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Does The Camera Make A Difference?


It’s early evening as the sun begins to set on another clear, brisk winter day at Yosemite National Park. A car traveling through the park, on its way to the Ahwahnee Hotel suddenly screeches to a halt and the driver springs from his seat. From the trunk of the car he grabs a tripod, his camera, plus a light meter and within minutes captures one of the most revered photographs of the last fifty years. The driver of that car was Ansel Adams and the photograph is “Moon and Half Dome”.  The image of the moon (perfectly exposed, which is no small feat in itself) suspended above the Dome’s two thousand foot cliff is a brilliant example of the vision, timing and technical skill employed by Ansel.

That, or the camera he used must have been especially fancy and expensive.

Ansel-Adams-Moon-Half-Dome"Moon and Half Dome" by Ansel Adams

It may sound silly to distill all of the intricacies of that photograph - that moment - down to technical specifications, but a few years ago a group of nearly three hundred photographers attempted to do just that. They teamed up with university astronomers to pinpoint the exact date, location and time of day required to recreate the light on the cliff and position of the moon in the sky with hopes of duplicating Adams’ masterpiece. The group had superior cameras with more dynamic range, lenses that were sharper and had less distortion, plus more time to get the shot. At the end of the day, however, their photographs paled in comparison to Ansel’s - it wasn’t even close.

Going by the example above, it seems there is more to capturing a beautiful scene than just pointing an expensive camera at it. But does the camera play any part at all, other than to simply record light?

While researching “Moon and Half Dome” I was surprised to read that Ansel’s daily camera kit wasn’t comprised of simply a trusty 8”x10” view camera, a couple of lenses and a pile of film. In fact, the list of gear he carted around in his station wagon would make even the most insatiable gear hoarder blush. When Ansel went out for a day of photography, he typically brought along seven cameras and nineteen lenses. Although he did have that big view camera with him, Ansel recognized that each camera system had its own photographic strengths and used them all. More importantly, he understood that every camera and lens combination could cater differently to his vision for the photograph he was making at the time. He matched the camera to his vision.

A number of years ago, I had the chance to shoot a Hasselblad 500C, which is a square format film camera. Looking down at the enormous waist level viewfinder through that 80mm Zeiss lens was something I had never experienced. It blew my mind and changed the way I have taken photos ever since. If you ever have the opportunity to shoot a Hassy, don’t pass it up (I ended up buying that very camera). Until that time though, I was shooting every day with what I thought was my photographic soul mate - my Canon 1D III. It was the fastest shooting digital camera at the time and that thing fit my hand like a glove. It was made to be worked hard and work it I did - shooting over 50,000 photos with it every year for nearly three years. But that old, clunky Hasselblad film camera and the images it produced hit my creative soul like a freight train. I quickly realized that the $15,000 pile of Canon lenses I had in my kit were all purchased in an attempt to create imagery that the Hasselblad put out without blinking an eye. For the first time, I had matched a camera to my vision. After diving head first into the world of small, medium and large format film photography for four straight years, I have found myself with my own diverse set of cameras and lenses. I moved from one camera that I thought could tackle everything, to a number of cameras, each with their own specific purpose. Today I shoot small and zippy 35mm rangefinders (perfect for fast, candid photography) all the way up to huge 4x5 view cameras with radioactive lenses taken out of old WW2 spy aircrafts (which creates the most three dimensional photographs I have ever seen). It’s a bit of a rag-tag bunch, but I have never produced more beautiful and meaningful imagery that fits my photographic vision than I have with those cameras.


In a world where nearly all photographers are using essentially the same cameras, with identical features and the same lenses (no matter what the brand), I can’t help but think that there are those out there who are inadvertently  missing out on the unique thrill of seeing their vision come to life - I certainly was. Does the camera make a difference? For someone with a clear sense of their photographic vision or for those who are actively trying to figuring that out, I believe it does.

