Camera Instructive: The Pinhole

While surfing through Facebook posts recently I came across a story about a photographer who worked with a group a school kids to produce images for Christmas cards. The camera of choice was a ‘Pinhole’.  

As I read the article I remembered when I had  taught a unit about pinhole photography.  It was in 1975 and I was teaching grade 7 at Rutland Elementary in Kelowna, B.C.   

Rutland Elementary was built around 1914. It’s rooms had twelve foot ceilings and  almost floor to ceiling windows. It was spacious and ideal for what I had planned.  

Our cameras were designed around  2 inch by 3 inch black and white sheet film. Each student constructed a camera based on a standardized plan. They were similar to a shoe box but smaller. Film was held in a slot mounted in the black painted interior. A small piece of copper foil  pierced by a needle was centre mounted over a small  hole at the end opposite. This was the aperture. A cardboard flap taped over the ‘aperture’ served as the shutter.  

With a standardized focal length and aperture we were able to calculate exposure times appropriate to the daylight conditions we faced. We all came to be quite proficient in making reasonably images as we experimented with differing exposure times.  

Film was loaded and then unloaded after exposure using a black bag, an essential tool for film photographers. It was developed and fixed in our rudimentary darkroom. It was located in a corner of our adjacent coat room. Composed of two large refrigerator boxes taped together there was enough room for a few students to work easily. It was equipped with 2 small tables, developing trays and an entry level enlarger. 

On photography days we found locations on our school grounds to make our compositions. Exposure times were monitored by stop watches. A heavy text book placed on top of the lid helped to prevent camera movement.  

I will always remember the excitement this project generated. The emergence of images on the negative and then on photographic paper in the developer absolutely captivated my students. Interestingly, two of them found careers in photography, one as a newspaper professional and the other as a researchers in medical imaging at the University of British Columbia.  

I’ve included a collection of my favourite black and while images with this article.To a few I have applied further artistic enhancements.  Originally, this was my area of photographic interest. Like my students I loved the  darkroom process. Digital now but early on, film photography including the pinhole chapter was very important to my learning of photography. 

 

Posted in Education, My Work, The Creative Process

Everyday Photography: Permission Sometimes

It’s cold today and I have a cold. Getting off the couch was not on top of my to-do-list. But there was a place I’ve wanted to visit for some time. Why I didn’t go when it warmer, I don’t know. I’ve driven by it many times.

I reasoned this morning that even if I made 3 or 4 images I’d have something new to work with on my iPad when I returned to the warmth of the house. At the very least I’d have a better idea of my subject matter for a future visit.

Mid morning today I drove to a transmission shop several miles away. Housed in a large, barn like building its situated on several acres of land in Woodhaven, Michigan. The attraction though, was not the building but the display of 1940’s vintage vehicles fronting up the business.

As I slowly drove onto the property my focus was on the dozen or so vehicles lined up in front of the shop. It was a scene that I had not expected. Snow fell overnight. Hoods and bodies were covered with melting snow.

My first impression as I walked up to the building entrance was that it was deserted. I tried the door, knocked and looked around. No sound from within, nothing at all from around the property. A note tacked to the door expressed interest in one of the cars. Perhaps it was the one with “Sold” scrawled across the windshield

I had a problem! Making photographs on private property without permission could be termed trespassing. My practice is always to ask permission to photograph on private property or even when I enter an individual’s personal space to make a photograph of that person in their environment.

Under the circumstances there seemed little chance of me getting the permission I needed today. For the record I made a few images, climbed back in the truck and left. The last thing I needed was to offend someone’s property rights. I’ll try again in the next few days.

Posted in Education, My Work

100th Anniversary: Amid Kelowna Colour

When I started writing this article a week ago  my objective was to discuss fall colours in Kelowna. But that focus of the article changed.

Today is Remembrance Day and the 100th anniversary of end of World War I in 1918. Usually, on November the 11th,  I sit down in front of my TV with my first coffee of the day and watch the Remembrance Day ceremonies at the National War Memorial in Ottawa, Ontario. This year I also watched severals documentaries related to WW I and II.

The ceremonies and stories are gripping. So many soldiers and civilians died during this conflict and others. Two of my uncles served. Bill Adair served in the trenches during WW I. He was gassed.  George Cotter served on HMCS Fennel, a corvette that escorted convoys on the North Atlantic. Both survived and to my knowledge neither spoke about their war experiences.

I was born in 1944. World War II was beginning to turn in the allied forces favour. Thankfully, me and my family have never had to experience the atrocities of war. The dedication and valour of so many service men and women have allowed us to experience a peaceful and fulfilling life.

