Category Archives: Education

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

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