Posts Tagged ‘Yukon’

Gear update: Cold cameras, warm fingers

Thursday, October 25th, 2012

[by Fritz] I’m a big fan of a fingerless glove made by Sportees that I depend on for winter photography – so much so that I blogged about it. Over the past year I’ve been doing lots of wintertime night photography. Cold hands have prompted me to further refine my glove system and I’m tickled with the results.

In deep cold I used to wear polypro liner gloves underneath the Sportees gloves, but polypro seems to transmit the cold, is slippery with lenses, gets smelly and hooks dry skin. Last winter I tried a pair of merino wool finger gloves made by Icebreaker, and they’re amazing. They don’t catch on dry skin, and they’re actually warm and pleasant to wear. I wouldn’t have thought that such a small item of clothing could make such a difference to my work, but photography is impossible without happy hands.

For anyone who spends a lot of time shooting in the cold, I strongly recommend this system: Icebreaker’s merino wool Glove Liners under Sportees’ Michie Dog Musher Gloves with chemical hand warmers tucked into the wrist pockets.

Making gigapixel murals with Mars rover technology

Tuesday, October 23rd, 2012

[by Fritz] In 2010 I got a call from Parks Canada asking if I could make 65-foot long photo-murals for their new visitor centre in Kluane National Park. I boldly said yes, having just a month earlier read about the new GigaPan Epic Pro robotic camera mount. This device incorporates technology developed by researchers at NASA and Carnegie Mellon University for the Mars rover missions to make detailed stitched panoramas of the red planet.

I was keen to use this technology to photograph Kluane’s oversize landscapes, so I scrambled to buy the device, which had been available for less than a year. I’d never made an image this size before, and I was fortunate to have a client who was open to exploring this with me. The 1,704 megapixel image below of alpine waterfalls in White Pass was a test shot in preparation for Parks Canada’s mural project. It was stitched from 196 photos taken with the 21-megapixel Canon 1DS Mark III. This photo isn’t particularly special, but it becomes much more interesting when you zoom in and explore the water, rocks and plants at full resolution. If you want to view it on an iOS device or the full-screen version go to the link at GigaPan.

In the end we made 7 photographs for Parks Canada – the largest mural will be 46-feet long and 16-feet high and is being printed from a 2,400 megapixel file. The exhibits are being installed this winter – check back in the new year when I’ll share these gigapixel images from Kluane.

Robert Service in full color

Monday, October 22nd, 2012

There’s gold, and it’s haunting and haunting;
It’s luring me on as of old;
Yet it isn’t the gold that I’m wanting
So much as just finding the gold.
It’s the great, big, broad land ‘way up yonder,
It’s the forests where silence has lease;
It’s the beauty that thrills me with wonder,
It’s the stillness that fills me with peace.

                                    from the Spell of the Yukon, Robert Service

[by Fritz] Last month I headed to Dawson City to shoot the Klondike National Historic Sites for the Canadian Tourism Commission. Most of the talent we pulled in were Parks Canada staff whose jobs had just ended for the season, along with some keen locals and a few tourists. It was supposed to look like a ‘summer’ shoot, but fall was in full swing here in September so we embraced it.

One afternoon we spent some time at Robert Service Cabin. Most visitors to Dawson seek out the home of the famous poet known for his verses about the Klondike Gold Rush. The weather had been cloudy and cold, but while we were there the sun beamed into the historic site. For a short time we were surrounded by magic light and golden fall colour.

While leading us around town on a walking tour, Parks Canada heritage interpreter Fred Osson became Robert Service. By the time we arrived at the cabin, we’d been listening to Fred recite Service ballads and spout off tall tales like Service. I found myself lowering the camera so I could watch the famous bard. I caught myself thinking: this actually is Robert Service, and I really am standing here on the boardwalk in 1903.

It’s easy to think about historic times in monochromatic black and white like we see in the old photos, yet Service’s life was full of colour. That afternoon Fred animated Robert Service’s world for us. Fred is incredibly gifted at what he does, and he took us back a hundred years. We re-created a historic photograph in front of the cabin porch, with Fred teasing us in and out of the past. Oddly, it was 100 years almost to the day since Service left the Yukon for good.

I’ve been to Dawson many times, yet I felt something significant at the cabin that day, like I’d travelled through time and found Klondike gold myself. It was a testament to the power of interpretation.

It’s a big land with magic light and unlimited possibilities for a photographer

Tuesday, October 16th, 2012

[by Fritz] YukonWild’s ad in this month’s issue of PhotoLife magazine promotes the Yukon. It’s a pleasure to endorse our wilderness tourism friends at YukonWild, and it’s great to see Yukon being marketed to photographers.

