Riley J.B. - Photographer & Alchemist


Calgary photographer, Riley JB, writes essays, photo stories, reviews & tutorials in his photographic Journal.

Frozen Pond


I have a notebook that I write my ideas for stock photography shoots. It has a lot of random words or sentences that I jot down whenever an idea comes to me. I have checked a few off that list recently. Gentleman Barbers... check. Hot Fuzz.. check.

I had "family skating on frozen pond" in my notebook it since last year. At Christmas I was leafing through the pages trying to decipher my own writing when I saw it.

The high temperature had been around -20ºC (-4ºF for those silly Americans) for a few weeks and we had a tonne of snow. I thought it was a perfect time to try and set something up. If I started procrastinating ideas it would surely pass me by until next year. Stock photography is typically bought well in advance. Halloween images start selling in the summer, Christmas begin selling in September and Spring/Summer sell in winter.

I quickly knew the models I wanted. One of my best friends and his lovely little family. His wife has a blog on the interwebs chronicling their lives as they unfold and passing on some found knowledge along the way. I recommend checking it out:


For my stock photo shoots I need three things.

  • Concept

  • Subject(s)

  • Location

With those three in place, making the photographs is the easy part.

In Calgary there is a lagoon in a city park in a valley. It is surrounded by trees and feels like it is in the middle of nowhere. That was my first choice. I learned this lagoon was open to skate at any time. Only for a few hours in the evenings and on the weekend. Bust!

My male model suggested a frozen pond / creek just off a walking path in a residential neighbourhood. He sent me an iPhone snap of it. I was trading trees for bails of hay. But I thought it was perfect.

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I booked the shoot at 3:30 p.m. knowing the sun would be in the west over the field and would be dipping below the horizon. Luckily the frigid weather we had been experiencing was finally breaking. A balmy -6ºC for our shoot. It had all fallen into place.

I don't give much direction during my lifestyle shoots. I have a shot list typically and will seek those out organically but if they don't just happen in front of my lens I will try to stage them in a natural way.

I started shooting as soon as we exited our vehicles. It is a pond skating shoot but I know there will be ancillary photographs around it all. As we started on the path and I saw the sun marking where we were heading I knew it was going to be a great shoot.

This shoot is about a family going to a frozen pond to have a skate. So that is exactly what they are doing. They aren't pretending that is what they are doing. They are actually doing it. And that is the secret, friends.

The cool tones of the snow and ice mixing with the golden yellow of the setting sun... that is what makes a good shoot become amazing.

Let your subject do what they are going to do.

And like most photo shoots, it is not unusual for them to end in tears. Thanks to the 'B' family for a fun & cold shoot.

To license these photographs & more head over to my Stocksy United portfolio. Use code RILEYJB20 for 20% off your first purchase.