Cruising in Europe: Along the Danube

Sixty Eight locks allow our cruise ship the Scenic Opal to transit the south flowing Danube River over the continental divide to the north flowing Rhine River via the Main River Canal on its voyage from Budapest to Amsterdam. And while these rivers, canals and locks are popular with travelers they are major transportation routes for barges carrying everything from new cars, bulk commodities and fuel.

We are at the half way point in the cruise section of our trip, all so far on the Danube River. Weather has become a concern for our cruise director. A lack of rain in the upper reaches of the river has resulted in low water levels. Our ship and others are stopped in the small town of Vilshofen in Germany waiting for a weather system to drop some much needed rain. It seems that the river cruises in Europe can be susceptible to the mercies of high or low water levels. And so we wait.

In the meantime, our cruise director has utilized the fleet of 4 luxury busses that Scenic owns to transport us to a variety of beautiful little towns and villages. Christmas markets are extremely popular not only with tourists but with local citizens. Central squares and side streets are clogged with tiny booths that are decorated for Christmas and exhibit a wide range of traditional and popular ornaments and souvenirs.

Our favorites though are the markets where local artisans display their own creations. There is something very special about an original piece created locally by a talented craftsman.

Also very popular at all Christmas markets is traditional food such as bratwurst, pretzels and strudels. One cannot forget the popularity of gluhwein (mulled wine) of which there seem to be many different varieties each served in a mug representative of the local area.

The images I’ve included here were made in and around Vienna, Durnstein, Melk and Salzburg in Austria and Regensburg, Germany. To my eye the beauty of the street scapes and architecture is breathtaking. The crowds in Vienna in the central square around St. Stephen’s Cathedral and in the various Christmas markets that we were able to visit were astounding.

Early last Sunday morning I enjoyed the quiet solitude of Durnstein’s cobble stone streets. It was a great opportunity for me to get a feel for the history and layout of this old Austrian village and capture a few scenes of interest.

Posted in Education, My Work, Travel

Cruising in Europe: To Budapest

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Posted in My Work, Travel

The Colour of Fall: Brilliant

My motivation to be out and about with my camera this last few weeks was to capture the colour of the leaves before they fell to the ground. While there is a wonderful range of colours in the total landscape including orchards and gardens my focus was on the natural landscape.

Ponderosa pine is the predominant species of trees in the Okanagan area. Douglas fir, Engleman spruce and other conifers are also present depending on elevation, soil and moisture conditions . Deciduous trees including alder, birch, aspens, cotton wood and maples provide the colour. They tend to be located where there is greater access to moisture. So, I sought out hillside depressions and local area creeks.

The closest and most popular waterway is Mission Creek, a major tributary to Okanagan Lake. It’s a beautiful area with a very popular walking trail. I find the upper reaches of Mission Creek to be more desirable as it is not as busy and has more interesting compositional opportunities.

Powers Creek runs through Glen Canyon

I also made trips to the ranchland above Lake Country, B.C., Kalimoir Park and the Regional Parks around Mill Creek, Bertram Creek and Glen Canyon. All of these locations provided me with great opportunities and I think some pretty good results.

On all the trips to these locations I was blessed with bright, sometimes filtered sun. The lower angle of the sun served to brighten the orange and yellow leaves.

Fast rushing waters of Powers Creek in Glen Canyon

The images I’ve included with this article were made in the Glen Canyon Regional Park along Powers Creek. I loved how the colour of the leaves enhances the surrounding textures.

I hadn’t been to this part of Powers Creek before. The canyon itself is very narrow. Somewhere in the upper reaches of the canyon there is likely a water fall. I’ll have to check that out on a future trip to this area.

Fall colours surround Powers Creek as it emerges from Glen Canyon

Sometimes, I think I’ve been spoiled by all the photography I’ve been able to do on Vancouver Island this past 4 or 5 years. At home, I’ve caught myself thinking, “There’s nothing to photograph around here!” That of course is a myth. There are many photographic opportunities in the Kelowna area and in the Okanagan Valley. It’s just a matter of getting ‘you know what’ in gear and getting out there with my camera.

Posted in My Work, The Creative Process

Fascieux Creek: An Urban Wetland

One would assume, based on  the images I have included below that the the Fascieux Creek Wetland is located in a rural area far from urban development. Its not! It is located in the Okanagan Mission area of Kelowna. Bounded on opposing  sides by two major city streets and on its other two side by townhouses and apartment buildings it’s an urban wetland.

When I was setting up for this image I didn’t realize that the water was frozen until this group of ducks came shuffling into my view finder. 

This little wetland has an area of about three and a half acres and is a popular walking area for local residents. It  is fed by a network of streams, some now encased in culverts, that ultimately empty into Okanagan Lake. 

