Thursday, 3 October 2013

Photo Composition - Landscape Photography

Do not forget the foreground in a landscape photo... the best way to capture the whole photo is to focus 1/3 of the way up from the bottom of the photo and use an f-stop of f/16 to bring as much into focus as possible.

To learn more about composition check out our workshops at  

Thursday, 5 September 2013

How to photograph the Northern Lights

Photo courtesy of Tessa McIntosh, my partner in Northern Canada

The spectacle known as the northern lights is something I promise you will never forget, and if you are prepared to photograph them, you will be able come home and share your photos you are proud of with friends and family.

The Aurora Borealis occurs in the Northern hemisphere.  It can be experienced in locations further from the Arctic circles, but to improve your chances of seeing them you need to spend some time on or near the activity zones. Iceland, Norway, Yukon and Alaska are just some of the places famous for the Aurora Borealis in the Northern hemisphere.

How to Photograph the northern lights

A good sturdy tripod.
A remote trigger so you don't have to touch the camera.
The camera should be a 35mm SLR camera with manual focus (set to just shy of "infinity"), which works well for Northern Lights photography. Or an DSLR camera with the capability of  BULB mode so you can manually control exposure times.
Digital cameras will need to have to be manually adjustable focus with ISO ranges up to 1600

Beyond the basic photography equipment, you should bring the following gear for great results:
A wide-angle zoom lens, f2.8 (or lower numbers), will give great results photographing the Northern Lights.
If you have a prime lens (with fixed focal length) for your camera, bring it as well. If you notice the photo above, Tessa used a fisheye lens.

You generally will not be able to take good pictures of the Northern Lights with short exposure times. Good exposure times for this are 20-40 seconds per picture (the tripod will help you eliminate shaking of the camera - you can't hold the camera by hand.)

A sample exposure time for ISO 800 with an aperture of f/2.8 would be 20 to 30 seconds depending on the brightness of the lights.

It can be hard to predict the Northern Lights so you may be in for a few hours of waiting during a cold night.

The best times generally are after midnight and range from October to the end of April each year.

You should head out of the city and get away from light pollution to obtain maximum quality of photos.

1.Batteries don't last as long in cold nights. Bring spare batteries.
2.Try lots of different exposure settings; night photography is challenging. Test your setup first.
3.Include a part of the landscape to make the photos more attractive and as a visual reference for size.
4.Do not use any filters, as they tend to distort the beauty of the Northern Lights and degrade the image.
5.Turn on "noise reduction" and the white balance can be set to 5000K or set to auto on digital cameras.

To increase your chance of a successful aurora hunt, you need to be aware of the weather.  If it is cloudy, your chances of seeing the aurora grow weaker.  If you have a clear sky you have a much better chance.

You also need to check the space weather for the northern lights forecast. Please not, even if the space weather forecast is weak, it may still be worth venturing out if you are up north in the areas that I previously mentioned… Iceland, Norway, Alaska and the Yukon.

So you are in an active zone and you have a clear sky and the space weather is a bit uncertain. You can increase your chances again by eliminating light pollution. 

The moon can also work against you.  If you are planning a trip to an Aurora zone, try to book it as I do when there is a new moon.

Get your camera set up so that it is easy to handle. Using a flash light make sure your cable is connected, your lens is set just short of infinity and the camera is level to the ground. Then turn off the flash light and let your eyes adjust to the darkness.

You can use the waiting time constructively.  You can practice with your bulb and find a good composition.  Set your camera to f/2.8 (or as wide as possible) iso 800 and take some test shots for 30 seconds.  Do this in all directions but mainly due north (Aurora Borealis).  You may start to see a green hue on your pictures near the horizon. This is a good sign and this is the part of the sky you need to watch.

As the aurora starts to get brighter you need to start adjusting your settings accordingly.  Start by bringing down your iso. 

Important note… Always check the brightness of your image on the histogram and never rely on the camera preview screen.  Your eyes have adjusted to the dark so an underexposed image will look fine – until you get it home! Speaking from experience… the back lit LCD screen in the dark makes photos look brighter than they actually are.