One of the last bits of information I learned about the making of “Moon and Half Dome” was that the great Ansel Adams didn’t capture the image with an 8”x10”. He took that photograph with a clunky, old Hasselblad 500C.




>>You may also be interested in: The Full Circle Wedding Workshop April 12/13 2014

Published // Full Circle Workshop on Style Me Pretty

We're honoured that the shoot from our last Full Circle Wedding Workshop has been featured on Style Me Pretty! Click HERE for the feature. We have three spots left for The October 19/20 Full Circle, so if you're interested in attending, click HERE to check out the info page and sign up! It's going to be one of the best Full Circle's yet!

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Here are some more shots from the March workshop:

Wedding Photography Workshop Wedding Photography Workshop 2 Wedding Photography Workshop 3 Wedding Photography Workshop 4 Wedding Photography Workshop 5 Wedding Photography Workshop 6 Wedding Photography Workshop 7 Wedding Photography Workshop 8 Wedding Photography Workshop 9 Wedding Photography Workshop 10 Wedding Photography Workshop 11

We want to say a HUGE thank you to our awesome vendors who made this shoot possible! High Culture: Weddings and Special Events, FaBLOOMosity, The Fairmont Hotel MacDonald, Jenn Chivers Freelance Hair and Makeup, Special Event Rentals, The Art Of Cake, Sara Laurence, Justine Ma: Design & Hand Lettering and Delica Bridal.

Thanks again Style Me Pretty!

Workshops // Fall Beginner Photography Classes

The kids are in school, the leaves are starting to turn and it's just plain beautiful outside. If you're anything like me (and I know I am...), your shutter finger is getting twitchy. I don't think there's another time of year where I'm more likely to bring one of our cameras along with me when I head out the door. I love fall and I think it's the perfect time to explore the craft of photography! If you remember a little blog entry I posted this past spring - right after our last beginner class - I mentioned that even though our schedules are crazy this year I couldn't imagine not offering the class again - it's just too much fun! Well I'm so happy to make good on that promise and release the next Beginner Photography Class date!

Check out the rest of the post for more info and to reserve your spot.


The entire class will be taught using our 70 year old 4x5 camera! Just kidding...

So here's the rundown:

Who is this class for? This class is for people who want to capture the world around them in a beautiful, striking and creative way using their digital or film cameras.

What will I learn? Ryan will cover the key elements of creating great, meaningful photographs 1. being there and being ready 2. seeing the light (how your camera sees it) 3. knowing your gear and how to take control of it; which includes how to shoot manually, learning what aperture, shutter and ISO really do for you and the image YOU want to capture/create, and how to choose the right equipment 4. post processing like a pro (how to take a good photo and make it incredible!)

Why choose this class over others? The great thing about this class is that what Ryan's teaching will be very useful information to both beginners as well as more advanced shooters. It all comes from our own experience as working professional photographers as well as from what we've picked up in the classes we've attended over the years, hosted by some of the best photographers in the world. So there's lots to learn for everyone!

Small Class Sizes! You won't be stuck in a pack of 200 other students, sitting 50 feet away from your instructors. We cap our classes at 7 people which puts you right in the action and gives you plenty of opportunities to ask questions and have first hand instruction throughout the class.

We get you out of your seat - camera in hand - to begin putting your new knowledge to use straight away! Forget about the classrooms and notepads for a while and join us for a real world photo walk.

Four solid hours of classroom/shooting time and a small 7 person class size makes for an incredible learning environment!

What do I need to bring? - a digital or film camera that has the ability to be fully controlled by the photographer - This includes all DSLR and SLR cameras (the ones with interchangeable lenses) and any camera with a full manual control setting. - your cameras owners manual - this isn't an absolute necessity, but it may come in handy! - any lenses or flashes that you'd like to use though out the class - a note pad and pen or laptop Where? Our home studio in the heart of Edmonton, Alberta.

When? Sunday October 6th, 2013 at 1pm

If the last classes were any indication, these seats will sell out FAST! Click the BUY NOW button below to reserve your seats.

