Victoria: Reminiscing

“What is it that keeps drawing me to the ocean and forested areas around Victoria?”  

Since arriving  in Victoria almost three weeks ago I think I have been in the forest at Mount Douglas Park or along the waterfront with my camera every day.  It’s  where I spent a good deal of my childhood.  I know this area well. 

Back then, some 60 years ago, my instructions were clear. “Chores first!  Be home by supper time!” No negotiations.  

So, with the vacuuming, dishes or the lawn done, I was on my bike and gone before someone thought of something else that needed to be done. If I wasn’t at the ball field at Beacon Hill Park with my friends we were on and about the cliffs and beaches along Dallas Road.  

What fun we had and how times have changed. Much older now I value the childhood I had then. I wonder whether kids today have the same sense of uncontrolled freedom.  

Much has changed yet so much has not. The breakwater at Ogden Point protects a deep-sea port that in the 50’s and 60’s was the transit point for overseas shipments of Douglas Fir and Western Red Cedar.   

Today, it shelters a modern, busy cruise ship terminal while walkers use its picturesque length for their daily exercise. But the beaches, islands, cliffs and headlands have changed little. Most of the homes, many dating back to the early 20th century, remain.  

These treasures of architecture and the surrounding natural vistas are the subjects of many of my images. I reminisce, but now I have a far greater appreciation for their significance and beauty. That knowledge acquired so many years ago allows me to search out the best locations for my photography today. 

Gulls soar on the wind as waves crash at Cattle Point

Rain and wind prevailed today and the light so different.  I had to be out with my camera.   I thought Cattle Point would be a good location for rainy, windy photography.

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The Creative Mind: In the Zone

What is it with the creative mind? When fully engaged distractions are few and far between. In sports, that would be termed ‘in the zone’. I recall in my hockey playing days as a goaltender being ‘ in the zone’  didn’t come too often but with my photography its much different.  

Lately, at home my camera has been unused and on the shelf far too often. I just have not been motivated to get out and make photographs. Perhaps when the leaves turn or when the snow falls I’ll be more motivated to get out with my camera. 

But this month, I am in Victoria and there is no shortage of motivation to get out with my camera. The fall season here is spectacular with leaves changing colour, a recent harvest moon and fabulous light at sunrise and sunset. 

On Wednesday morning I was out well before sunrise and located at Trafalgar Park on the Victoria waterfront. My intention was to photograph the colours of the rising sun. Nothing else was on my mind. I framed my compositions and determined appropriate exposure settings while paying attention to little else. Noises from cyclists, a passing bus and a few cars that came and went didn’t distract me from my creative thoughts.  

When I am ‘in the zone’ on a camera walk I can sometimes forget to worry about my own well-being. It was windy and cold on Wednesday morning, a big change from previous mornings.  I was waiting for just right moment to catch the changing light when I realized I was not dressed for the conditions and with no gloves my fingers were freezing. The same thing happened at the Grand Canyons several years ago and last here in Victoria I was out in rainy weather and got soaked. Needless to say I came down with a very bad cold. You’d think I would learn!

So the term ‘in the zone’ has some negative meaning. Being prepared also includes attire appropriate to the weather conditions, something I haven’t always done well. 

And it also has a very positive meaning for me. It means that when I am ‘in the zone’  I am totally focused on creating interesting and well composed images. It’s a feeling I hope for each and every time I’m out with my camera. It doesn’t always happen but when it does, my best work usually results.  

Horizon at Sunrise

This image was captured at a small rocky point at the eastern end of  McNeill Bay along Victoria’s Beach Drive. I had been photographing sea otters as they swam and hunted along Kitty Islet. Returning to my car I noticed this scene. The endless ocean receding to a blue horizon line far in the distance with spectacular soft morning light really caught my attention. The kelp bed along the rocks is a typical feature of British Columbia’s beautiful and rugged coastline.

Posted in Education, My Work

Artwork 2017: Postmortem

Lake Country, B.C.’s annual September Artwalk has been my favorite venue for exhibiting and sometimes selling my photographic art.  

Acceptance to the photography section of Artwalk requires entries to pass a jurying process.   Each entry is examined by a panel of artists to determine its worthiness for exhibition.  