If the whole sky explodes and the Aurora casts a shadow, you need to be quick to adjust your exposure times.  The best Aurora shots occur during these brief moments.  A faster shutter of 8-20 seconds will preserve some of the details of the light display that separates the great photo from the average photo.

Star trails
The added bonus… Sometimes you cannot avoid star trails if you don't trust iso 800 and your lens stops at f/4. If this is the case, you might be exposing for 2 minutes with a weak aurora.  Generally it is preferred to expose for less than 30 seconds to prevent noticeable star trails.  Stars begin to move over 20 seconds… so if you want fixed stars you will have to increase ISO to 1600 or 3200 and keep exposure times under 20 seconds… but, sometimes star movement adds an element to the images you take.

Please join me in 2014 as I travel to northern Canada two different times.

Yukon - April 2014 for northern lights and mountain landscapes

Northwest Territories - September 2014 for fall colors, landscapes and northern lights.

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Northern Lights and Mountain Landscapes Photography Workshop in the Yukon

March 29th, 2014
We'll welcome you at the airport and transfer you to the hotel in downtown Whitehorse and we will get you checked in.

March 30th, 2014
Over breakfast we will go over the itinerary over a group setting. There, we will present a slide show and give you tips on photographing in the environments that we are about to shoot in.

After lunch we will head out into rural Yukon and show you the mountain ranges, pristine lakes and make frequent stops along the way to let you enjoy the sights through your lens.

At 8.30 PM we depart for our first of many Aurora hunts. Hot drinks and snacks are provided

Breakfast and dinner included

March 31st, 2014
After lunch we will depart for Kluane National Park for landscape photographic opportunities of the Yukon Mountains and lakes. On the way we stop regularly to allow you the opportunity to take photos of the beautiful landscape. Once we reach Kluane we can go for a short hike. Dinner will be in Haines Junction. After dinner we will position ourselves for a sunset photo opportunity before we drive to our nightly Aurora viewing location.

The 22 000 square kilometre Kluane National Park is set like a jewel in the southwestern corner of the Yukon between northeastern British Columbia and the tidewaters of the Alaskan panhandle. Much of the park's 129 kilometre northern boundary is made up of the Alaska Highway and the Haines Road. The Alsek River, known for its big water rapids created by the tremendous volume of water it drains from the St. Elias Mountains, is so swift it appears that native people have entirely avoided using it for travel or trade routes.

Lunch and Dinner included

April 1st, 2014
Sleep in or a morning at your leisure and go for one of your own day trips. We will group together for lunch and spend a few hours going through your images. After an early dinner we will grab our camera gear for another night with the Aurora Borealis. Again, if the lights are dancing, we will stay out taking photos for as long as the group wants.

Lunch and dinner included

April 2nd, 2014
Sleep in because we may have been out to the wee hours of the morning shooting northern lights. After lunch we will head west for a journey down the Alaskan highway. Through the mountain ranges we will venture and make frequent stops at lakes such as Squanga lake and Little Teslin Lake as we search for the perfect mountain vista, moose and other resident wildlife.

After an early dinner we will grab our camera gear one last time for our last night with the Aurora Borealis. We will depart at 8:30pm and have you back at your hotel by 1:30am so you can get some sleep and catch one of two flights home the next day.

Lunch and dinner included

April 3rd, 2014
We will transfer to the airport for your flight home. There are two flight options. A 6:00am flight and a 12:50pm flight bound for Vancouver.

Price of Workshop:
$2487USD for a maximum of 5 people
Single Supplement is $250
Airport pickup and drop

Airport pick-up and drop-off
Lunch and Dinner on day 2, 3, 4 and 5
Daily transportation via an 8 passenger Suburban or equivalent. Hot drinks and snacks during aurora viewing nights.

Not Included
Alcoholic beverages
International flights
Items of personal nature
Items not listed as included

Deposit Required:
Balance due before January 15th, 2014.  