From my home to the Fascieux Creek Wetland is about a 15 minute drive. I had no idea that it existed until a friend mentioned it to me several years ago. Since then, I have made countless trips to capture literally thousands of  images of the critters and plant life that reside there.

Red wing black birds, hawks and a variety of ducks are just some of the birds that frequent Fascieux Creek. But the most impressive and my favourite is the Great Blue Heron. I’ve photographed the resident Great Blue many times. Grudgingly it seems, he has allowed me into his space to let me make some very interesting photographs. 

Also present in this wetland are muskrats, beaver, raccoons, rats, weasels and turtles.  I’ve even found a nest of garter snakes.  The most important resident is the beaver. I think he falls into the category of a keystone species. Without the beaver the water level would not be consistent. This allows all the other species to thrive.

The beaver is also an engineer, always constructing dams. City workers show up every now and then to remove the dams only to have them rebuild somewhere else in the wetland. It is an interesting dynamic which the beaver always seems to win.  

Within the Fascieux Creek Wetland are areas of quiet water, beautiful refections, tangled bush and fallen, dead trees.

Initially, there was lots of  open water in the wetland. Photographic opportunities were available in all seasons of the year. Now, as a consequence of the beaver’s engineering  and the resulting the higher water level there is a proliferation of reeds and bull rushes that have clogged up most of the open areas of water.

Some of the branches on this tree are dead. Most of the leaves from the other branches are on the ground,

The best times to make photographs in the wetland now are in late fall, winter when the reeds are pushed down by snow and in the spring before the reeds start to grow. I’ve learned where and when to find many of the wetland’s species. Those that are nocturnal are more difficult to observe but I have spotted their tracks in the wintertime snow.

There are other small urban wetlands in the Kelowna area that I am starting to pay attention to so I don’t spend as much time as I used to at the Fascieux Creek Wetland. It, however, is still my ‘go to’ place to find interesting images when I just need to get out with my camera for an hour or so.

 

Posted in My Work, The Creative Process

Road Trip Continued: Down the Island to Victoria

It was a clear, crisp day when Ellen and me walked Rathtrevor Beach near Parksville two weeks ago. The tide was so low that the beach seemed to disappear into the far distance. The low angle of the sun accentuated the sand’s ripple like textures left behind by the receding tide. We weren’t the only ones on the beach but the wide open space gave us the feeling that we had the whole beach to ourselves.

In early August when I last visited French Creek, the wharf was alive with activity. Fishing boats were coming and going, the fish cleaning table was busy and the shreaking of sea gulls was incessant. On this visit it was quiet. Prawn and tuna sales on a lone fishing boat and maintenance activities on others kept a few people busy. That’s all! Sadly, some of the larger boats displayed ‘for sale’ signs, an indication perhaps of the fishing industry’s poor health.

After spending a few days in the Qualicum Beach and Parksville area we headed down Vancouver Island to Victoria. We were both looking forward to visiting my sister and her husband and our wonderful friends.

This trip to Victoria would be our first without having Ellen’s dad to visit. For over 5 years we had made regular trips to be with him in his declining years. It is so different now without him but there are many memories to cherish.

I love to take long walks in Victoria. My camera is always with me. Usually, I start or end at one of my favourite coffee shops, the Oak Bay Marina Café or the Breakwater Bistro and Café. Often I spend time in these coffees shops working on my iPad drafting future blog articles.

The Oak Bay Marina Café overlooks a colourful collection of pleasure crafts and commercial fishing boats. With a backdrop of Mount Baker in Washington State it is a beautiful place to make images. The Breakwater Bistro and Café overlooks the cruise ship terminal at Odgen Point. Its an active and colourful place especially during cruise boat season.

The collection of images above was made on two separate camera walks. One started at Ogden Point and the other in Oak Bay. On both occasions my camera was equiped with a 35mm prime lens.

Near my sister’s home is the Gowlland Tod Provincial Park. A mid morning hike through the park brought us to Todd Inlet, a branch of Saanich Inlet. There we found the remains of a cement plant and wharf that was closed in 1919. In the day, cement was manufactured and shipped from this location. The quary from which the rock was taken to make the cement was reclaimed and developed into the now world famous Butchart Gardens which opened in 1929.

Not much is left of the cement plant facility. Concrete pilings are still in place, a stack of concrete pilings that were never installed and building foundations show the signs of decay, rot and the touch of graffiti artists. Bird houses have been nailed to some of the old wharf’s wooden pilings. Even a crumbling chimney still reaches above the trees.