Looking to the future I would like to see all artists including photographers, juried on the same basis, on their body of work. Then, when Artwalk comes along each artist that passes jurying would select the pieces they would like to exhibit. But that’s a topic for another discussion.  

In the years I have taken part in Artwalk I have sold at least one of the pieces that passed the jurying test. This was not the case this year. But overall, I am pleased with the Artwalk experience. I’ve met many wonderful artists and learned much from them. And I have had the opportunity to chat with many friends and community members who have come out to observe a wide variety of art.  

In preparation for next year’s Artwalk, it’s 25th anniversary, I’ll have to start preparations earlier. This is an area I haven’t done well in recent years.  

There are artists in our community who are very well known. They have built a name and reputation that allows them to command a high price for their work. Even though I have made regular appearances at Artwalk I am not in that group.  

I love the piece that I exhibited at this year’s Artwalk. Shown below,  it is representative of the quality I have aimed for each and every time I develop an image from camera to a finished, framed work of art.  

Rhythm of the Rain

This year I set a price higher than I normally would. I wanted to see what the reaction would be. While many were very interested in how I made the image and were complementary of its quality it remains in my possession.  

So, over the next few months I’ll be examining how I produce a framed, finished image. Camera and development time are constants. Presentation, the printing and framing of the image are variables. Setting a fair price with a margin that fairly compensates for my intellectual time is the elusive factor I am searching for.  

Posted in Education, My Work

Thinking Time: Exercising the Brain

Three times a week, Monday, Wednesday and Friday, at 7:30 AM I head up to my neighborhood’s YM/YWCA. I, like many others arrive early to work through an exercise routine in an effort to keep fit. Its relatively mindless activity so I also use this time to think, solve problems and develop ideas.

The ‘exercisers’ are interesting and generally fall into two groups. The young who possess the great figures and chiseled physiques and the rest, a group that is working hard to arrest the affects of gravity on certain body parts. That’s my group.

Lately, Facebook and my participation in Lake Country’s Artwalk are the topics most current to my ‘thinking workouts’ at the ‘Y’. The 24th annual edition of Artwalk will be held this weekend, September 9th and 10th.  I’ll save that discussion for my next blog article when the show is over and I’ve had time to consolidate my thoughts.

Facebook and social media in general have been top of mind lately. With the plethora of material that is displayed on Facebook every day I wonder if it is the best platform to exhibit and promote my photography. In the past few months I have virtually ignored my blog and website opting to post very regularly to Facebook. I’ve even tried Instagram and a Facebook Page. Instagram seems to reach the same audience that my regular Facebook posts do. Facebook Page has become annoying with its constant effort to ‘sell’ me advertising.

I’m interested in Google Plus but have so far only dabbled with it. It does reach a different audience and I believe it’s searchable on Google’s vast network. That could be advantageous. And, I love the way it displays photographic images.

So the challenge is to get my website up to date and return to writing regular blog posts. The big question remaining though, is how do I become more efficient with Facebook and perhaps take advantage of the power that Google Plus offers?

 

Resting on an old iron fence this bicycle patiently waits for its owner.

 

With Lake Country’s Artwalk scheduled for this weekend I thought I would include one of the images I entered in 2010. I captured it near the town of Cormorandel in New Zealand. As we completed a hike through a forested area we came across an old bicycle leaning on a fence. It’s appearance suggested it had been there for quite some time. The fence was constructed from sheets of corrugated steel. It was very rusty. In developing the image I chose to bring ‘life’ to the image by increasing the colour saturation. I liked the way it turned out as did the person who purchased it.

Posted in Education, My Work, Travel

Found Time: Developing Images and Skills

Retired folk are supposed to have lots of free time. That’s what retirement is all about I thought. In my case that’s time to shoot lots and to learn about the intricacies of the software I use to process my images.

Not so! That retired time I dreamed of seems to get filled up very quickly. So when an hour or more of ‘found time’ becomes available I grab it. Wait time at a car dealership as my car is being serviced or as happened this week, travel time on a cross-country flight. Both are ideal examples of time that can be put to good use without much interruption. With a little planning that time can become very useful.

Before boarding our return flight to Kelowna this past Tuesday, I utilized the wifi service at the Windsor airport to move a few images from Lightroom mobile on my iPhone to the full version of Lightroom on my laptop. I thought I would take advantage of the 3 or 4 hour flight to practice a few workflow scenarios for images that originated with my iPhone.