Photographers advocating for copyright reform

Tuesday, December 13th, 2011

[by Teresa] Each year at tax time when we tally up all the business memberships, we usually have a brief debate about the merits of the various industry and business associations we support. It really adds up, so when you’re looking to trim the fat it’s a logical expense to examine. But we rarely cancel a membership – we believe in the strength of collectives, and most of these organizations work very hard to create value for members.

This year we’ve been watching the work of the Canadian Photographers Coalition, a partnership of CAPIC and PPOC that works to extend copyright fairness to working professional photographers. Canada’s copyright legislation is now being modernized, so the coalition has been very busy over the past year preparing for submissions and presentations and lobbying efforts in Ottawa. Ownership of first copyright on commissioned works is a core issue for image creators; as authors of these works photographers are seeking a small amendment to the new Copyright Act to ensure their rights of authorship are protected.

The Coalition produced a limited edition portfolio featuring 22 Canadian photographers from a range of regions and genres to present in Parliament to Ministers and committees working on Bill C-11. As one of the photographers profiled, we are pleased to have contributed to their efforts to push for copyright fairness for photographers. 

Anatomy of a portrait shoot on a blindingly bright day

Wednesday, November 30th, 2011

[by Fritz] This summer I got a call from Shell Canada and Canadian Geographic to shoot the Kitchen-Kuiack family of Marsh Lake, Yukon. They’re one of six Canadian families competing in The Energy Diet Challenge. For three months Brian, Marguerite, Simone and Marika have been reducing every aspect of their energy consumption in a battle to win a 2012 Toyota Prius.

The busy Kitchen-Kuiack family were only available for two hours and the Shell Canada client was flying in for the shoot. The day before, I drove out to the house to quickly scout the location and meet Brian Kitchen. That day, the light conditions were perfect: overcast with bright open shadows.

Next morning it’s a brilliant, cloudless sunny day and by 8 am it already feels like high noon. When we arrive at 8:45 everyone cheerily points out that the weather is perfect. Not exactly! This kind of light is a photographer’s nightmare, with contrast so high that it exceeds the camera’s dynamic range. We have a long list of shots to cover in less than two hours so we get right to work. My mind is scrambling trying to figure out how to reduce the contrast with the location options we have.

We start with interior shots because it’s easier to manage the light by tacking black fabric over the windows to create an instant studio. I’ve brought my Einstein strobes and Paul C. Buff modifiers – Rob Galbraith has good reviews of this gear. We work through a series of individual and family portraits in the Kitchen’s cozy living room, including Thomas, the agreeable family cat. Because the energy challenge will be in the fall and winter, we light a fire in the fireplace, even though it’s July. I’m already sweating, and within 20 minutes everyone else is too.

Next we move outside, and though it’s a hot sunny day the Kitchens gamely wear jeans and sweatshirts. The locations I scouted yesterday don’t work today in the bright sun, so we change the plan. I’ve decided on a couple of distinctive backdrops where we can hide from the sun behind their sheds so I have more control over the light. I’m underexposing the camera and pumping in light with the Einsteins with 1 CTO gels to create a warm low-sun feel. Whew… less than two hours after we arrived, we’re packing up our gear and saying good-bye.

Our Yukon photo book is here!

Wednesday, November 2nd, 2011

[by Fritz and Teresa] Last week our first book, Yukon – A Wilder Place published by Greystone, hit bookshelves across Canada. This book has been ten years in the making. Back in 2001, we thought it would be “neat” to make a book about a place we felt passionate about. It turned out to be more challenging than we could have imagined. When you pick up a book, or watch a movie, or walk through a gallery, the finished product looks so easy – like it all just fell into place. Making a book has given us a much better appreciation of how hard creators work!

All along we’ve been driven by a question that we posed to ourselves on a winter night a decade ago: what do we find so compelling about the Yukon? For us this journey has been defined very much by our desire to explore Yukon wilderness. Many of our richest life experiences have been in the northern wilds. We also know that we are incredibly fortunate to live in such a place. Vast, wild landscapes like the Yukon are increasingly hard to find. This week, as we celebrated the arrival of our book, the world population reached 7 billion people. We hope this book helps build appreciation for how special, rare and valuable Yukon wilderness truly is.

Let us know your thoughts about our photos and stories. Better yet, we’d love to hear your stories about the Yukon. What is it that YOU find compelling about the Yukon? If you’’ve never been to the Yukon, tell us about your “wilder place”. You can share your thoughts here or on our Facebook page.

Our book is available in bookstores across Canada. Here are some other options:

  • Canadians outside the Yukon: We are offering a book launch special through our website: Buy online from us before December 31 and receive a signed copy of our book AND a free 2012 Yukon calendar (available to Canadian addresses only). You can also request a personalized book inscription.
  • U.S. residents: The book will be launched in the United States in March 2012.
  • Overseas: Please contact us directly for a shipping quote.

We’re a national tourism award finalist!

