Thursday, October 19, 2017

Cycling Across Canada: Photographing the North’s Dempster Highway

Jonathon Reed and Asad Chishti are cycling 15,000 km from the Atlantic coast of Canada to the Arctic and Pacific Oceans. Throughout the six-month expedition, they are documenting unheard stories within the Canadian landscape through the lenses of their cameras. This is the third of a series of dispatches from the wild and windy roads of the north — read the first here and second here.

I’m now in Prince Rupert, almost five months after leaving St. John’s on the Atlantic coast. In regards to contributing to the 500px blog, it’s been a bit of a lesson in humility. We had planned a larger-scale series across the country, but the challenge of photographing, interviewing, researching, writing—and on top of that bicycling essentially from sunrise to sunset every day kept us busy.

The journey has also been challenging in terms of photography. My personal style is the documentation of human-centred stories in wilderness landscapes. On a bicycle, however, I’ve been inherently tethered to the road. There’s always the asphalt, the gravel, the sound of vehicles going by. We’ve cycled through some of Canada’s magnificent landscapes — the Cabot Trail, the Lake Superior coast, the Sentinel Range of the Rocky Mountains — but essentially viewed them from the highway. So I haven’t been able to get the kinds of photographs that I expected before this journey began.

It’s hard to justify hiking any distance for a photo, for example, when you’re cycling 120 km against a headwind and you have 40 km to go before setting up the tent.

For months, however, I looked forward to cycling the Dempster Highway in the Yukon and Northwest Territories. The Dempster is a 770-km gravel road that extends over mountain ranges, permafrost and the Mackenzie Delta from Dawson to Inuvik. It would be, I hoped, a human-centred story in a wilderness landscape.

Muncho Lake, BC by Jonathon Reed on

Throughout British Columbia, my anticipation increased. The day we left Dawson City, I smiled with mud on my lips and rain in my eyes. This was it.

Find what you love, and photograph it. Even when it’s not easy. Even when it’s not perfect. Even when it takes four months and an entire country to get to. Below are some of my favourite photos from the Dempster Highway, along with a description of how I got the shot. I hope you’re inspired to get out there and do your absolute best.

Klondike, YT by Jonathon Reed on

I didn’t take many photos on the first day. We were still below the treeline, the road was choked with mud and the sky was low with clouds. At this creek, however, I decided to stop, because I liked how the semi-clear water took on the colour of the surrounding trees. The major challenge of this photo was fixing the overexposure of the white water in the lower left of the frame. It took an adjustment brush dropping the exposure and highlights to make that part of the water look more natural. It bothers me, though, that there’s no visual explanation for the moving water. (It was coming out of a culvert that I didn’t figure out how to photograph aesthetically.) So it’s imperfect. But it was a start.

Arctic Circle, YT by Jonathon Reed on

An unrelenting crosswind poured off the Richardson Mountains and pressed against my jacket, trying to reach down my neck. A squirrel stared impassively at me, fur ruffling in the cold. We hiked into the tundra a short ways to photograph the landscape. I grabbed the red ‘Keep Exploring’ flag because I knew it would show off the wind.

Again, the style of the photo was monochrome. While the creek south of Tombstone Territorial Park had been green-yellow, this was orange-red. I could have framed this more intentionally and gone for a more formal body posture, but I felt like the candid nature of the photo fit with the wildness of the wind. Photographing flags is tricky. I usually wait for gusts of wind and then shoot bursts of photos. In at least one of the dozens of shots I get the quickly-moving fabric positioned aesthetically.

Wright Pass, NT by Jonathon Reed on

Wright Pass was covered in ice. Clouds touched the ground. Icicles hung off road signs in the direction of the wind. My breath rolled warm against my cheeks and condensed in the air behind me. This was the Arctic that I had longed to photograph. The texture of this photo still gets me excited—the grey and white of the wet gravel, the faded blue of the mountain peaks, the unevenness of the tundra ice. The most intentional part of setting up this shot was choosing the puddle and tire tracks for the foreground. The landscape did the rest by itself.

Peel Plateau, NT by Jonathon Reed on

The ice faded as we descended towards the Peel River Plateau. The sun was warm, but I could still feel the cold breath of the mountain pass. The road lifted over glacier-etched hills as we left the Richardsons behind, but before the mountains were gone entirely I stopped and shot this photo from the road. Again, it’s not perfect. I wish the focal point of the middle peak was larger and more striking. But what the photo was meant to capture was the transition from the lower reaches of tundra to the ice and snow on the peak. It felt rare to see the snow disappear without a treeline cluttering the view.