 

Posted in My Work, Travel

Road Trip: Return to Cathedral Grove

Last week we travelled to Vancouver Island to visit friends and relatives. It was a highly anticipated road trip. I would be delivering a print of my Great Blue Heron and signing and hanging another, Sunset Majesty,  as well as getting out with my camera.

On the way, while traveling on the B.C. Ferry  from Tsawwassen to Duke Point I started this article. There were many directions it could go. But I could not come up with any coherent thoughts.

That changed though after an impromptu trip to Cathedral Grove. I hadn’t been there for several years so I  was thrilled to again  be amongst a world renowned preserve of ancient old growth trees.

Located 25km west of Qualicum Beach on Highway #4, MacMillan Provincial Park (Cathedral Grove) was established in 1947. At only 350 hectares it is a rare stand of ancient trees that is easily accessible and where one can observe our natural heritage and an irreplaceable ecosystem that at one  time thrived all along the British Columbia coast.

News broadcasts in mid January this year reported that severe windstorms had destroyed a significant number of the park’s cherished old growth trees. I was anxious to see and understand what had happened.

In total, just under 200 trees were broken or felled by the winds. Fortunately, the oldest trees survived. Experts believe that this forest is coming to the end of its life cycle, about 800 years and that the damage is consistent with the age and  condition of the trees.

Boardwalks and split log fencing guide visitors past the Ancients while protecting the park’s integrity. A thick canopy of branches filtered sunlight and protected the forest floor. Fallen trees  slowly but surely are  decomposing. New growth springs from the rich forest soil. It is such an interesting environment where the largest of trees,  the smallest fungi and everything in between seem to thrive.

As I slowly walked between these giants I wondered what peoples lived and walked here so  many decades ago. It’s almost a mystical place. The collection of images I made include the new and the ancient. To me this is a place to be revered and protected as should other locations where Old Growth trees still thrive.

 

Posted in My Work

55 Plus B.C. Games: Grey Power

It’s no secret that I love photography! Subjects I like vary but usually they centre on landscapes, the natural world and of course sporting activities involving my grand children. When at the coast I love wandering about fishing wharves like the Government wharf in French Creek or Fishermans’ Wharf in Victoria.

Community events are also a source of photographic inspiration for me. I think it’s the passion and drive of the individual participants that attracts me to these activities.

Many times I have photographed the Kelowna Apple Triathlon, the Pickleball Nationals, the Sikh Viasakhi festival, the Antique Power Club’s celebration of steam power and the Vernon Winter Carnival. They are close to home. Farther afield the Gourd Festival in Casa Grande, Arizona and this year’s Northwest Deuces festival in Victoria have been lots of fun to visit.

Music at the Gourd Festival

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Last week, I served as a volunteer photographer for the 55 Plus B.C. Games. It was a fantastic event. The participants and most of the volunteers were seniors. Their skill level, drive and determination in their chosen sport or activity was incredible. It was such an inspiring atmosphere.

I chose to photograph ice hockey and pickleball both of which I had a lot of experience. And I also photographed tennis, bocce, archery, track and field and table tennis. Certainly, age has slowed the participants but their high skill level, passion and determination was impressive.

On Thursday afternoon, after leaving the tennis courts, I decided to see what was going on at the Apple Bowl. A heat of the 100 yard dash was just about to start.

The starting gun cracked and a group of runners surged down the track. They were fast! Even the runner in last place was no slouch. I was stunned. How in the world could a group of seniors run with such ease?

Archery

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The 55 Plus B.C. Games were a wonderful display of ‘grey power’. Yes, bodies were a bit rumpled and a step slower but the desire to compete and perform well was very evident. Evident also, was the power of friendship and camaraderie. What a fabulous environment to be involved in and to photograph!

Posted in Education, My Work

Random Thoughts: Artwalk

It never ceases to amaze me! Support from the general public for Lake Country’s ArtWalk continues to be unbelievable. Hundreds of visitors course through the Community Complex to view art from so many different disciplines. Held annually on the 2nd weekend in September it is the largest and perhaps most prestigious event of its kind in the interior of British Columbia.

This was the 9th year that I have had my work on display at Artwalk. For me, it is a real honour to be included with so many other fine artists. Not only is it interesting to interact with the many visitors that will pass by my work but is so much fun to greet the many friends and acquaintances who take the time to come out and visit.

People watching is all part of being at Artwalk. Locating myself close to where my work is hung I can easily eavesdrop on conversations and observe reactions when people view my or other artists work. Sometimes I insert myself into a conversation to clear up a misconception or to answer a question that may have been expressed aloud.

Sometimes questions are direct. “Is that picture photoshopped?” Or “What kind of camera do you use? It must be expensive.” And sometimes, the comments are just plain hilarious.One comes to mind.

