About Randy Vanderveen

 Grande Prairie Alberta photographer Randy Vanderveen is an award-winning photographer with two decades of experience. Editorial photography, commercial photography, institutional photography, aerial photography, documentary and humanitarian photography — whatever your photographic needs are in the Peace River Country of northwestern Alberta and northeastern British Columbia or beyond I can help. The right licensing package can make custom photography affordable and extremely effective whether you are a national corporation, a local business or a non-profit or NGO. I would like to sit down and talk with you about how I can meet your photographic needs. Call (780) 897- 6478 or email me for a quote on a job or licensing fees for photos. Feel free to check out the weekly Viewfinder blog.



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Entries in lessons (6)


Planning and accidents

Photo Randy Vanderveen Grande Prairie, Alberta A hover fly heads toward the brightly coloured blossoms of a fireweed south of Grande Prairie. The insects resemble bees and wasps.

There is a saying that sometimes you are good and sometimes you are lucky.

Being prepared can certainly provide the foundation of good photos but at other times it is just a happy accident that makes the difference.

The first two photos of the insects demonstrate this. The first was to be a photo of the blossoms of the fireweed highlighted by the sunshine with the background in deep shadow thanks to the forest behind the plant (see A Different Look). The hover fly flying into the frame was a pure accident. Once it was in the frame I made several photos to capitalize on its appearance.

The second photo was an intentional one of the wasp in the flower but it inadvertently knocked off an older blossom which is falling in the lower left corner of the frame — again a happy accident makes all the difference in the photo.

 Photo Randy Vanderveen Grande Prairie, Alberta A wasp knocks an older flower to the ground as it goes looking for food in the blossoms of fireweed south of Grande Prairie. The wasp population is quite high this summer — the result of warm and dry conditions.

The remaining three photographs are from some recent work.

Photo Randy Vanderveen Bezanson Alberta The steeple and cross on the Bezanson Community Church is surrounded by a threatening-looking sky — the precursor to a rain storm that moved through the area Monday morning. Most places in Alberta are welcoming rain which is needed for crops, and water sources.

Photo Randy Vanderveen Sexsmith, Alberta A collapsing farm building is surrounded by the bright yellow blossoms of a canola field as rain clouds build in the northwest. Old farm buildings are subject to the elements and will eventually succumb to the wind and weather if they aren't maintained. Photo Randy Vanderveen Grande Prairie, Alberta A farmer just east of the southern Grande Praririe city limits takes advantage of a warm summer morning to rake up his hay crop. If the weather holds haying in the South Peace should be finished in a week.


A purpose -full week

Photo Randy Vanderveen, Forest Grove, Oregon David LaBelle, Pictures with Purpose leader and director of the Photojournalism Department at Kent State University, showed a love for people and photography every day of the workshop.

Last week I had the opportunity to do something I have wanted to do for a number of years — take part in the Pictures with Purpose Workshop. It proved to be different than I first expected but it was an experience I  will remember the rest of my life.

I spent a week with David LaBelle, the instructor, and Yolanda Li, a fellow student, working on compassionate story-telling  (watch for the result in the coming weeks). But photography was probably the smallest portion of what I learned.

David demonstrated a love and interest in people, who he easily puts at ease, a robust passion for photography and story telling and a genuine faith in Christ that is demonstrated every day. He also has a contagious sense of humour.

I also learned from Yolanda what a servant's heart is all about as she demonstrated her faith, love and humility by seeing people's needs and helping meet them.

My biggest reward for a week filled with learning in a humbling and at times emotionally draining workshop was the friends I made from those met during my week in Forest Grove, Oregon, and especially the friendship with Dave and Yolanda.

Here are  some photos from my time there (outside of the main project) as mentioned earlier a collaborative photo/story package will be up in several weeks and I will keep you posted as to where you can find it.

Photo Randy Vanderveen Forest Grove, Oregon David LaBelle

 Photo Randy Vanderveen Forest Grove, Oregon Yolanda LiPhoto Randy Vanderveen Forest Grove, Oregon The elusive Ohio Big Foot (David LaBelle) darts across the road in Oregon. Sometimes you just have to have fun like recreating the traditional sasquatch photo. Forest Grove, Oregon 14-07-08 Randy Vanderveen Dave LaBelle (right) poses with a worker at the Forest Grove post office. David's ability to put people at ease is something I found incredible.

Jefferson, Oregon 14-07-09 Randy Vanderveen Bill Stam, founder of the All Nations Native American War Memorial, pauses quietly as he leans on a walking staff he used to walk the Oregon Trail of Tears.

 Photo Randy Vanderveen Forest Grove, Oregon 2014-07-12 A young lady patiently waits to make her grand entry into her quinceañera, (Fifteenth birthday) at a banquet facility in downtown Forest Grove.

Photo Randy Vanderveen Forest Grove, Oregon 2014-07-12 A little boy cautiously checks out a dark side-room in a Mexican restaurant in Forest Grove. Below A second version of the same photo in black and white.



Taking flight

Photo Randy Vanderveen, Grande Prairie, Alberta A waxwing looks around as it perches in a mountain ash.

Getting your photos out of the obvious can both be a gamble and at times feel like a step backward.

Often when we first start taking photos we shoot so loose it can be difficult for the viewer to even have an idea of what our subject is.

