Family Photos: Photographic History (part 2)

Prof Loft as he liked to be called, taught  Canadian history at Uvic when I was in my undergraduate years. His passion for history was captivating.  I loved how he brought life to our past and to how our country grew. 

A fascinating aspect of our history is the building of the Canadian Pacific Railway. Completed in 1885 the CPR was built to fulfill a promise  of British Columbia’s entry into confederation in 1871. 

Pierre Burton’s book and subsequent movie, “The National Dream” captured the essence of the building of the CPR. The chapters I enjoyed the most covered the CPR’s involvement in the settlement of Western Canada.  

It’s rails ran through miles of uninhabited land, much of which was considered useless. But some saw the potential of farming the fertile land.  The CPR recognized that settlement of the land could significantly boost it financial position. 

Agents from the CPR were sent to England and Europe extolling the West’s grand beauty and vast land available for farming.  Advertising campaigns promoted the idea of a new and better life in Canada with land being available in some cases at no cost. 

My great grandfather A.A. Dale took advantage of this promotion. In 1895 he moved his family to a quarter section of land near the town of Qu’Appelle in Saskatchewan  just east of Regina. 

I’m not sure what his situation was in England at the time. Photographs taken of him and his family seem to point to a gentile life with at the very least a modest standard of living.

Photographs taken after his arrival in Canada paint a very different picture. These as well as stories told to me by my dad illustrate a very hard life, a life they were not accustomed to in England. Clearly, the advertising campaign did not project the complete picture. 

The photographs I’ve included with this article illustrate life on the Dale farm. My guess, given that my dad was a very young child in some of these pictures, is that they were taken around 1910. A Kodak Brownie No. 2 box camera was likely used to make these photographs.

Eastman Kodak introduced the Brownie camera in 1900. A basic cardboard box camera with a meniscus lens it produced 2 1/4 square images on 117 roll film. It cost $1 which is equivalent to about $30 today. In the first year 150,000 were shipped. 

In 1901 a new and improved model, the Brownie No. 2 was released. The ‘No. 2’ was the first camera to use 120 roll film on which 2 1/4 by 3 1/4 inch images were recorded. This camera could be purchased in a choice of three materials: cardboard $2, aluminum $2.75 and a color model which cost $2.50  It was affordable and became very popular. By 1921 over 2.5 million had been produced. Kodak stopped production of the Brownie No. 2 in 1935.

Posted in Education

Family Photos: Photographic History

Boxes and plastic tubs, many containing family photographs and memorabilia occupy the space beneath our basement stairs. They have been there for 10 years. When I consider the houses we’ve lived in, they’ve been stored for many more. The sheer volume of images has left me wondering how I will ever make sense of them. 

Slides, prints, negatives and albums encompass the history of our family. I’ve made most of the images but the collection also includes those made by our parents, grandparents and other family members who have long ago passed away.  

Last week, I dragged them all out. Some are organized. Many are not. It was fun looking back remembering the events where these pictures came from. But the lingering question remains. How can they be organized so that our kids and grand kids might find them interesting and maybe useful? 

Besides the images I had made there was a large album collection. Most belonged to my mom. She was fastidious in making sure that the events of her family and friends were properly mounted in albums for her and all of us to enjoy over the years.  

Lawrence Dale, My Grandfather

The most important albums contained the black and whites. Mounted on black pages  sticky corners held the prints in place.  Mom’s dated back to the 1920’s. I’m not sure who captured the images from Dad’s family but I believe they were made between 1900 and 1915. And then there was one album of black and whites with portraits that I believe were made between 1865 and 1890. 

When I sat back and looked at this particular album I realized that not only was this a history of the Dale family but in part a chapter of photography’s history. In my next few blog articles I’ll discuss how these old photographs fit into this narrative.  

A.A. Dale, My Great Grandfather 

 I’ve included pictures of my great grandfather, A.A. Dale and my grandfather, Lawrence Dale. Both were made in London, England. My guess is that the image of great grandfather was made between 1875 and 1880. The image of my grandfather was likely made around 1890. The album contains many other similar images and that were likely produced in a similar time frame.  

Photographs made in the mid to late 1800’s were made with large view cameras and exposed on glass negatives coated with a light sensitive solution. Contact prints were made relative to the size of the negative on very thin paper containing an albumen-based emulsion. Prints were mounted on card stock with details of the relevant studio printed on the back.  

Royal Card Mount

Interestingly, many of these photographs advertised that they were made by “Photographers to H.M. The Queen, H.R.H. The Prince of Wales and H.R.H. The Princess of Wales.” The reference here was to Queen Victoria.  