I spent the better part of the flight on one image. Captured in the fall in Victoria with my iPhone I imagined an end result and got to work. I don’t usually spend that much time on a single image but riding high on a plane to Calgary it was time to experiment.

Once in Lightroom I optimized  the image for exposure, sharpness and noise. After that I turned to the ‘edit in’ function and moved the image to Photoshop. There, I  employed a battery of plugins from NIK Software and Topaz Labs to realize the artistic vision I had for the subject when I made the original photograph.

Colour of a fallen maple leaf still beautiful

Before I knew it, our flight attendant directed us to prepare for landing Calgary. Satisfied, I saved my ‘edits’ to Lightroom and my image library. Packing up I wondered whether our long ‘down under’ flight in the Spring would have been more comfortable with a similar mental diversion.

Posted in Education

Cross Country Flight: Thinking Time!

Window seat! Awkward, but it was a must for the view.

Early last Thursday morning as our flight climbed into the sky a rolling landscape emerged. Grasslands, then the checkered patterns of farms and in the distance cumulus clouds like fluffy pillars rose high into the sky. I hoped that our flight wouldn’t become bumpy.

Sleep doesn’t come too easily when I’m traveling by plane. So I find that times like these are wonderful opportunities to read, write or play with a few images. I neglected to pack my reader so I chose to work on my images.

Even though I don’t have the hard drive with my library of images with me I am able to edit smart previews that reside in my library catalogue. I chose one that I thought had some creative possibilities. It was a good time to experiment with Lightroom and the creative possibilities of my Nik and Topaz plugins.

Waves and Wind Batter a Lone Tree

On a Sunday afternoon hike we visited a narrow, stony beach on Lake Michigan. It was windy, warm and wave crashed onto the beach. A narrow peninsula protruded from the beach. It extended a short distance into the lake. A lone, skeletal tree guarded its entrance. Waves flowed freely over the peninsula as the level of Lake Michigan is higher than normal.

I thought that one of the images I captured that hike was a good candidate for applying some of the techniques I practiced on the plane a few days earlier. I worked within Photoshop using Topaz Lab’s Impression plugin. 

All elements of the scene seemed to be in motion as the wind was very strong. My objective was to create that feeling of motion. I’m happy with the end result!

 

Posted in Education, My Work, Travel

Art: A Deeply Personal Journey

“What have I learned?” It’s a question I’ve often asked myself after about 12 years of seriously working to learn as much as possible about digital photography.

Almost fifty five thousand images reside in my Lightroom library. Some were captured with my first digital camera, a point and shoot. A few of these I’m quite proud of. I’ve learned that while equipment might increase the breadth of what one captures on a camera’s sensor it still comes down to one’s imagination, vision and creativity to make an impactful image. My bag of equipment is limited. My challenge has always been to make the most of the tools I have available to me.

I love to get out and shoot. Practice and experimentation in my mind help to define one’s artistic persona. In the past few years I’d done just that in the desert southwest area of Arizona and in coastal regions of my home province, British Columbia. This past year or so I have spent countless hours near my home at a small urban marsh, the Fascieux Creek Wetland. There, I’ve worked hard to improve my ability to capture interesting images of the wildlife that reside there.

 But over time I’ve become somewhat numbed by all the technical stuff that surrounds photography. Increasingly my thoughts tend to circle around the relationship between my feelings of creativity and inspiration and the images I make. Certainly equipment and software are important. They are the vehicles through which creativity and inspiration are released. I’ve come to realize that art is deeply personal and to me the emotional, human side of my art out weights the technical side.

 I’m not getting any younger. The older part of that equation is happening far too quickly. Who knows what the future holds. But I have learned that for my photography the most important factor is being happy with what I create.

Colour and texture revealed in ancient totem

Textures and colour are subjects of many of my images. Monday, on a camera walk in Victoria, I passed though Thunderbird Park near the provincial museum. A small section of a large totem attracted my attention. While the totem was drab and lifeless  there were hints of colour amid the weathered, cracked timber. In capturing this image I hoped that my software would find that colour and intensify it to reveal a bit of the old totem’s  character and glory. 