As we develop our skills we move past that phase and move to the phase — especially in nature photography — of portraiture.

The waxwing above is a prime example. Getting a photo like this takes time, patience and for anyone who has tried to work their way close to any wild animal, especially mammals, a lot of work.

However, really what does this photo tell us. We can see the bird is a waxwing but what is it doing? What setting is it in? What season is it? For all we can tell it could be a taxidermist's handicraft that we are profiling?

We can do the same with photos of people. Unless a person has an extremely interesting face, often seeing them in their surroundings provides a stronger photo.

Photo Randy Vanderveen, Grande Prairie, Alberta A waxwing takes flight from a mountain ash tree as it and the rest of its flock gorge themselves on the red berries.We need to move back and show a little more of the environment.

The second photo, although not real loose, shows enough of the surrounding details to add to the story.

We can see some snow falling so we know it is winter — which is aided by the dead leaves still on the tree.

The hint of red berries an the empty stems give us an idea the bird has been eating them. A portion of a second bird in the foreground shows us the bird is not alone and the spread wings provides action to a static photo.

While both photos are technically good, the second will usually grab the attention of your viewer longer because there are more questions being answered.

Why not try it with your photography this Christmas season? Get the portraits of your friends and family but then back off and show them in their surroundings.


When doing something like this make sure you get a photo first and then work on changing things. Toddlers and young children are like wild life in that they don't sit still for too long.

By first getting a usable photo, you then have the freedom to work on capturing something more creative.


Different looks

Photo Randy Vanderveen, Grande Prairie, Alberta A farmer cuts down a hay crop west of the Grande Prairie airport.Last week I showed a couple of examples of how photos can look different by using a different lens.

This week there are two more examples of how to make photos stand out.

Above is a change of viewpoint. From above this field takes on an abstract look.

The second is example has two photos a before and after post-production. For editorial and documentary work the after photo is unusable because of the work done to it in post production like increasing the contrast and some heavy burning and dodging.

However for a print to hang on the wall the second looks much better.

Photo Randy Vanderveen, Grande Prairie, Alberta The before photo of a combine working in a field.Photo Randy Vanderveen, Grande Prairie, Alberta The after photo which has more pop and visual impact would not be submitted for editorial or documentary work. It is fine for a print on a wall.


Lessons not learned

Friday night I was reminded of how the newspaper industry still has not picked up on the lessons it should have learned.

I shot a fire at a local condominium complex which resulted in at 50 people being homeless at least for the night and some for much longer.

As firefighting operations continued I returned home to file photos so that a newspaper website in Edmonton, Alberta could have photos of breaking news even prior to television stations if they decided to use any.Photo Randy Vanderveen Grande Prairie, Alberta, Canada 12-07-27 Grande Prairie firefighters battle a condominium blaze at Haywood Court, a housing complex in the Patterson Place neighbourhood in south Grande Prairie shortly before 6 pm. Friday. Approximately 50 people living in the complex were homeless that night as a result of the blaze. For some and possibly all it will be much longer. The newspaper decided not to run with it, which as a professional photographer I understand. However, an industrial fire which happened around the same time as the Grande Prairie fire, checking the Edmonton media websites and talking to the contact at the paper resulted in several things striking me about newspapers. These were lessons I thought the newspaper industry would have learned.

1. My contact at the city desk said the photo might not run because of space. After years in the newspaper industry, I understand space constraints in a newspaper, especially when the photo like this is a narrow vertical one. However, just an observation, if you have a website that argument is kind of thrown out the proverbial window. If  as a newspaper you are moving to a stronger internet presence then make use of it. You need to be relevant and breaking news like an industrial fire is relevant (see point 2.)

2. If something timely is happening make use of your website for breaking news. That is one of the arguments for having a website. While the television stations in Edmonton had photos of the industrial fire on their websites at 6:30 pm, possibly sooner, it was after 9:30 before I could find any reference to there even being a fire in Edmonton on the newspaper sites. (In contrast staff at the Daily Herald-Tribune in Grande Prairie had a photo and news brief of the local fire on the paper's site  shortly after 7 pm.)

I realize editorial content does not mean revenue for a newspaper, radio or TV — advertising brings in the dollars.

However, there is also a direct correlation between the readership of the paper — the physical copy or the website — and revenue.

If readers don't see a paper as being relevant and timely they won't subscribe to it or read its website. If people aren't reading the paper, advertisers are not going to buy space for ads. Why would they? The inverse is also true. If your product is relevant and timely making it the go to place for news, advertisers will follow the readership. The readership reflects ad rates.

Newspapers — and the chains and stockholders that own and operate them— need to realize this. If you want a profitable investment don't gut the resources like staff. This diminishes your product and killing the goose that laid the golden egg.


Now that I have finished ranting, and on a much more important and urgent note, there are people in Grande Prairie who at the present are homeless. Both the Salvation Army and Red Cross step in in disastrous situations like this. Why not lend them a hand. The Sally Ann and Red Cross need money to operate and I am confident that any financial assistance you could provide them with will be welcomed and put to good use.

If you are reading this from outside the Grande Prairie area, your local Salvation Army and Red Cross or similar organizations could still use the financial help. Step up and help them and through them your neighbours out.