Tuktoyaktuk, NT by Jonathon Reed on

The coast in Tuktoyaktuk was windswept and grey. Ocean-smoothed stones littered the beach along with a few grey whale bones. I didn’t know what it was about wood’s flotation and waves and tides, but along the coast there were large collections of driftwood just like this. I wanted to demonstrate the mass of wood, but also highlight the distant houses in the background. I tried getting lower to the wood but decided that if the focal point was the houses, I had to avoid getting too close to the foreground. The texture of the driftwood was a bit distracting, but I hoped that the lines of the logs on the left and right sides of the frame would lead the eye to the strip of grass and houses along the horizon.

Inuvik, NT by Jonathon Reed on

It was around 4:30 AM. The aurora ebbed and flowed, growing into a strong band across the southern sky then dissipating into moving strings straight above. I set the camera to a thirteen-second exposure and watched the lights in between the stars. We were on the outskirts of Inuvik above the east channel of the Mackenzie River, so I was limited in terms of foreground. A fence blocked the view so I took this from a playground structure.

In hindsight, though, I wished I had used the wireless function on my phone to shoot a frame with myself in the foreground, using a headlamp to illuminate my body briefly during the exposure. In the moment, however, I was caught up watching the sky. I’ll get a better composition next time.

These photos aren’t perfect, and some of my descriptions have demonstrated that. I know I didn’t get ideal pieces—but I also know that I did my best. For me, the power of a photograph is the power of a story, and these photos come with a great adventure. To improve my photography, then, I suppose I’ll have to have another.

Check out more photos from the adventure by following Jonathon on 500px @jonathonreed, and his blog, Exposure — stay tuned for at least one more blog from the islands of British Columbia.

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Wednesday, October 18, 2017

9 summery photos for when you need a dose of sunshine

Summer may be officially over, but indulging in warm, sunny photos is a timeless pick-me-up. Bask in these glowing submissions from the Summer Vibes Quest for a dose of sunshine at any time of year. Ready for a virtual break from the chill in the air?

Passionate photographers everywhere captured warm, sunny shots for the Quest, but the winning photo, “Chasing Waves” by Li Xu, transported you to the season and setting. Dive in to learn more below.

Chasing Waves by Li Xu on

What the judge loved about this photo: The photographer did a fantastic job at capturing this fun shot, they way she shot it horizontally makes your eyes go through all the subjects and back. It makes you feel like you are right there enjoying a fun summer day at the beach!

But that wasn’t the only photo to capture the mood-boosting spirit of sunshine.

Grab your sunglasses and check out the other finalists (or check them twice, if it’s rainy and cold outside):

Best 60th Birthday Gift by Martin Kulajta on

Laughter by B K on

Flying by André Erni on

Happy Life by Andrei Ionita on

Curves by Stan Icart on

Rainbow over the Tropical beach in Punta Cana, Dominican Republi by Valentin Valkov on

Happiness by Syed Jafri on

Third half by Alexander Kaunas on

Ready for more inspiration? Browse our gallery of traditions around the world, or check our Quests page for the latest photo challenges.

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Monday, October 16, 2017

Why you should never ask to ‘go for coffee’ and other email networking tips

Email networking is a helpful tool for building a photography client base, but it can be a time suck if you’re not prepared — this is a marathon, not a sprint! Whether you’re new to email networking or want to make your existing process more effective, these tips will help you work smarter when emailing contacts and potential clients.

Commercial photographer Duncan Nicholls has worked with major brands like Nike, Adidas, The North Face and more, so he knows a thing or two about networking. Here’s an excerpt from Duncan’s upcoming Class on growing your client base — his top 9 tips for sending effective networking emails.

1. Get clear on the email’s purpose

Are you writing to a potential client? Or is your aim to spread awareness of your work? The purpose of the email will make writing it and knowing what to include that much easier.

Show your work
If the purpose of your email is to get your work in front of people, then include not only a link to your website, but also one, or a couple, of your best/most relevant images (at a very low res) that the person in question would like to see. Images have so much power and make the email much more engaging. Remember, you’re trying to create an eager desire.

Find mutual connections
If you are reaching out to a potential client for the first time, always check to see if you have any mutual friends or contacts that can make the introduction. Even when I have the perfect portfolio of work for a potential client, sometimes the only reason I’ve gotten certain meetings is because it’s a friend of a friend. Tools like LinkedIn are excellent resources to find mutual contacts — that’s why it’s important to continue to build social media connections and email lists.

2. Use an engaging subject line.

What’s engaging depends on who the email is for, but ranges from being specific (i.e. include more detail than simply “Question” or “Meeting request”) to adding a spin that’s relevant to the person you’re writing.

