Category Archives: Education

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.

Also posted in The Creative Process, Travel

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.   

Also posted in My Work, The Creative Process

Better Images: Practice, Practice, Practice…..

Photography is my passion. I love getting out with my camera. Sometimes I’m asked, “How do I improve my photography?” 

As an amateur it is not an easy question to answer.  While I had been involved in photography since I as a youth I didn’t make a serious effort to improve. That changed when I began to delve into digital photography. I really wanted to learn as much as possible about photography.     

I determined early on that I should study composition and exposure. It would be time well spent.   

Many resources are easily available to help with this process. David Du Chemin’s book Within the Frame: The Journey of Photographic Vision I found to be very useful.  

A  three day composition workshop with Sydney, B.C. professional photographer, Dave Hutchinson helped me apply the academic knowledge I was acquiring to direct practical use. His workshop took place in Tofino, B.C. and in the Pacific Rim National Park. Obviously, a very motivating place to be enjoying photography. Dave offered the same course the following year. I again signed up having enjoyed the previous year’s experience so much.  

Understanding the fundamentals of exposure,  ISO, shutter speed and aperture, became a priority. Again there are many resources available. I chose the highly acclaimed  book by Bryan PetersonUnderstanding Exposure. It remains current with the recent publication of a 4th edition. It is an excellent resource.  

And then, there is the real key to improvement….practice, practice and more practice. Putting all that has been learned to practical use is the best way to grow and improve photographic skills.  

Regular photography outings are important even if for only a short time. To help me concentrate on my composites I’ll often make a ‘one lens’ camera walk.  Usually, this would be my 35mm prime lens. 

Others will approach their photographic journey differently, however practice and lots of it are likely to be a common element. 

Great Blue Heron on a cold afternoon

The Fascieux Creek Wetland is an urban marsh close to home. It affords me regular opportunities to make photographs and practice my skills. Last winter, I visited there almost every day. Coincidentally,  a Great Blue Heron also visited regularly. It had found a perch just above the ice covered water that caught a few rays of sun in the afternoon. It seemed to enjoy whatever heat the sun generated. I enjoyed the gorgeous light. After a few visits it became comfortable with my presence. As long as I didn’t move quickly and was relatively quiet I was allowed to move into its space.

 

 

Also posted in My Work

V Dub in the Trees: Creative Opportunity

Beyond all others, my favorite car has always been the Austin Healey 3000 MK III. Ownership of a MKIII remains a dream. A distant 2nd on my list was the Volkswagen Beetle Type I. To me both are character cars. 

We had a blue 1968 ‘V Dub’, a Type I. It was brand new and lasted until our family grew.  Size then began to matter. I wish we still had that little blue beetle.  

Some are still on the road. The sound of their noisy exhaust pipes, unmistakable. Sadly, many others are inoperable and can be seen as relics in back yards, vacant lots or in lonely sections of farmers’ fields rusted out amongst other irrelevant junk.  

Last week, while exploring for photo opportunities near  Witty’s Lagoon and Albert Head in Metchosen, B.C. we chanced upon a farm yard with this wrecked  ‘V Dub’ resting near a back fence. It was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up. As the 19th century scientist, Louis Pasteur, said, “chance favors the prepared mind.”   

Often in our travels I’ve observed relics of old cars and trucks resting in roadside properties. Creative ideas flowed with many ideas imagined.  As I made a series of image of this particular find, I visualized a workflow that would result in a creative interpretation of the scene before me.   

Farmyard Relic

The composition I chose to work with was a vertical. I felt it more effectively showed the car blending into the world in which it lives. As I composed my images I carefully thought about each element to reduce or hopefully eliminate the need to crop out unwanted objects.   

Plugins from NIK Software and Topaz Labs that work within the Photoshop framework are ideal for what I was hoping to achieve. After performing a few basic adjustments in Lightroom I moved the image off to Photoshop and my plugins where the creative possibilities are endless.  

This old relic and its gritty surroundings instilled a feeling of nostalgia within me. I wondered how long it had been there and if it would ever feel the loving hands of a restorer.  

Also posted in My Work

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.

Also posted in 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.  

Also posted in 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.

Also posted in 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.

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!

 

Also posted in 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. 

 

 

Also posted in My Work