Two ladies, elderly as I recall were having a conversation about my Great Blue Heron. Their conversation concluded when one of the ladies realized that I was nearby and exclaimed, “This painting is better than a Robert Bateman!” And then she capped this off with, “You made it look just like a photograph.” All of us who heard this conversation just about collapsed as we tried to stifle our laughter.

Neither of my two ‘Artwalk’ images found new homes. But,  I had a great time interacting with visitors and learning a few things from my fellow artists. To me, that is a

the most important outcome from the Artwalk experience.

 

There is one image that I had hoped would have been juried into Artwalk this year and another that I should have submitted for consideration. Both were made in the Avitar Grove near Port Renfrew. They depict the west coast rain forest. I did submit Regeneration, an image of the second growth forest showing nature’s regenerative powers after the area was heavily logged in the early to mid 20th century. I just loved the brilliance of the varying shades of green in the forest that day. 

Ancient Oldgrowth is an image that I should have submitted to the jury panel. It shows the juxtaposition of an ancient old growth red cedar amidst young, tender deciduous branches and leaves. The ‘old ancient’  had been there for hundreds of years, the ‘young tenders,’ just a few.  In my mind, both of these images show the past and present beauty of the westcoast rainforest. 

 

Posted in Education, My Work, The Creative Process

Choices and Themes: Artwalk

Invariably, after Artwalk I think, “That will be the last one!” And invariably, I keep coming back. It helps that my work has passed the jury test in all but one of the years I have submitted it for consideration  and that my sales record has been quite good.  

There’s more to it though. I enjoy interacting with other artists and the  many visitors that come to see such a wonderful display of art. The atmosphere to me is electric. 

Most of the time I’ve been a deadline guy, waiting until the last minute to get my submissions together. Searching through hundreds of images for ‘just the right one’ is taxing especially when I haven’t established a set of parameters.

This year I made a change. Early on I made a special category in my  image catalogue and moved images to that file that I thought would be good candidates. That certainly made final selections much easier. 

Canvas is my favourite medium on which to print my images. I love the bright colours and the print sizes that can be realized with canvas. Depending on the image once these prints are mounted on their stretching bars they can framed or hung as is.

Of the seven images I submitted to the Artwalk jury this year all would look great printed on canvas. Five of the images fit into a “West coast” theme. They were made on two recent  trips to Port Renfrew, B.C.

One of the images was made in Michigan close to where our son resides. It was a cool, clear autumn day last year when I made this image of large trees reflected in the Huron River. 

My favourite, the Great Blue Heron, was made at the Fascieux Creek Wetland here in Kelowna. It is one of several thousand I have made at this location. 

Of the images I submitted two were accepted by the jury, Sunset Beach and the Great Blue Heron. While I believed they all would show well at Artwalk, I’m very pleased with these two selections.

Posted in Education, My Work, The Creative Process

Artwalk Weekend: Coming Soon

Artwalk this year occurs  in Lake Country, B.C. on the 7th and 8th of September.  It is an annual  celebration of art from the greater Okanagan community. As many as 7,000 visitors make their way to Lake Country to enjoy the work of many talented artists. For me,  it is a wonderful opportunity to interact with  other artists and with the hundreds visitors that come to view and perhaps purchase a piece of quality art work. 

A jury panel reviews the work of all  artists.  Photographers, unlike other artists, submit the work that they hope to display to the jury panel. Those pieces that pass the jury test are eligible for entry into Artwalk. Other artists have their ‘body of work’ juried. Passing that test allows these artists to enter Artwalk without further jurying.

My involvement with Artwalk began in 2010. Since then I’ve had my work pass the jury test every year but one. That year I tried something on the ‘wild’ side. I liked my submissions but sadly the jury wasn’t into ‘wild’.

The gallery below represents most if not all of  images that were accept by the Artwalk jury from 2010 to 2018. As I worked on this blog article I enjoyed going into my files to retrieve these special images. Each of them has a different pathway of development. It’s interesting to see what technique works with a specific image.

The most popular image has been “Old Victoria”, a view of the buildings along Wharf Street in Victoria, B.C.  It’s the last one in the gallery below. Late one afternoon I was walking near the Delta Hotel across the harbour from Wharf Street. The sun was low and bright and seemed to bring the faded colours of the building walls to life. The process I used made it look look like a painting.  “Old Victoria” printed on canvas and framed looked fabulous. It was juried into the 2015 Artwalk where it quickly sold. Subsequently, four additional prints were sold. 

In my next blog article I’ll write about the gallery of images I submitted to this year’s Artwalk and discuss those that were accepted. Enjoy and if you have questions about my work visit me at this year’s Artwalk or send me a message.

 

 

 

Posted in My Work, The Creative Process