3. Never ask to go for coffee.

It’s too vague. Ask for a meeting to show them your work or talk about improving your photography outcomes.

Coffee with friends by Anastasia Belousova on

4. Make sure you include a clear call to action.

If the recipient doesn’t know what you want, it’s harder for them to help you. Include a call to action, such as “please respond with dates and times that work for you” to ensure your message gets across.

5. Double-check for any spelling and grammar mistakes.

Don’t let a simple mistake ruin an otherwise-effective email. Double-check your grammar and spelling — especially people’s names!

6. Address it properly.

Never, ever send an email to “Dear Sir / Madam” etc…. Instant delete. Do your research and address your message with a name.

7. Timing matters.

Never send emails late at night, or on the weekends! Respect people’s downtime.

8. Email addresses matter, too.

You’re a professional, so have a professional email address. Enough said.

9. Be clear on who you want to reach.

Be specific about what you shoot and who you want to shoot for. Identify your ideal clients and focus on connecting with them. Don’t send a shot-in-the-dark email to thousands of people.

Bonus: Fortune is in the follow-up.

If you’ve sent an email to a client or prospective client and haven’t heard back, send a follow-up email a few weeks later. Editors and art buyers receive numerous requests on top of all their daily work — be respectful of that, but if you feel you have something of great value to offer them, it’s your responsibility to them and yourself to show a little persistence and tenacity.

When you’ve completed a job, follow up after a few weeks, months, or whatever the appropriate time frame is to check if your work was as effective as they needed. Get feedback on what was brilliant and on any areas of improvement. Don’t be afraid of constructive feedback. Your job is to always provide the best service possible for your clients, so this is an important part of the process. The work doesn’t finish when the job is done or when the money hits your bank. The client commissioned you to provide assets, so ask how this has worked out for them.

What do you want to know about networking? Share your questions in the comments below, and Duncan may answer them in his upcoming Q&A!

About Duncan Nicholls

Represented by Verbatim in the UK & NYC, and specialising in athletes, portraits and landscapes, some of Duncan’s clients include Nike, New Balance, TAG Heuer, Men’s Health, Under Armour, Lacoste, & The North Face.


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Thursday, October 12, 2017

Why We Need to Fight for the Environment, in 21 Photos

It’s easy to understand why we should fight for the environment, but tough to visualize it. The 500px community rose to the challenge for the Earth Hour Quest, capturing the spirit of the world’s largest grassroots movement for the environment.

Passionate photographers everywhere were asked to submit photos that showcased positive action in the fight against climate change, or that highlighted the remarkable moments the Earth Hour campaign aims to facilitate.

The winning photo managed to convey a deeper message with a subtle take on shadow. “Shadow Mans…” by Yashansh Vijay will be licensed and featured by Earth Hour. Learn more about the shot below.

Shadow Mans... by Yashansh Vijay on

Why the judge loved this photo: It is not easy to make changing climate change relatable to people or their interests, but this image by Yashansh Vijay is a powerful depiction of the impact our actions can have. The play on shadows is a compelling reminder of the role we all have to play, both in causing climate change and solving it for us and future generations. Step forward to #changeclimatechange today.

The photographer, Yashansh Vijay, took up nature photography as a child, and started shooting regularly “because it makes me feel the moment, and also gives me a good vision and perspective to see this beautiful world.”

Vijay shared the story behind the photo: I took that photograph at Umaid Bhawan Palace Jodhpur, Rajasthan. When I saw some youngsters in uniform and good natural light, I captured their shadows as leading lines. This shot inspires me because they look like an army protecting a palace.”

Check out the submissions from our runners-up for more inspiration:

Mother and child walk the rice terraces. by Jakkree Thampitakkul on

African sky by Julia Wimmerlin on

Wind turbines by Julia Wimmerlin on

Spring has arrived by Valeria Paulina Lustres on

Handful of strawberries by Vladislav Nosick on

Green is Beautiful by Peng Shi on

Human vs Nature by Koukichi Takahashi on

Trashumancia... by Jose luis Serrano Ariza on

That Wanaka Tree | New Zealand by Lee Mumford on

Good Morning by Rudi Zisterer on

Time is running out by Francesco Cimato on


YOung sprout by Alexandra P. on

Bali Rice Field by Jarek A on

Singapore Earth Hour 2017 by Pichan Cruz on

Earth Hour London 2017 by James Barton on

Young sprouts pepper and garden tools with drip irrigation by Victoria Kondysenko on

Farmers plant rice in rice field by Nicolas Boivin on

Let's light by Ivon Murugesan on

Paysages de Bourgogne (2) by Florentin Gagoum on

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