Beginner Photography Classes with Ryan from Ryan + Beth Photographers! Sunday October 6th, 2013 - Sold Out


To Live One's Dream // $1000 Giveaway

casey-vancouver-island Three years ago, we had it made.

After years of hard work and determination, we were running a successful photography business by most any standard. We knew how to capture great photos in pretty well any situation, we had all the gear we'd ever dreamed of and a full calendar of shoots; things were looking good. It all culminated in one summer, where everything was ... kind of easy. No gear needed to be purchased and we were consistently getting the kind of look we were going for at the time. At that point, the future looked pretty rosy. All we had to do was keep doing what we were doing!

Yet for the first time in a long while, I felt incredibly unsettled.

I didn't buy my first digital camera until 2008, before then I was 100% film and proud of it. It wasn't until after I had a good look through my own wedding photos (which were shot digitally) did I think "well, I suppose this digital stuff looks decent enough to shoot professionally". With my first full time year of weddings ahead of me (we went from zero weddings to about 25 weddings in under 5 months), I made the switch because it was 'the thing to do' at the time. This was something that surprised some people because I was quite the film snob before that! So off I went - with CF cards in hand - down a path that seemed to make good sense. Dropping film was cheaper (so we thought) and potential clients were asking for digital photographers - I was willing to be that photographer! Being part of the pack felt a heck of a lot safer than going out on a limb and doing something different with regards to capture medium.

In the beginning I studied the work of the best digital wedding photographers. I obsessed over sharpness, lenses, depth of field, clean low light images, whatever posing they utilized... Like a reverse-engineered product, I deconstructed the look and vision of the great photographers at that time and made them my own. I did it well. From that, we saw an ever increasing number of bookings, even though we were continually raising our prices. Sweet, right?

But nearing the end of the "perfect summer" I finally realized that because I was after someone else's dream/look/goals, whatever successes came from them would always leave me feeling uneasy.  Fortunately for me, I was able to recognize the problem, but doing something about it was the next big step. A change was in order, which was a scary thought since what we were doing seemingly worked so well!

At the next wedding we shot, I had my "old" 35mm film camera sitting in my bag, loaded with what used to be (and still is) my favourite film, Fuji 400H. I took a few shots during the portraits and some at the reception. I sent them to the lab not expecting much. A few days later I got the prints/scans back and they turned out better than I ever could have expected! It was exciting to see film work within my current skill set (which was much improved from the previous film days) and there was a certain quality about it that I was never able to get with digital . The way it made me think differently about every shot I took was the other big one. Every frame I captured had a cost. I was exposing a piece of film, not creating 1's and 0's on a memory card. I loved it. It fit. I knew everything from then on would have to change.

From that point on, we've been working non-stop towards what you see today. We've majorly revamped our previous site/brand that just kind of worked, and practically created a new studio from scratch. It's been a long yet fulfilling process that I would do over again in a heartbeat. I think about things differently now. I take about 75% less photos during a wedding day, yet come out with more 'keepers' after I do the edit (we used to shoot 4000-5000 images and come out with around 600-800 keepers, now we shoot around 1000 and end up with about the same number of keepers...Interesting isn't it?). It was once all about how little time I could spend editing/processing photos, yet now as I sit down at my commercial grade, 500lb, 220V film scanner that's the size of a deep freeze for 8 hours scanning film, I've got a big smile on my face and I can't wait to see the beauty that's been captured on those rolls of medium format film; scanning each roll is like Christmas morning over and over again. Every part of our current process is just dang enjoyable. At the wedding photography workshops we teach, it's so awesome to show our attendees that its not copying someone else, or buying someones photoshop actions that will make them truly successful, it's building a business around them and their unique view on the world that will give them the best chance of having an incredible future in photography.