There were many photography studios in London at this time. Likely, the portraits they produced were expensive available mostly to individuals and families of reasonable financial means.

 With the hope of  a better future my great grandfather moved his family to Canada in 1895 settling near the town of Qu’Appelle, Saskatchewan.  If these images indicate a relatively comfortable life in England those that I will share in a future post show the complete opposite. 

Posted in Education, My Work

Tech Developments: Improved Workflow

Photoshop is a wonderful program. Its application to photography is almost unlimited. But the learning curve for me to become proficient in utilizing its many features to develop and enhance my photographs is very steep. Enter the ‘plug-in’. 

A plug-in for me is best described as a mini program that works on the Photoshop and Lightroom platforms. They can take hours of work with Photoshop and reduce it to mere minutes. And best of all they offer so many creative possibilities.  

I have really enjoyed the plugins offered by Nik Software. I accumulated most of the plugins they offered as they applied to my photography. Google saw their benefit and purchased Nik Software offering the whole package at no cost. Several years later Google decided not to support the Nik plugins. With upgrades to Lightroom and Photoshop the plug-ins began to fail.  

Recently, a French company Dx0 purchased the Nik Collection of plugins. Bringing them up to date they now work well with Lightroom and Photoshop. Of course I’m thrilled. The creative possibilities of the Nik Collection are again available photographers.  

The image below remains one of my favourites from a trip to Western Australia in 2010. I made it in the town of Busselton at its famous jetty. The light was perfect. The image in my opinion turned out really well. I had hoped to enter it into this year’s ArtWalk in Lake Country, B.C.

In the development process I noticed that the jetty was surrounded by a chain link fence. I remembered, sadly, that at the time it was under renovation. As a small digital image it was great. But it would not work hanging as a large canvas piece. No amount of work from my plug-ins or within Photoshop was going to make it acceptable. So sad!

Sunset at the Busselton Jetty in Western Australia

Recently, I read an interesting article about Adobe’s integrated image development system. The author describes how he imports images into Lightroom Mobile on his iPad, performs initial adjustments, rates images and then syncs them via the Creative Cloud to Lightroom Classic CC, the desktop version. All adjustments made with Lightroom Mobile are carried forward to the desktop where more in-depth development could occur.  

My immediate thought with this feature related to travel. When deciding what gear to include on a trip why would I include my laptop when I could simply travel with an iPad or  jus my an iPhone?  

Results from my initial trials were positive.  I will have to become more fluent with the mobile platform but essentially it worked. Several trips are in the offing. It’s then that I’ll fine tune my travel workflow.

 

 

 

 

Posted in My Work, The Creative Process

Surprise Encounters: Images that Count

This is not an article about hiking down the trail, camera gear set and ready hoping that a fabulous landscape or a wild beast  may be just around the next corner. Rather,  it is about finding a hidden gem, long ago saved and forgotten in my image catalogue.  

 When I first delved into digital photography I set a goal  to learn as much as possible about  the software required to store and develop my images. The glitzy part, image development, was what I was interested in.  I spent a lot of time with this. The rating and key wording part, not so much.   

This week, I’ve been reviewing my image catalogue in search of images that I will submit to this year’s Artwalk in Lake Country, B.C. Held annually in September submissions for jurying must be received by July 1st.   

Had I established a comprehensive rating and key wording  system this would be a much easier process. Fortunately, I have a fairly well organized image file system. Organized  by date, with each file appropriately titled I can at lease zero in on specific shoots to find images  for my selection list.   

‘Time Travel’ though is interesting. Reminiscing about long past photo outings, hikes, camera walks and travel destinations makes the search for selection possibilities a more positive exercise.  

Canvas is my favoured media for displaying images at Artwalk.   These I like to print  large. As I reduce my list to about 5 or 6 candidates they must be suitable for printing large and on canvas. 

The images below are selection of those under consideration for submission to this year’s Lake Country Artwalk. 

Posted in Education, My Work, The Creative Process

Skill Sharpening: Events, Landscapes and A Camera Walk

It’s no secret that I love visiting Victoria on B.C.’s Vancouver Island. While there, I always try to take advantage of as many photographic opportunities as possible. 

Before leaving for the coast I learned about a 3-day photography workshop led by Sydney, B.C.  professional, Dave Hutchinson. I had previously attended two workshops led by Dave in Tofino and Ukueltet. They were instrumental in starting me off with digital photography. This workshop would be based in Port Renfrew, B.C., about 2 hours west of Victoria on the Strait of Juan de Fuca.  

Needless to say, I jumped at the opportunity to be involved with Dave again. The photographic opportunities along this beautiful stretch of coastline are fantastic.  