So, when I head out with my camera, freely able to travel to interesting places close to home or around the world I give thanks today to those who have given us our freedom.

The images I’ve attached to this article were made early last week. Cool temperature and clear sunny skies resulted in beautiful light that seemed to give the leaves an iridescent tone. A few days later the winds rose and the leaves fell leaving the trees as mere skeletons of their summer selves.

Posted in Education, My Work

On Every Path An Image: Victoria Well Travelled

From our home away from home last month near Victoria’s Quadra Village I took a long circuitous walk through Chinatown, the downtown area and the water front. My walks really have no set plan. If a street looks interesting, that’s where I go.

I took a break at the Breakwater coffee shop. I enjoyed a very good cup of coffee and a scone while examining the images I had made so far. A few, especially those I made at Fisherman’s Wharf had possibilities.

Continuing on, I decided to explore some of the back streets of the James Bay neighbourhood. I’ve written of this area in an earlier post. It is historic, colorful and it has a special character that sets it apart from all others.

As I explored the streets I noticed that some residents had built small raised vegetable gardens on the boulevards in front of their homes. A good use of space I thought . As I approached the corner of Niagara and Pilot Streets I noticed an older woman (probably my age) struggling along with a walker. I was more interested in the school and park across the street so paid her little attention until we both reached the middle of the crosswalk on Pilot Street.

“Have you seen the Fairy Gardens?” she inquired. “They would make good pictures!”

Surprised, I replied, “No.”

“Over there!” She replied with a wave, her tone, impatient.

I looked and saw only houses and fenced yards.

“Follow me,” she commanded. And off she went. I followed.

‘There!’ she exclaimed, pointing to a patch of ground at the base of a large tree.

To my surprise, laid out neatly around the base of a large tree was a miniature village. Tiny whimsical characters, houses, fences and animals all placed to tell a ‘fair tale story’.

Pointing out that other villages surrounded the next few trees she bid me a pleasant good day and went on her way.

Much care and love had been devoted to the creation of these miniature fairy villages. I spent some time appreciating and photographing these beautiful little creations before continuing my walk.

After a few more streets of exploration I crossed Beacon Hill Park and found another coffee shop to enjoy lunch and of course another cup of coffee. Reflecting on the interesting people I’ve encountered on my walks I smiled.

The images below were made on several camera walks. They are but a sample of the many I captured along the ‘trail’. (Tap images to enlarge)

Posted in My Work, Travel

My Old Stomping Grounds: A Camera Walk

Last week, just before returning home from Victoria I embarked on a camera walk that took me  through my old stomping grounds: the Fairfield, Rockland and Fernwood neighbourhoods.  I passed by  a number of landmarks in this area that are as prominent today as they were almost 60 years ago.  

One of those landmarks,  a giant Sequoia, is located at the corner of Moss and Richardson Streets. . Commonly found in California it was planted here as a seedling in 1854.  

Giant Sequoia

I biked past it on my way to and from school in the late ’50s and early ’60s.  A particular memory flooded back as I walked past it last week.  

Located at the bottom of the Moss Street hill a group of us regularly blew through the stop sign at the bottom of the hill. One day though, that practice came to a fateful end.   

Not noticing the parked motorcycle we raced down the hill intent on winning some sort of race. Through the stop sign we went, coming to a screeching halt when a policeman stepped out from behind a parked car, with the command, “Stop!” 

It was Constable Haymer, VPD’s motorcycle cop. He had been waiting for us.  Sternly reprimanding us he handed each of us a  ticket. I said nothing at home. A week or so later a summons to appear in court was hand  delivered to my parents. To say the least I was in trouble.  

It was a very embarrassing experience for my Mom as she was a court reporter and knew many of the court officials I was standing before. A stern warning and a fine from the judge and a lot of ‘humble pie’  from me for some time afterwards at home.  

At first glance most of the homes in this area were much the same as they were in the early 1960’s. But as I explored a saw that some had seen better days while others and been beautifully refreshed. Others, particularly in the Rockland area were exactly as I remembered them, big, solid and in some cases, enormous.  

I found our house on Craigdarroch Road, just below the castle walls. Our house on Oscar Street  had long since been replaced by an apartment complex. I walked through the beautiful gardens of Government House remembering the fire that consumed its predecessor.  

At the end of my hike I sat down in a small coffee shop on Cook Street and thought about all that I had seen. Many of the homes and gardens I had walked past seemed not to have changed. It was a great walk. It was fun to revisit memories of a time past.  The images (click to enlarge) I’ve included with my article are a mosaic of my old neighbourhood and for me a reminder of those memories.