 

 

Posted in Education, My Work

History: A Photographic Opportunity

‘Prof. Loft’ at the University of Victoria could make Canadian history come alive. His lectures captivated me. It was one of my favourite subjects.

That was a long time ago but my interest in history and how our landscape has evolved is still of interest to me. “How did our forefathers cope with such an inhospitable environment?” and “How were they able to build such wonderful structures with tools that we would term primitive?” are questions I often ask myself while on my travels.

In most of Australia’s cities the beauty of historic architecture both domestic and commercial is very evident.  Individual houses have unique rooflines, verandas and facades. Commercial and government building are made of stone and are usually quite ornate. It is wonderful to see  that history and heritage is important to Australians and  that their buildings are restored and repurposed rather than torn down in favour of new modern structures.

Some of these buildings are more that 100 years old. They are often surrounded by modern, tall structures. The contrast is remarkable. Both are beautiful but it’s the old that seem to tell a story. These buildings reach back in time to reveal a resilient forward thinking heritage.

 

 

Posted in My Work, Travel

Aussie Cuisine: Pie, Slice, Flat White

Australian summertime temperatures, particularly in the semi arid and desert regions of the continent often exceed 40 degrees Celsius. For the remainder to the year temperatures tend to moderate. This is especially so in coastal regions where most of Australia’s 24 million residents reside.

Family activities, sports and restaurants all thrive under these moderate conditions. Parks are very popular and often have protective awnings from the still dangerous sun. Community barbeques located in many parks are very well used. Also popular are bakeries and restaurants with outdoor seating and patios.

An inexpensive coffee as we would find in North America doesn’t seem to exist in Australia. I had thought that McDonald’s universal menu would include my favourite, a “medium coffee, 3 creams”. Not so!

Australian McDonald’s fondly referred to as Macca’s, have barista machines and serve a small selection of specialty coffees at a cost of about $4.00 or more. In fact, barista machines can be found in the vast majority of coffee shops.

Restaurant patios present themselves in many different forms. They are prevalent wherever there is shade from the sun and room on the sidewalk. A small meat pastry or pie and cheesecake are inviting choices to accompany my favourite coffee, a flat white. Very tasty and addictive despite the price.

Enjoying a relaxing moment in Hahnsdorf, South Australia

 

I photographed many street side patios. Those in small towns were particularly interesting. Visitors and towns folk alike seemed to revel in these colourful, active gathering places.

Patio in the trees in Flinders, New South Whales

A patio in Glenelg, South Australia, in the shade of beautiful palms

The Hahnsdorf Inn, a colourful, street side patio in South Australia

A busy seaside patio near Glenelg, South Australia

Posted in Travel

Travel Well: Pack Light

By the time Ellen and I return to Kelowna following our almost 6 week trip to Australia and New Zealand we will have taken 8 separate flights. Packing personal affects and clothing for that period of time while remaining within airline weight restrictions has been a challenge. 

Camera and computer equipment was a huge consideration. It’s heavy and valuable. ‘Essentials only’ would be the major criteria.   

In addition to my camera and an 18mm to 140mm ‘walk about’ lens, camera batteries, a charger and a power adapter to the Australian 240 volt domestic power outlets were absolute ‘musts’. What else could I reasonably pack? 

While there was little room for anything else in my carry on, , I decided to include a 70 to 300 mm lens and a 12 to 24mm lens in my ‘checked’ luggage. Normally, I refrain from doing this. I don’t like to put my equipment where harm to it or loss of it, might occur. So I wrapped each securely and stowed them tightly with my shoes. I’m glad I brought them. They have given me some wonderful creative options.  

Again, thinking of weight restrictions I decided not to include my laptop and external hard drive. Instead, I planned to take advantage of the wifi function of my camera to connect and then copy images to my iPhone or iPad. There, with Snapseed and Markstra, I’ve been able to develop and mark them with my copyright symbol before posting them to Facebook. I decided also to include an external keyboard so that I could more easily write and post articles to my blog.  

It has been 7 years since our last visit to Australia and New Zealand. We enjoy this part of the world so much. Everyone, most especially our friends, has been so welcoming. I hope that the images I make while here capture the beauty of the landscape and the spirit of the people. Perhaps a few will have some artistic merit. 

Old ship ways are an indication of Australia’s long association with the the sea.

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