Deviant Optiks Photography | 2015: A Year in Review - Part 1

2015: A Year in Review - Part 1

December 27, 2015  •  1 Comment

It’s that time of the year when I actually sit down and write something about some of my photos from the past year! I’ll share some images and stories that really stand out to me and also some of the things I learned as I expanded my photography interests over the year. Mouse over the images in the blog to see the captions. 

In 2015 my photography portfolio shifted from being dominated by concert photography to landscapes and especially nightscapes. I had a lot of successes with my photography business; I opened my print shop, licensed a photo to a large camera company for a social media ad and received a thank you in an album liner from one of my favourite bands. The year was also extremely busy for me at the day job even though through the summer months the economy in Calgary really started suffering and oil and gas companies were having mass layoffs. Unfortunately because I was working so much I struggled with my photography for a few months and didn’t get out to the mountains as much as I would have wanted. In the fall I did start making a mountain day a priority at least once a week and kept it up to the end of the year.

The year kicked off with a trip to Denver to see Watain, Mayhem and Revenge before continuing to Miami for 70000 Tons of Metal (70K). My overnight in Denver was packed with training and then the concert at the Summit Music Hall. It was my second time seeing and shooting Watain. The lighting was a bit dark for their set but I was still able capture some intense moments of the dark ritual.  It was great to see some local friends in Revenge playing out of our home province and getting many compliments from Denver locals. 

Revenge-1RevengeJames Reed of Revenge behind the drums at the Summit Music Hall in Denver.

WatainWatainThe always intense and captivating Watain. Shot from the balcony at the Summit Music Hall in Denver.

70K was held on a larger ship this year with approximately 3000 guests and almost 1000 musicians and crew. The cruise was still a great time, but venue locations were further apart and there was no central bar area that everyone could walk through or stop in and have a good chance of finding friends.  Although I met a lot of new people and enjoyed having dinner with a random table of people every night,  I would have liked to have seen my friends from previous years a bit more. Highlights of the cruise for me were Venom, Annihilator, Jamming on International Waters with Waters, Behemoth, Destruction and Melechesh. 

70K-11Nergal and Cronos.Nergal (Behemoth) and Cronos (Venom) jamming during Jamming on International Waters with Waters. 70K-10AnnihilatorAnnihilator playing the pool deck stage on 70K.

For the first quarter of the year most of my photo outings were to shoot the aurora. On a very cold February night I met up with Kurtis from Spindrift Photography to shoot the aurora on a frozen pond with a bright moon lighting up the ice. At the end of 2014 I had met up with Kurtis to try and photograph the northern lights but clouds overtook us too quickly. I only got one interesting shot out of the chase, but it was mostly a green glow above clouds reflecting light pollution. My main goal for 2015 was to shoot the northern lights more and to learn how to read the available data for predicting the possibility of aurora. 

aurora.02.28.15-5AuroraAurora dancing over a frozen pond in the foothills of Alberta.

In March I got out again for aurora during darker skies and after trying to edit the photos ended up coming up with a way to edit the stars in my photos. I liked the images of the aurora I took but the stars look too subdued since I had exposed for the brighter aurora. My tutorial on that can be found here.

aurora.03.18.15-6Aurora SwirlAurora swirling over the foothills of Alberta.

At the end of April I started taking trips out to the mountains and really began putting effort into my (daytime) landscape photography. I learned quite a bit from my first few attempts and really enjoyed exploring around the mountains. It was around this time I started hiking again. During the summer months I only got a few hikes in and actually found it quite difficult to find people who would go hiking, especially on some of the more challenging trails. Luckily in the fall I met some like minded photographers and went on some wonderful adventures with them. More about this in part 2 of the blog. 

Secret Bogland SunriseSecret Bogland SunriseSunrises over a bog during spring time in the Rocky Mountains.

In the summer of 2014 I tried photographing the Milky Way for the first time. I wanted to shoot the galaxy again that year but somehow I didn’t end up going out for Milky Way again until May 2015. My widest lens at the time was my Nikkor 24-70mm f2.8. I shot stars with 24mm as my widest focal length for about a month before I ordered a Rokinon 14mm f2.8. With the wider lens I was able to increase my exposure time and minimize star trails. It also let me take in a lot more of the night sky of course. At this point I was still learning how to edit my Milky Way shots and going through various tutorials on editing techniques in Lightroom and Photoshop. Currently I have a basic flow that I’ve created from everything I learned from those tutorials and I’m still tweaking it and trying to learn more, especially about noise reduction techniques (although my Nikon D3s is a low light beast and pretty good at higher ISO values). Some photographer’s tutorials I liked are Alan Dyer, Michael Shainblum and  Serge Ramelli. Below is a panorama comprised of five vertical images shot using a 24mm focal length. The first image was edited in May when I shot the image. The second was edited December 2015; editing techniques changed over a couple months and keep changing as I practice, experiment and keep researching. 

