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 photography techniques (8)


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.



Photo Randy Vanderveen Kakwa, Alberta 2015-03-22 A pair of rigs work side by side at a well site just west of Highway 40 north of the Kakwa River. The area between the Kakwa and Cutbank Rivers is extremely busy right now with gas exploration and pipelines.

Here is some work from the past couple of weeks. Two photos serve as a reminder if you are planning on taking architecture photos twilight or pre-dawn works the best when the ambient light of the sky and the artificial lights match in intensity. It also provides a beautiful blue sky whether it has been cloudy all day or sunny.

Photo Randy Vanderveen Grande Prairie, Alberta The exterior of McLaurin Baptist Church's new building in the Gateway Power Centre in west Grande Prairie. The church has been meeting in the new facility for a couple of months and welcomes both visitors who are curious or those looking for a church home. Services are 10:15 am Sundays. Photo Rady Vanderveen Mount Robson, British Columbia A snow-covered Mount Robson stands like a stark sentinel against a clear evening sky in mid-March, Photo Randy Vanderveen Bezanson, Alberta 2015-03-24 A herd of elk cross a road and fence line on the Adam Ranch south of Bezanson. The large animals are becoming a nuisance in the South Peace, along the Eastern Slopes of the Rockies and the Suffield area as they gather in large numbers stealing feed for livestock and damaging fences. Hunters have not been able to control the rapidly growing population of elk resulting in two rural municipalties requesting an increase in elk quotas for hunters to help alleviate the wildlife problem.


Family Day

Photo Randy Vanderveen, Grande Prairie Alberta Often times the most pleasing photos of families are when they are involved in natural activities and not focussed (excuse the pun) in the camera and photographer. Justin, Ami and Luna Pio.

Photographers, like many people involved in other vocations, are guilty of being examples of the saying "The cobbler's children go barefoot". Too often we focus on everything around us sometimes forgetting to take photographs of the people we love.

It is important to take photos of first-time events like a child's graduation, snap shots of the wonder of a grandchild seeing something for the first time and even just goofy shots of our kids and spouses that no one outside the family will ever see (not everything should end up on Facebook).

The photos don't have to be technically perfect as it is often the memory we are trying to capture and not the aesthetic and artistic qualities of the situation.

Instead of getting frustrated by having your family pose why not take out the camera when they are busy doing something. Often times the photos will be more interesting, mean more and will make your subjects less likely to object to you taking a few photos. Photo Randy Vanderveen Grande Prairie, Alberta A snow angel marks where a young child and her grandmother were playing.

Photo Randy Vanderveen Grande Prairie, Alberta The delight in this toddler's eyes is the result of playing with her someone who loves her — her grandmother. Capturing the interaction between family members shows the love they have for one another.

This past weekend was Family Day in Alberta and my wife and I spent sometime with my youngest daughter Ami and her husband Justin as they took their daughter Luna out sledding on a sunny February afternoon.

While it was great to take photos of the three of them, it was even better to spend the time with them and just capture a few memories.

Don't forget to take some photos of the IMPORTANT PEOPLE in your life — your family.

Photo Randy Vanderveen Grande Prairie, Alberta Simple things like a child ignoring her constantly slipping sunglasses can provide interest to a photo.

Photo Randy Vanderveen Grande Prairie, Alberta Capturing people at play is one situation where you can photograph your family members in a natural situation that will bring back good memories in the future.  While the photos used in this blog post are of young families — don't forget the older members of your family too.

In the years I worked at the paper I always thought it was sad that sometimes the only photo available for an obituary or memorial piece in the paper was a drivers licence photo. Take the time to capture your loved ones with your camera— and then put it down and spend some time with them.


Light and Shadow

Photo Randy Vanderveen San Sebastian del Oeste, Jalisco, Mexico While mid-day is probably one of the worst times of day to take photos by including the silhouetted portion of a gazebo the photograph of the village's church goes from flat to interesting.

The DNA of any photograph consists of light and shadow.

Without light you are not going to have a photo and with out shadow your photograph will likely be a very one dimensional image.

It is the balancing act of how you as a photographer use light and shadow in relation to each other that helps create a unique image.

The composition, shutter speed and depth of field all work together to create a great photo but without light there will be no image. Photography at its root means to write with light.

Experimenting with different kinds of light, angles, etc. can help make you a better photographer whether you are shooting photos on a high end digital DSLR or a point and shoot.

Knowing light can move your images from the realm of a simple record or snapshot of what you see to a photo that you can be proud of.

Photo Randy Vanderveen Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco, Mexico The new Los Muertos pier in Puerto Vallarta (above and below) takes on two distinct looks just because of the colour of lights highlighting the structure. Photo Randy Vanderveen Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco, Mexico Backlighting, even if it is high noon, is essential to make a stained glass window come to life like this one in Our Lady of Guadalupe church in Puerto Vallarta. If you want to see how essential it is look at a stained glass window from the outside in the middle of the day — it appears muddy and dark. PLEASE REMEMBER WHEN YOU ARE PHOTOGRAPHING IN ANY HOUSE OF WORSHIP TO BE RESPECTFUL WHETHER OR NOT IT IS FROM YOUR RELIGION. WHILE THE ARCHITECTURE MIGHT BE FANTASTIC IT IS A SACRED PLACE.Photo Randy Vanderveen Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco, Mexico The ornamental structure of a window casts a shadow on a nearby wall in the setting sun in a hallway at the Tropicana Hotel in Puerto Vallarta. Light and shadow are the basic building blocks of any photograph.

Photo Randy Vanderveen Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco, Mexico The morning sun, out of the frame, causes the cross and globe on the roof of Our Lady of Guadalupe church in Puerto Vallarta to glow like a beacon while most of the photo is reduced to silhouette. (Photographed with a point and shoot camera).

Photo Randy Vanderveen Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco, Mexico Reflections, like the highly polished tile floor in the Puerto Vallarta airport, can add another dimension to the light and shadow in your photographs.


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.