Rocky beach, driftwood and crashing waves near Port Renfrew, B.C.

So, a spur of the moment decision had us take a drive to Port Renfrew then on to Cowichan Lake, Duncan and back to Victoria, the ‘Circle Route’. I hadn’t been to Port Renfrew since I was in high school. It was a four hour trip with many stops to observe and photograph the wonderful west coast scenery.  

 I was thrilled to learn that our trip to Victoria coincided with the 75th Annual Swiftsure Yacht Race, an event I had not witnessed for many years. Most of the racing yachts were tied up at the wharves in the Inner Harbour. Stragglers were still arriving late in the afternoon when I stepped onto the wharf. The late afternoon sun spread a warm glow over the scene. What a spectacle! 

 Photographing the pre race activities the evening prior to the official start of the race was very interesting.  Flags and banners adorned a forest of masts. Last minute preparations were on going on many of the yachts. Predictably, pre race partying added a noisy backdrop to the entire colourful scene.  

A forest of masts in the Inner Harbour in Victoria, B.C.

With some free time available I headed out for a long camera walk a few days before returning home. I treated this walk as a practice session. My camera with a 35mm lens attached  was my only equipment.  

Victoria’s ‘Y’ on Quadra Street was my departure point. I wound my way through streets and lanes, crossed the harbour to Fisherman’s Wharf on a jaunty water taxi then continued on to Ogden Point. From there I wandered through James Bay and Beacon Hill Park ultimately ending at a coffee shop on Cook Street. It was a great walk.  I hoped that I would have many interesting images to evaluate. 

 Having a fixed focal length lens on my camera forced me to physically move to make my exposures, good practice in itself as is the use of aperture and shutter speed adjustments as creative tools.

Posted in Education, The Creative Process, Travel

Spirituality with Colour: Vaisakhi

Recently, I attended Vaisakhi celebrations here in Kelowna. My awareness of Vaisakhi was limited to news broadcasts of similar events in Vancouver and Surrey where the turnout is reported to be in excess of 500,000.  I decided that it was time to learn more about what appeared to be a very important community event.   

 Vaisakhi has its roots in Hinduism and Sikhism. It is a historical and religious festival with distinct significance for each culture.  Vaisakhi marks the birth of the Sikh faith and is celebrated at Kelowna’s Sikh Temple. 

 Rain was threatening when I arrived at the temple but thankfully held off.  Traditional dress prevailed, men with their turbans, mostly orange, women garbed in their colorful, traditional gowns.  The area in front of the temple was jammed in readiness for a parade through the community. Music, revving motorcycles, loud chatter and even the bagpipes from the local Scottish marching band made for a rather chaotic scene. 

 But this day was much more than preparations for a parade. It was about sharing food and a meal with friends and neighbours. It was about happiness and strength garnered from an extended, productive family unit. And it was about celebrating the traditions and faith of a centuries old religion.  I hope the gallery of images I’ve included below captures the incredible feeling and excitement that permeated this celebration.  

 So, for 3 hours I joined the crowd. While I made lots of images I spent much time people watching and chatting. Clearly, there was respect of all members of the community regardless of age. I discovered also, that the ethnic food that was free for the asking was delicious. All and all it was a wonderful afternoon. 

 

Posted in Uncategorized

Artistic Longevity: Keeping the Fire Burning

Two men, two old men, entered stage right. They shuffled across the stage, the taller, his arm around the shoulder of the shorter. Both were bald. The shorter, obviously frail, wore comfort shoes that seemed to have velcro clasps. Both carried guitars. 

They found centre stage each behind a microphone, each in front of a stool. Looking out at the audience, a full house, they silently took in the moment. Then they each began to speak, quickly, not together. Laughter filled the theatre. And then the music began just as it had done 60 years ago, guitars played exquisitely, voices clear and strong. We  all were transported back to an earlier time.    

Over all these years their message has been the same:  inclusion, fairness, equality and civil rights. Always unapologetic they are as relevant today as they were in the 1960’s. 

It was  the Peter and Paul show but really it was a Peter, Paul and Mary performance. Although she passed away 9 years ago her presence was surely felt. The show was fabulous. 

So what’s the point of my story? Peter, now 80 and Paul, not that much younger,  have kept their creative  drive burning for many, many years. How? 

They believe in themselves, their art and the message it conveys. I think that is the basis of their drive and longevity. Total commitment serves to keep the ‘fire in the belly’ burning.  It’s the same for all artists, I believe.  ‘Likes’ or as some call them ‘digital hugs’ are not important. It’s about belief in one’s art and personal  commitment to improvement. With those ideals firmly held age doesn’t matter.  

