Category Archives: Education

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. 

 

Also posted in 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.

Also posted in 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.

Also posted in My Work

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.


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Also posted in 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. 

 

 

 

 

 

Also posted in The Creative Process

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.

Also posted in 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. 

Also posted in My Work, Travel

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.

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. 

Also posted in My Work

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. 

Also posted in My Work, The Creative Process