Wednesday, November 2nd, 2011

Fritz Mueller Photography is one of three finalists for the 2011 Corporate Partner of the Year award presented by Canada’s national tourism association (TIAC). It took us awhile to get our heads around what this means, especially since the other two finalists are Montreal Airports and Halifax Waterfront Development Corporation (…does TIAC know how little our business is?).

We love working with the tourism industry and are extremely honoured by this nomination. Here’s what TIAC said: Fritz Mueller Photography (FMP) is the passion of Fritz Mueller and Teresa Earle, two extraordinary Yukoners whose invaluable photographic and literary contributions to the tourism industry have captivated locals and visitors alike for over 10 years. FMP makes an indispensable contribution to the Yukon tourism industry with their passion and dedication to producing extraordinary images and stories showcasing Yukon. This creative team of two is known for their professional product and contagious enthusiasm for our territory, and as a result, literally millions of viewers and readers across the globe have experienced Yukon for the first time through Mueller’s lens and Earle’s words.

The national tourism awards will be presented in Ottawa on Nov. 24 … stay tuned!

Little critters on Herschel Island

Friday, June 3rd, 2011

[by Fritz] If you ever have the opportunity to visit Herschel Island off the Yukon’s north coastline, jump at the chance. The first time I went there I was a 21-year-old university student and I spent a month in a tent all over the island assisting Swedish researcher Anders Angerbjörn on his study of Arctic foxes. I’ve been back several times since, most recently with my friend and colleague Don Reid, a researcher with the Wildlife Conservation Society, who is involved in a study of Arctic food webs and how a changing climate is affecting wildlife populations. Lemmings and voles are key prey for a number of predators on Herschel, and their abundance affects the population dynamics of many wildlife species. I photographed this collared lemming in the tundra meadows of Herschel nibbling on one of its favourite foods, Dryas flowers. They’re important to the food web, and they’re also really cute. Contrary to the myths fabricated by Disney, lemmings don’t commit mass suicide or jump over cliffs. The shorebird is a semi-palmated plover nesting and feeding on the beaches on Herschel.

Mother Caribou

Tuesday, May 24th, 2011

[by Teresa]  Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about mothering and maternal instincts and motherhood. I’m going to lose my Mum to cancer, and walking this difficult path with her has brought on waves of introspection about what it is to be a mother. Having my own kids offers some lessons, but when you’re immersed in something you don’t always see things clearly. Plus, mothering is an incredibly tough job and, since my kids aren’t even in school yet, I figure I’m still on probation. Also, I’ve always known I’ll never be half the mother that mine has been to me.

I’ve also looked to nature for lessons in parenting. At this time of year I’m always reminded of incredible mothers I’ve witnessed during birthing season in the North. Feigning injury and putting themselves in harm’s way, nesting birds flutter about in front of predators to lure them away. Grizzly sows dedicate two all-consuming years to nurse, protect and rear their young. Tens of thousands of caribou cows cross half the Yukon Territory to drop their calves in a safer place. They’re all compelling, but it was the caribou mothers that made me cry.

My Mum and some insights about mothering converged on a knoll in North Yukon during one of my richest Yukon experiences. Fritz and I were spending much of June in Ivvavik National Park trying to find the Porcupine caribou herd. One afternoon Fritz fixated on a distant ridge, so we hoisted our packs and crossed a hellish patch of tussocks that followed us for hours, and as I stumbled in the ruts and mud I cursed his route and his impulsive ideas and his heavy cameras and his cheery mug. But we got there, and the site was glorious, and the tent overlooked a greening slope dotted with caribou.

For three days we watched thousands of caribou cows and calves graze and stream across our ridge. The exhausted cows had patchy fur and skeletal frames, while their calves were the picture of good health. The mothers grazed constantly, interrupted only by calves that nursed the nutrients out of them. Heavily pregnant, they’d migrated thousands of kilometres, swam icy rivers and dodged predators to reach their calving grounds, and they were already preparing to return south trailing young. In the caribou migration I found searing lessons about birth and death, survival, and the fragility and fortitude of nature. I pondered their capacity to endure horrendous conditions. I was awed by the instinctive, selfless acts of these mothers.

We carried a satellite phone with us for safety, but one evening, under the intense glare of the June sun and in the company of thousands of caribou, we dug it out for a couple of personal calls. We phoned our parents, who’d unconditionally loved and supported us through years of crazy adventures and dreams, and I stood on that remote ridge with tears streaming down my face as I described to Mum the spectacle around me. She listened intently – she knew satellite calls were precious – and in her voice I heard a mother’s empathy for these hardy caribou and their unthinkable journey. For years she would retell our conversation to others in great detail; she got a huge thrill from that call, and I felt so privileged to share my experience with her. Someday I will stand among the cows and calves with my daughters at my side, and we’ll remember my Mum – their Grandy – and all that she enabled us to be.