Monday, 19 August 2013

Species Spotlight - The Great Northern Loon

The Great Northern Loon is one of the five loon species. Its closest relative is the other large black-headed species, the Yellow-billed Loon or White-billed Diver.

Adults can range from 61 to 100 cm (24–40 inches) in length with a 122–152 cm (4–5-foot) wingspan, slightly smaller than the similar Yellow-billed Loon (or "White-billed Diver"). The weight can vary from 1.6 to 8 kg (3.6 to 17.6 lbs). On average a Great Northern Loon is about 81 cm (32 inches) long, has a wingspan of 136 cm (54 inches), and weighs about 4.1 kg (9 lbs).

Breeding adults have a black head, white underparts, and a checkered black-and-white mantle. Non-breeding plumage is brownish, with the chin and foreneck white. The bill is black-blue and held horizontally. The bill colour and angle distinguish this species from the similar Yellow-billed Loon.

Bone structure contains a number of solid bones (unlike normally hollow avian bones), which add weight but help in diving.

Distribution and habitat

The Great Northern Loon breeds in North America, Greenland, Iceland, and Great Britain. This species winters on sea coasts or on large lakes of south Europe and the United States, and south to northwestern areas of Africa.


Chicks will ride on their parents' backs

This species, like all divers, is a specialist fish-eater, catching its prey underwater, diving as deep as 60 m (200 ft). Freshwater diets consist of pike, perch, sunfish, trout, and bass; salt-water diets consist of rock fish, flounder, sea trout, and herring.

The bird needs a long distance to gain momentum for take-off, and is ungainly on landing. Its clumsiness on land is due to the legs being positioned at the rear of the body: this is ideal for diving but not well-suited for walking. When the birds land on water, they skim along on their bellies to slow down, rather than on their feet, as these are set too far back. The loon swims gracefully on the surface, dives as well as any flying bird, and flies competently for hundreds of kilometers in migration. It flies with its neck outstretched, usually calling a particular tremolo that can be used to identify a flying loon. Its flying speed is about 120 km/h (75 mph) during migration. Its call has been alternately called "haunting," "beautiful," "thrilling," "mystical", and "enchanting."

Great Northern Loon nests are usually placed on islands, where ground-based predators cannot normally access them. However, eggs and nestlings have been taken by gulls, raccoons, skunks, minks, foxes, snapping turtles, and large fish. Adults are not regularly preyed upon, but have been taken by sea otters (when wintering) and Bald Eagles. Ospreys have been observed harassing divers, more likely out of kleptoparasitism than predation.  When approached by a predator of either its nest or itself, divers sometimes attack the predator by rushing at it and attempting to impale it through the abdomen or the back of the head or neck.


The female lays 1 to 3 eggs on a hollowed-out mound of dirt and vegetation very close to water. Both parents build the nest, sit on the egg or eggs, and feed the young.

Relationship with humans

These birds have disappeared from some lakes in eastern North America due to the effects of acid rain and pollution, as well as lead poisoning from fishing sinkers and mercury contamination from industrial waste. Artificial floating nesting platforms have been provided for loons in some lakes to reduce the impact of changing water levels due to dams and other human activities.

This diver is well known in Canada, appearing on the one-dollar "loonie" coin and the previous series of $20 bill, and is the provincial bird of Ontario. Also, it is the state bird of Minnesota.

The voice and appearance of the Great Northern Loon has made it prominent in several Native American tales. These include a story of a loon which created the world in a Chippewa story; a Micmac saga describes Kwee-moo, the loon who was a special messenger of Glooscap (Glu-skap), the tribal hero; native tribes of British Columbia believed that an excess of calls from this bird predicted rain, and even brought it; and the tale of the loon's necklace was handed down in many versions among Pacific Coast peoples. Folk names include big loon, black-billed loon, call-up-a-storm, ember-goose,

We often see Loons on our workshops and have experience anticipating their movement to offer you the best opportunity to photograph them in the environment.

Please check out our workshops and come photograph some Loons.


