White-out landscape scene of trees near Cochrane, Alberta, Canada by landscape photographer Samantha Chrysanthou.

Rely on Yourself, Not Gear: An Interview with Landscape Photographers Darwin Wiggett and Samantha Chrysanthou

Darwin Wiggett and Samantha Chrysanthou are full-time, professional photographers from Alberta, Canada. They are creative partners in life and work and enjoy sharing their photographic knowledge with other passionate shooters. Renowned for their accessible and fun teaching style, Darwin and Sam conduct workshops and teach seminars on all things photographic.

Black and white fine art scene of a forest burn in Kootenay National Park by landscape photographer Samantha Chrysanthou.

Forest Burn, Kootenay National Park, British Columbia, Canada © Samantha Chrysanthou

BL: What is your photographic specialty and how did you become interested in it?

Samantha: We are primarily outdoor/landscape photographers, although we also are represented by stock agencies. We both have a profound love of nature and being outdoors, so bringing our cameras along was a natural extension of that first love.

Fine art closeup of a brown leaf on blue frozen water by landscape photographer Darwin Wiggett.

© Darwin Wiggett

BL: How long have you been teaching and/or writing about photography and how would you describe your teaching/writing style?

Darwin: I have been teaching and writing about photography almost since I went full-time, which is coming on 25 years. Sam has a strong interest in helping people from her background in law so she also jumped into teaching and writing about photography early in her seven years in the industry. Since we teach and write together, we’ve developed a joint style best described as to-the-point and accessible with a dash of our quirky sense of humor. Photography can be dominated by jargon, and traditional ways of explaining concepts aren’t always the best, so we try to come at things from a fresh angle that relies on common sense.

White-out landscape scene of trees near Cochrane, Alberta, Canada by landscape photographer Samantha Chrysanthou.

Near Cochrane, Alberta, Canada © Samantha Chrysanthou

BL: What is your single most depended on photographic item aside from your camera?

Samantha: Actually, even above our cameras, we depend on our brains. It’s not the gear, we often say, but the creative mind behind it that makes a great photo. There’s a common misconception out there that you only need better gear to be a better photographer and we try to debunk this illusion in our workshops. Having said that, of course gear is very important to creative expression!

Fall color closeup of barren trees and thickets by Darwin Wiggett.

© Darwin Wiggett

BL: What type of gear, new or old, are you most interested in experimenting with?

Darwin: Speaking of gear, I love to play with and test out new cameras. Sam is interested in the creative potential of her 4×5 large format camera.

Perspective shot of train tracks in Saskatchewan by Samantha Chrysanthou.

Train Tracks Near Leader, Saskatchewan, Canada © Samantha Chrysanthou

BL: What are some resources that you recommend to others getting started in photography?

Darwin: Canadian photographer Freeman Patterson’s books are the best. He’s not well known outside of Canada but he is the most eloquent artist both in his images and in his instructional books. In a world of mediocre photo instruction, his ideas have stood the test of time. Michael Freeman’s books are also excellent resources. Other than those, we recommend that photographers get a hobby or interest outside of photography – just like athletes, we become better artists when we develop more than one creative muscle.

Abandoned truck in bright green field with thick clouds in background by landscape photographer Darwin Wiggett.

Old Abandoned Truck Near Empress Saskatchewan © Darwin Wiggett

BL: There are a lot of little rules in photography, such as the Rule of Thirds and the Inverse Square Law. Describe a photography “rule” that you use the most or find most valuable.

Samantha: We tend not to think or teach in terms of rules. It’s good to be aware of them but, on the other hand, it’s lazy to rely on them. You can fall into a trap where you apply the same compositional formula to a scene every time you head out, or you only photograph when the light is “good”. These lead to stagnation artistically so we try to avoid that way of thinking. Or maybe the real reason is that we don’t even know what the Inverse Square Law is and don’t want to admit it!

Cyprus tree against a slow-shutter/streaky cloud sky by Samantha Chrysanthou.

Cyprus Tree, Kootenay Plains, Bighorn Wildland, Alberta, Canada © Samantha Chrysanthou

BL: Anything new on the horizon that you are working on?

Darwin: This past year or so we’ve been very busy with photo workshops so we decided that next year we would carve out time for some interesting personal projects. We’ll still have lots of “how to” tips and tidbits on oopoomoo.com but we are excited to be sharing with our audience some new ideas for eBooks. Along with a website update later this season, there will be a few new things over on oopoomoo.com!

Reflective pool in partially frozen river showing the Kootenay Plains by Darwin Wiggett

North Saskatchewan River and the Kootenay Plains, Alberta, Canada © Darwin Wiggett

Alexandria Huff's photography and lighting tutorials can be found on 500px and her blog. See her lighting tutorials here. She is a Marketing Associate Manager at BorrowLenses.com. She learned about lighting and teaching while modeling for photographers such as Joe McNally and has since gone on to teach lighting workshops of her own in San Francisco. Before focusing on studio portraiture, she shot motorsports for X-Games, World Rally Cross, and Formula Drift. See her chiaroscuro-style painterly portraits on her website.

1 Comment


    Hi. I am Dr. Kazem. I am painting. Your photos are very beautiful. Please send me some photos to paint.

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