 

Posted in My Work, Travel

Sunrise: A Transition

Friday morning it was still very dark when I headed out with my camera gear. My destination was the Oak Bay waterfront. I was hoping to capture the transition from the damp, coolness of first light to the warmth of rising sun. I had three locations in mind.

The headland at the eastern end of McNeill Bay was my first stop. In the dim light I packed my gear to a location overlooking a large kelp bed. I felt that the calm waters around the kelp would be an ideal presentation of the coolness of first light.

From there I moved to the parking lot at the Oak Bay Marina. There, I had a good view of the of Chatham and Discovery Islands as well as small rocky outcrops and navigation markers. I hoped that it would be a good location to catch the emerging colours of first light. The beauty of the scene was incredible.

After making a dozen or so images and knowing there was little time to spare I was off to Cattle Point.

I arrived in the nick of time. The sun was about to emerge from behind a fog bank. The reflections in the mirror-like water between the rocky outcrops were incredible. I shot from several locations. As the impact of the scene diminished I began to pack up.

And then I spotted a Great Blue Heron. It was moving about the calm waters adjacent to the boat ramp hunting for its next meal. It didn’t seem to mind my closeness.

And then the fog rolled in.


My blog, Geezer with a Camera, will now be the primary vehicle for presenting my new photography. I just love the pristine look of my images when I post them to my WordPress and Photocrati powered blog and website.

Notifications of new blog posts will appear on Facebook. If you care to receive an email announcing a new blog post please sign up. It’s easy and secure.

Posted in Education, My Work

New Camera: Full Frame

Recently, I purchased a full frame camera, a d700. It’s not new but it’s new to me. Ten years ago it was one of Nikon’s top professional models. 

I’ve had this particular camera model on my radar for quite some time. The reviews that I have read indicate that it was a great camera and still is.  I certainly could have purchased a current ‘top of the line’ model but cost was a major factor. Yes, it is old and lacking some to today’s bells and whistles but with a shutter count of less that 7,000 it is virtually new. The shutter count  for this caliber of camera can reach up to 150,000.  

So now I have a  full frame and a cropped sensor model of camera. Those with a sensor the same size as a 35mm slide are full frame cameras. A cropped sensor is smaller. 

I use my cropped sensor camera, a Nikon d7200, for photographing nature, wildlife and sports. And I love using it when I’m traveling.  It’s built in WiFi allows me to connect to my iPhone or iPad and quickly move images to my processing apps and then to social media. 

I’ll use my d700 primarily for architectural,  landscape and panorama photography. The image quality of this camera is excellent for this type of photography.  

I’m not a ’gear head’. I don’t have to have the latest greatest equipment. Previously owned equipment in excellent condition works just fine for me. My overarching interest is to create the best possible images with my available equipment. 

Rainy afternoon near Sombrio Beach

The image above was made about a month ago at Sombrio Beach near Port Renfrew, B.C. It was raining heavily but I had found some shelter in small cave. A long exposure smoothed giving it a silky look. 

I was glad to have two cameras available on this occasion as changing lenses is difficult under such poor  conditions. By having one camera equipped with a longer zoom lens and the other with a short zoom lens I found I could deal with most photo opportunities without exposing the inner workings of  my cameras to the weather. 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Education, The Creative Process

Updating my Blog: Testing Functionality

I’ve finally found a notification system that meets my needs. It will send those that sign up and confirm their participation  an email whenever I post an  article to my blog. 

If you are interesting in receiving a notification email whenever I post a new article to my blog please sign up as indicated on the right. You can opt out at any time. If you’re not interested in participating that’s just fine. My blog will still be published and I’ll post it to Facebook as a general notification. Participation ensures you won’t miss future posts.  Thanks in advance for considering my request. 

I’m starting to prepare for our now,  annual month long trip to Victoria. Again, I’m looking forward to spending time with family and friends and to the photographic opportunities that are so prevalent there.

Below is an image I made at Cowichan Bay near Duncan, B.C. It was just after sun up and so calm. The black and white version is my favourite. 

The emerging light of sunrise reveals the tranquility of Cowichan Bay.

 

Posted in My Work

The Workshop Experience: Loving the Coast

Dave Hutchison’s “ Vancouver Island Coastal Experience” took place last weekend in Port Renfrew, B.C. I had been looking forward to this workshop for several months. It more than lived up to my expectations.