The images above were made last week at the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix, Arizona. It houses one of the largest collections of desert plants from around the world. It was a day well spent.   

Posted in Education, My Work, The Creative Process

Widen Expectations: Find Images Everywhere

Two years ago, winter in the Desert Southwest was dry, very dry. I thought that the weather had been wet enough to result in a wild flower bloom on the desert that would equal or surpass that of the previous spring. I was sadly mistaken. Where flowers once formed a carpet between the Giant Saguaros and other cacti only dust and dried grasses remained. 

Our trip to Arizona is much shorter this year but it is at a time when desert foliage usually blossoms.  Even though I was aware of drought conditions News reports of heavy rain in the early part of the winter built my optimism. I fully expected an excellent flower bloom on the desert to photograph. Two ‘scouting’ trips, however,  yielded only disappointment.  

For a few days my camera sat idle. Long held anticipation had been replaced by a lack of motivation. That didn’t last.  

Near our Mesa residence is a garden ornament shop. Really, it’s just a large section of a dusty parking lot, fenced in and fill with all manner of Mexican pottery. The colours, patterns and textures of the pottery are so interesting. Amongst this wonderful colour a collection of welded, steel sculptures. Horses, dinosaurs and other interesting creations, some life size, seem to be waiting to be loaded onto a pickup truck and taken to a new garden home.   

After asking permission to make my photographs I wandered about looking for creative compositions.  Being so close it has become my go to place to photograph when I have a bit of time.  

Earlier this week I travelled to the Boyce Thompson Arboretum State Park east of Phoenix. I made sure I arrived there just after the gates opened to have time and space to myself before the crowds arrived. It’s a great place to immerse oneself in the creative process. After spending several hours making images visitors began to crowd the paths and walkways. I headed for the parking lot.

Yesterday, I visited the Desert Botanical Gardens in Tempe, AZ, a suburb of Phoenix. With several previous visits to reflect on I was looking forward to spending time there. Again, I made sure to arrive early.

Contrasts of Colour and Textures

I love the textures and shapes emphasized by the low angle of the early morning sun. They just seem to jump out of the shadows when lit by sunlight that has found its way through the branches above.

I’ll make one more trip to the desert before leaving for home at the end of the month. Hopefully, wild flowers will have emerged and the cacti have blooms to show off.   

Posted in My Work, Travel

Back Roads: Treasure Revealed

About a month ago I was the driver on a hockey road trip with our son and grandson who had an afternoon game in Oliver, B.C.

I left the boys at the arena and headed off to explore a few back roads in the area. I had an hour. After passing a now defunct recreational vehicle factory I continued on passing snow covered fields, dilapidated farm buildings and several rural residences.

Curiosity slowed me down as I passed a high board fence. Looking through the gate I saw that many old cars and trucks were piled there. I continued on but I slowed again feeling that I had missed something on the other sided of the road. I returned.

There, in the ditch opposite the junk yard’s gate was a vintage pick up truck. I think it was an early 50’s Dodge. Realizing immediately that this weathered old truck and its surrounding weeds, branches and other junk had some creative possibilities, I stopped.

This image was one of about a dozen I made that afternoon. My camera was equipped with a 35mm lens which allowed me to move in close to the truck and still capture its surroundings.

This interpretation is my favourite. I love the way this old Dodge seems to be trying to extricate itself from the underbrush, rusted junk and snow.

A vintage Dodge pickup rests in a snow filled ditch engulfed in underbrush and junk

Posted in My Work, The Creative Process

Victoria Favourites: 2nd Installment

From a photographer’s point of view Victoria is subject rich.  Historic buildings, Fisherman’s Wharf, the Esquimalt Lagoon and Mount Douglas Park are locations I love to visit. There are many more.   Almost 8 weeks spent in Victoria in 2017 allowed me to revel in that richness and make many photographs.  

‘Random’ would best describe my approach to photography. I love to get out on a camera walk and make images of subjects that catch my interest.  Now, as I examine the images I made in and around Victoria last year I see several themes emerging: Nature, On the Water, At the Dock, Historic Buildings and Landscapes. Of the several thousand images I captured in Victoria my objective now is to sort and render them down to a Favourites Collection.  

I started this process with my last article, the first of 2018. I don’t believe I’ll be able to work my Favourites down to a small groups. I like so many of them. It will probably take one or two more posts to cover my Favourites 2017 Victoria images. Then I’ll work on the others. Maybe I’ll even get to making a collection of Favourites overall. But that’s for another day.  In the meantime, I hope you enjoy the images I’ve included with this article.   

Posted in My Work, Travel