Barn Spring Milky Way PanoSpring Milky Way Panorama 2Milky Way shot over an old barn in Alberta. Edited with updated techniques in December.

A technique for my night images I would like to work more on is stacking. I tried this for the first time with an image of the Milky Way over the foothills just west of Calgary. It was a stack of 10 images taken with my Nikkor 24-70mm f2.8, at the 24mm focal length. It was a hazy evening so the light pollution from Calgary is creating the pink and orange hues on the left and a bit of green air glow is present on the bottom right.

I discovered Noctilucent clouds in June! I’m not sure how it happened that I was completely unaware of this phenomenon until this year (guess my fellow (astro)physicists buddies really let me down there). Discovered at the end of the 1800’s, Noctilucent clouds are high atmosphere clouds thought to form from rising water vapour condensing on meteoric particles filtering down from space. They are normally only visible from mid may to mid august, low on the horizon during twilight and in locations between latitude 50 and 60 degrees in both hemispheres, which means we can see them around the Calgary area if you can find dark skies. I only photographed them once and I wish I had been in a better area for it – perhaps at a pond so I could get them reflecting in some water. I’ll be trying to find them again in 2016. 

Noctilucent CloudsNoctilucent CloudsMy first time see and shooting Noctilucent clouds.

Have you ever gone aurora chasing, had it turn into storm chasing and then have it all turn around on you and the storm chases you? On June 22 a good geomagnetic storm was predicted but the weather was not ideal. We went out East from Calgary hoping to stay ahead of the storm, unfortunately it moved much faster than anticipated. I did end up with some cool lightening and aurora shots before the rain chased us away.

Boundary of StormsBoundary of StormsA geomagnetic storm battles with a lightening storm.

June and July were great for Milky Way shots. This was the calm before the storm at the real job. I got out to shoot quite a few times and found some great foregrounds for my shots. I've put my top 5 shots from the season in this post

Milky Way, Fiery Clouds and Air GlowMilky Way Panorama Light pollution from Calgary creates fiery clouds reaching for the Milky Way reflecting in Forgetmenot Pond. Calgary Metal Fest was the only festival I photographed in the summer of 2015. The fourth instalment of the festival had an all Canadian line up this year with headliner's Kobra and the Lotus. It was also Villainizer's last show in Calgary. They were one of my favourite local acts to photograph and went out in their signature theatrical terrorist style. For the annual charity auction raising money for the Alberta Chapter of the Make a Wish Foundation, I donated a metal print of Cronos (Venom) from when they played at MacHall during Noctis V. 

Villainizer Rob "The Arab Villain" hanging from the rafters. CMF_IV_2015-152NoireNoire were my favourite discovery of Calgary Metalfest.

My annual family vacation to Penticton B.C. in August started off with a stop at Wapta Falls for sunset. I had the whole area to myself that late in the day and ate my dinner sitting above the falls waiting for the sun to hit the mountain range behind the falls with warm light. 

Wapta Falls SunsetWapta Falls Sunset

The weather was fairly cool and cloudy most of the time I was in Penticton. This made for an amazing waterfall day with Drew and Linda at Naramata Falls. We spent the afternoon climbing up the waterfalls and shooting before heading back to Penticton to shoot the Snowbirds. I met up with Drew again for night photos but the moon was too bright for Milky Way photos that week.

Naramata FallsNaramata Falls On my way back to Calgary I stopped in Lake Louise around 1 am and photographed the Milky Way above the Victoria Glacier. I then went to Moraine Lake for the first time ever. I usually avoid really busy and crowded places but in the middle of the night there was no one there except one photographer that I met up on the rock pile who was also shooting the Milky Way. The Perseids meteor shower peaks in August and with the peak night just a week away there were quite a few shooting stars streaking across the sky. During a long exposure for the Milky Way over Moraine Lake I was lucky enough to catch a large fireball in my frame that crossed the Milky Way. 

Moraine Milky WayMoraine Milky WayFireballs! An amazing and sleepless night in the Canadian Rockies.

The summer ended with pole photoshoots at Aradia Fitness in Edmonton and then at Angel’s Aerial Fitness in Prince George. I had taught workshops in Edmonton before but it was my first time running a photo marathon there. Chantelle, the owner, was amazing as always and I had a great time with her talented students and instructors. I’ve been visiting PG annually for a few years now and always appreciate the opportunity to see the friends I’ve made and meet some new pole fitness enthusiasts there. 


Part two is coming up and starts with my birthday adventure to Assiniboine! 


Christy Turner(non-registered)
Great blog and insight. Inspiring as well, as I long to put words to paper, so to speak as you've done so well here. I will look up some of your tutorials. And as for the hiking, I'm down with any hikes around the Calgary area with a bit of notice; the vantage points are a huge motivation for me and it's great to go with like-minded people as you mentioned. Wishing you all the best in 2016 and look forward to part deux!
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