Now this isn't a film vs digital post and by no means am I saying that a person can't find creative fulfilment with digital photography. This was my journey towards finding what worked for me. It's different for everyone. What I am saying is if you know that what you're doing for your career isn't cutting it, start down the path of change, it's well worth it. This mindset spread across my entire life and I started thinking things like "I used to love mountain biking, but I haven't been on a trail in years...time to grab the bike and give it shot!" and "hmm, that spot in the basement would be perfect for a drum set". Riding bikes and playing music were things that I was heavily involved in before starting our photography studio, but for some reason, chasing someone else's goals was all encompassing and I lost touch with both music and riding. Everything seems to fit together nicely now. :)

Now since we've launched our new brand, we've had a lot of people ask us what the significance is of the opening photo (which is also is the background for the rest of the site). It has got nothing to do with couples, weddings, family portraits... so what's the deal? Well that photo was taken on a beautiful evening in Jamaica. We were there a couple of years ago shooting a wedding and the first thing we noticed was the stark difference between "resort Jamaica" (with its perfect palm trees and manicured grounds) and "real Jamaica" with its dense jungle system of the most amazing trees you've ever seen. From our vantage point on the 4th floor, we could see right down over top the high fence that was built to real keep nature out and pretend nature in. It was a strange sight. I took that photo from within the high fences of resort Jamaica, looking out on what's real - what's true. That photo has become a symbol of what we want to convey with our photographs. So there it is, front and centre of our new website.

I'm writing this from my perspective and I know Beth is looking forward to posting her take on the last few years in a future blog post, so keep an eye out for that! I realize that this is a long post (longer than I expected, but what can you do?) so thanks for sticking with it. I wrote this because I know there are other people out there who are in the same boat I was 3 years ago, and I hope this post inspires them to take the leap towards a truly fulfilling and inspired life.

Now, what about this $1000 giveaway?? Ah yes, I almost forgot about that... 

The number one reason/excuse people give when asked why they're not doing what they love is "I don't have the money to do that right now" - money to buy a certain camera, money to book that plane ticket, money to take music lessons, money to pay off debt that's tying them down, money to take a week off work so they can dive into a project - the list goes on. We want to get rid of that reason/excuse for you.

If you had $1000 that was given to you to live your dream, what would you do with it?

Think about it, because that $1000 could very well be headed your way.

This contest is open to everyone, not just photographers!


1.   In the comments section below, tell us how you would use $1000 to start living your dream

2.  Share this post on Facebook (by clicking the Facebook share button below, or by copy/pasting this URL as a status update on Facebook)

3.  'Like' the Ryan+Beth Photography Facebook page so you can find out if you're the big winner!

Once you've completed those three steps (takes about 45 seconds), you're in the draw!

We'll be making the draw using a random number generator on October 11th, 2013. Once we announce the winner on our Facebook page we'll get in contact via email. The one thousand dollars in Canadian funds will be sent to the winner via Paypal within one week of contacting the lucky guy or gal. Only one entry per person please (yes, we can check ;)

**Also, if you post your comment but don't see it below immediately, have no fear! Sometimes it takes a bit for the comment to get through our auto-spam filter.**

Best of luck!


Beginner Photography Classes // A Beautiful Day

The forecast said it would rain, rain, rain.. and then we had the most beautiful spring day you could imagine. A few Sundays ago I had the pleasure of teaching our Beginner Photography Class to the seven awesome women below. It was a great afternoon of learning and shooting.

But now I'm a bit annoyed...


Why? Well when I put this class together I told myself (and the rest of the world) that this would be the last Beginner Class I would teach due to how busy our schedules are now a days. The annoying part is that I really really enjoy teaching people photography and honestly don't want to stop. Showing people how to take control of the photographic process, how to pre visualize your shot, how to look for leading lines and points of interest, to turn off those auto modes on their cameras and go full manual ... the list goes on. I love it.

So all this is to say that I am going to be teaching more Beginner Photography Classes in the future...because I want to. :)

I'm not sure when the next one will be, but if you're interested in attending just shoot us an email through our connect page and we'll notify you when it's announced!