Sunday, 18 August 2013

Canadian Photography Workshop Series

I have had the pleasure of travelling to some fantastic places... Africa, France, Mongolia, Eastern Europe, South America... and no matter where I go, and who I meet, I always get asked about Canada, my home.

I guess its the expansive nature of our country. The draw of the Rocky Mountains, the expansive prairies, the eclectic economic center of Ontario and Quebec, and the iconic eastern provinces on the Atlantic Ocean... and definately not to be left out, our territories to the north, and their allure of untamed lands and wildlife...

Over the past year I have been mulling an idea that would bring International Photographers to Canada. A friend of mine, Tim Vollmer, brings photographers from around the world to Iceland and hosts amazing trips that can be found nowhere else on earth...

Canada also has that diverse and unique offering, and frankly, I think better opportunities than Iceland, (sorry Tim... LOL)

So in July of 2013, North of 49 Photography was launched. North of 49 refers to the latitude line of our border with the USA. So all workshops and tours that this new company will conduct, will be north of the 49th latitude line.

Our Canadian instructors and guides have knowledge of the lands and the wildlife that we will be photographing to ensure that you have the best experience possible. These Canadian instructors and guides will also support the International Photographers that visit Canada with their friends and clients. So, you get two professional photographers to help you when you come to Canada. This offers a great ratio and increases your learning time.

Currently we have a variety of workshops and tours that focus on the very photogenic Pacific coast in Tofino, British Columbia, a few workshops centred around thousands of migratory bald eagles, Northwest Territories for landscape and Northern Lights, and as well, a workshop up in Algonquin Park and the Kawartha region of Ontario.

All of these workshops can be found at

In the coming months we will also be adding a few polar bear workshops in Nunavut and an east coast lighthouse workshop along the Atlantic coastline.

I hope you will bookmark the site and refer back to it often. We will be constantly updating the workshops and the blog will be filling up with all the information you will ever need on Canada, its people, its regions and where we will be travelling to.

I wanted to thank you all for your support with the Photographers Lounge. That company will continue to operate our International Workshops and local one day workshops under



Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Canadian Species Spotlight - The Osprey

The Osprey sometimes known as the sea hawk, fish eagle, or fish hawk, is a fish-eating bird of prey. It is a large raptor, reaching more than 60 cm (24 in) in length and 180 cm (71 in) across the wings. It is brown on the upperparts and predominantly greyish on the head and underparts, with a black eye patch and wings. In 1994, the osprey was declared the provincial bird of Nova Scotia, Canada

The Osprey tolerates a wide variety of habitats, nesting in any location near a body of water providing an adequate food supply. It is found on all continents except Antarctica, although in South America it occurs only as a non-breeding migrant.

As its other common name suggests, the Osprey's diet consists almost exclusively of fish. It possesses specialized physical characteristics and exhibits unique behavior to assist in hunting and catching prey. As a result of these unique characteristics, it has been given its own family.

The Osprey is the second most widely distributed raptor species, after the Peregrine Falcon. It has a worldwide distribution and is found in temperate and tropical regions of all continents except Antarctica. In North America it breeds from Alaska and Newfoundland south to the Gulf Coast and Florida, wintering further south from the southern United States through to Argentina.

The Osprey breeds near freshwater lakes, and sometimes on coastal brackish waters. The nest is a large heap of sticks, driftwood and seaweed built in forks of trees, rocky outcrops, utility poles, artificial platforms or offshore islets. Generally, Ospreys reach sexual maturity and begin breeding around the age of three to four, though in some regions with high Osprey densities, they may not start breeding until five to seven years old, and there may be a shortage of suitable tall structures. If there are no nesting sites available, young Ospreys may be forced to delay breeding. To ease this problem, posts are sometimes erected to provide more sites suitable for nest building.

Ospreys usually mate for life. Rarely, polyandry has been recorded. The breeding season varies according to latitude. In spring the pair begins a five-month period of partnership to raise their young. The female lays two to four eggs within a month, and relies on the size of the nest to conserve heat. The eggs are whitish with bold splotches of reddish-brown and are about 6.2 by 4.5 cm (2.4 by 1.8 in) and weigh about 65 g (2.3 oz). The eggs are incubated for about 5 weeks to hatching.