September weather conditions on the west coast of Vancouver Island can be variable. Sunshine is not guaranteed. For the most part the sun did not shine for the duration of the workshop. Rain came instead, sometimes heavily. Despite being well prepared, I did get soaked a few times. Most important though, I was able to keep my camera gear reasonably dry.

Most of what Dave had planned for the weekend took place. Unfortunately, overcast skies on Saturday forced the cancellation of a night shoot. Given the complete lack of light pollution that would have been spectacular. Instead, we hiked back to Botanical Beach creating interesting compositions until darkness set in. A debrief session at the Port Renfrew Pub was a welcome end to the day.

Age is a factor when I go on wilderness hikes and workshops. I use the word Geezer in the title of my blog for a reason. I’m old! For that reason I make sure I have a good understanding of the physical challenges that I will be faced with. And I try to keep reasonably fit.

The eleven or so kilometers of hiking we did on Saturday plus those accumulated on Friday and Sunday were OK. But I had difficulty finding solid footing while climbing up a wet rocky headland on Saturday morning. Despite my best efforts to remain upright I took a tumble. Luckily, I was not seriously damaged. I mention all this only as a caution to be considered when embarking on a wilderness workshop or expedition.

Dave had us in the field from first light until after sundown. Short breaks to change out of wet clothing and to grab a bite to eat were the exceptions. Always teaching, Dave challenged us to simplify our images by selecting the lens suited to the landscape and by using appropriate exposure and focusing techniques.

The locations he guided us to were stunning. Each had unique possibilities for creating beautiful landscape photographs. Each of us was challenged by the qualities of the light, weather conditions and our individual technical and creative abilities.

Botanical and Sombrio Beaches at either high or low tide had many interesting compositional opportunities. The poor weather with its rather somber light brought a unique look to these beautiful landscapes.

It was raining steadily on Saturday afternoon when we reached Sombrio Canyon. Everything was wet. It’s beautifully sculpted sandstone walls formed a very narrow passage that only 2 of us could work in at a time.

Beyond the beaches and rocks the forest began. At first, knarled trees twisted and bent from the relentless wind and then those that were tall reaching high above the forest floor. Many of these were second generation to those that years ago had fallen to the logger’s axe. But some of the old growth trees remained. They were magnificent. Even in the solitude of Avitar Grove these huge trees made my existence seem small and unimportant.

Some of the images I made at Port Renfrew I really like but it will take me awhile to sort and process the images all of them.   I have included a selection below.

Posted in Education, My Work, The Creative Process, Travel

Opportunity Knocks: Workshop at the Coast

In a perfect world I would live closer to British Columbia’s wild Pacific Coast. I love its  power and majesty. Even along its more sheltered bays and coves this ever changing landscape brings me great peace and inspiration. 

Well, I live in the Okanagan Valley, in its own right a lovely place to live and photograph.  The 5 hours of driving  time  to reach the coast is not insurmountable. So, whenever the opportunity arises to travel to the coast, I take it. Most of the time my destination would be the coast of Southern Vancouver Island near Victoria, B.C. or even the small coastal communities of Maple Bay and Genoa Bay near Duncan. Some of my favourite images have been made in these beautiful locations. 

For me though, the most beautiful areas I have photographed are near Tofino and Ucluelet, right out on the west coast. It is where huge waves pound the beaches and rocky outcrops, where the beaches run on endlessly and the sunsets are magnificent. 

In early 2011 a photography workshop about ‘composition’  offered by Sydney, B.C. photographer, Dave Hutchison caught my attention. Tofino and Ucluelet would be the base of this workshop. It would be for three days and two night and the cost was very reasonable. I was in! I so enjoyed that June weekend that I signed up again in 2012. 

Over the intervening years I’ve followed and admired Dave’s work on his website, on Facebook and through his regular newsletters. Recently, I saw that he was offering a workshop in Port Renfrew, B.C. a small community about 2 hours from Victoria on the southern end of Vancouver Island . It is located on the Strait of Juan de Fuca at the head of the famous West Coast Trail. The opportunity was not lost on me. I signed up immediately. 

The Port Renfrew workshop is next weekend. I’ll be leaving on Thursday and am really looking forward to again spending time with Dave and benefitting from his instruction and experience. 

More than anything though I’m looking forward to being surrounded by the beauty and tranquility of such places as Botanical Beach, Avatar Grove, Fairy Lake and Sombrio Beach and Canyon. What more could a person ask for?

The images  below were made in and around the towns of Tofino and Ucluelet. They are among my favourites as they remind me of a place that I love so much. 

Posted in Education, My Work, Travel