The newly hatched chicks weigh only 50–60 g (1.8–2.1 oz), but fledge in 8–10 weeks. When food is scarce, the first chicks to hatch are most likely to survive. The typical lifespan is 7–10 years, though rarely individuals can grow to as old as 20–25 years. The oldest European wild osprey on record lived to be over thirty years of age. In North America Bubo owls and Bald Eagles (and possibly other eagles of comparable size) are the only major predators of both nests and sub adults.

You can often find Osprey flying around and fishing in many of the lakes and streams we visit on our workshops with North of 49 Photography.

Please check out our workshops and contact us if you see anything that interests you.


Monday, 5 August 2013

Social Media Workshop for Photographers

As a small photography business owner that has a limited budget for traditional marketing efforts, social media and the internet should be playing huge role in helping you gain new clients and grow your business.

While many of us have entered the social media space, there is always room for improvement and definitely ways to streamline the work load, while increasing your conversation ratios of casual followers to paying clients.

Does these statements sound familiar?

I have a website, Why do I need Social Media?

I am ready to use the internet and social media in a smart and meaningful way–without taking time from your primary business?

I want to reach and engage prospects directly instead of wasting time and money on passive advertising?

I want to create a community of advocates who promote and support your business for you?

Is there a special connection to customers that you've heard others have–but you're missing?

Does the ever-changing information about social media confuse you?

And–maybe you'd like some expert guidance to help you understand and use all that social media has to offer?

Some Quick Facts about Social Media That We Will Address

Facebook has 1 billion users, twitter has about 500 million. How many of those users do you think could be potential customers?

Social media increases your online presence, making your company easier to find through searches and organically.

Posting on Social Media increases your brands exposure, and who wouldn't want more exposure?

Social Media gives you a free platform where you can have conversations directly with customers that may otherwise never hear of your company!

Complaints happen. Addressing public customer complaints quickly and efficiently can contain the spread of negative feedback, and can also help create new raving fans.

Our Social Media Workshop is a great way to help you and your staff identify your target audience and establish a strong message you'd like to deliver through a number of social media outlets. We will help you identify the best social media platforms for your business, because what's right for some isn't right for all. We will make sure you and your staff become comfortable communicating with your customers and creating meaningful conversations online.

It's a great way to align your marketing strategies with your online media initiatives, and make social media work for you.

About Your Instructor
Kevin Pepper has over 12 years working in the Internet industry for large multi-national organizations and some of Canada’s largest media companies. Companies such as Canwest, Sun Media and Trader Classified Media.

From managing one of the world’s largest internet business targeting used car buyers to teaching small to medium sized businesses on maximizing the power of the Internet, Kevin’s social media and internet experience is extensive.

Having changed his career in 2011, Kevin now operates two companies that offer local and international photography workshops for enthusiastic photographers.

Pulling from all his past learnings, Kevin now offers other professional the insights he has learned so that you can benefit from this knowledge and grow your own business, not matter what budget you have for marketing.

Here is a breakdown of the workshop:
January, 25th, 2014 - 6 hours long (we begin at 9:00am to Noon, and then resume at 1:30pm and go till 4:30pm
Part I
Part II
Overview of Social Media Choices
Who does it?
How often?
Options & Costs
Best Practices
How to measure success

Our sessions include brainstorming and interactive feedback and everyone takes away the maximum amount of knowledge specific for photographers.

Location is in Cambridge, Ontario

Cost is $150 plus HST/ per person (payment due at time of registration, non-refundable) - first 20 registrations for $69.00

We will send you a form for your employees to fill out prior to the workshop to make sure we are all prepared and we can completely customize the workshop to your needs and goals

We will follow up with our written recommendations for your company

Contact Information:
(phone) 519 620 9185

Once you contact me to register you will receive a questionnaire to better help me understand your business situation and your specific needs. This will help me address your specific concerns and maximize the personal feedback you receive after the workshop.

I look forward to seeing you at our next social media workshop.