Category Archives: My Work

Back at It: Finding a Reason

Six weeks into 2019 and I’ve finally felt like getting some meaningful photography accomplished. Making photographs has not been top of mind since Christmas. I’ve been working on  part 3 of my blog project about  the history of photography as it relates to my family’s photographs. That has taken a lot of research time. What I thought would be fairly straight forward is not. Stay tuned. It’s coming.  

A ‘polar vortex’ has had an icy grip on most of Western Canada. It’s been cold. Not so cold when I think about when we moved to Quesnel, B.C. in 1968 but certainly cold for the Okanagan Valley. 

We’ve been blessed with wind, lots of snow as well as some bright, clear, cold days. Minus 15 celsius or lower  have been common night time temperatures. All this has resulted in an landscape with many interesting photographic opportunities.

Kelowna is situated at about the mid point of Okanagan Lake, a body of water roughly 135Km in length and 4-5 Km at its widest. At its coldest this week it was calm. No wind meant that parts of the lake froze out from shore for several hundred metres.  

The natural movement of the water beneath the ice cause cracks to form. Patterns made by these cracks I find interesting to view and photograph.

As the wind rose the ice broke and was driven towards the shore. Large pans were incorporated into a frozen mush of ice. This created an beautiful foreground effect for some of the landscape images I made.

On Tuesday it snowed heavily. I had been waiting for such a day. Falling snow meant an almost invisible background, ideal for a composition I imagined at Kinsman Park. There, I thought, the solitude of an isolated park bench under the spreading branches of an old weeping willow tree would tell an interesting story.

Recently, I spotted an 1950’s vintage pickup truck nestled under a huge tree. In its box were three large wine barrels. I made a mental note to return when it next snowed.

When I returned during Tuesday’s storm snow hung on the surrounding foliage and seemed to flow off the barrels and the upper surfaces of the truck. To me, it was a perfect candidate for some extra attention with my software plugins.  

On Friday, the temperatures had warmed considerably. They were still below freezing but the change was noticeable. After dropping Ellen off for her appointment I headed over to the Fascieux Creek Wetland. Not much had changed there except that the snow had pushed the dead reeds and bullrushes down almost to water level.  

Noticeable also, was a beautiful noise. Red Winged Black Birds had arrived and were in full throated song. Perhaps it’s a sign that Spring is not so far away.

The Wonders of Nature: In an Urban Setting

It’s interesting over time how body and mind begin to run on opposing tracks. The mind, invincible. The body, less than enthusiastic.

I love to get out with my camera especially to places that are off the grid such as my trip to Port Renfrew in September. Lots of hiking to remote beaches and forest setting was involved. I handled most of this well but when I landed upside down on slippery sharp rocks I knew it was time for a reset.

Obviously, safety is a concern as well as a desire not to spoil the trip for other participants. And there is a need to evaluate photography excursions on the basis of suitability for my fitness level. While trips like those I have made to Tofino and Port Renfrew are still on my radar  there are many places close to home or to places we have traveled to that exhibit great opportunities for photographing nature.

Here in Kelowna, B.C. I spend a lot of time at the Fascieux Creek Wetland. Other locations such as Munson Pond, the Mission Creek Greenway, Okanagan Lake and the Kettle Valley Railroad are places I have been able  to make interesting photographs of birds, small mammals and beautiful landscapes.

Whether we are visiting family in Michigan, Victoria and other places on Vancouver Island I have found locations that are  easy to get to and depending on the time of day, weather and light have allowed me to make some of my favourite images.

Locations that I visit regularly allow me to build the knowledge necessary to plan effective photo outings. These scouting trips help me determine the best time of day and best equipment for the situation.

Most images I am presenting with this article were made with an older Nikon 70-300mm lens. When I use my full frame camera the maximum focal length is 300mm but if I use my cropped sensor camera the focal length increase by half, effectively extending to 450mm, ideal for bird photography.

All of these images were made in an urban environment. Street noise, passing vehicles, close proximity to walkers and their pets are common features to these locations. It almost seems as though the critters are used to their urban surroundings and feel that they are relatively safe from potential dangers.

Show and Shine: Rust to Show Piece

Sunday morning I had been tidying up after a dinner party the evening before. The TV was tuned to the History Channel, my usual go to choice. With absent minded interest I was watching ‘Rust Valley Restorations’  a show built on bringing rusty vintage cars back to life.  It featured a rough looking guy in dreadlocks. Strangely familiar the rusty vintage cars, a pitbull and the dreadlocks  had me wondering where I had come across this scene before. All very interesting yet so puzzling.  

The landscape was the first clue. I had been there before. And I had met the man with the wild dreadlocks. His dog, a pitbull, I had also met.  

In early September of 2013 I visited a vintage car museum west of Salmon Arm, B.C. Having driven past many times it was time to stop and photograph the many rusty vintage cars in the adjoining yard. That’s where I met Mike and Mini, his pitbull. 

I wrote a blog article, Camera Walk and a Pitbull,  about meeting Mike and his generosity in allowing me to photograph his nearly 200 vintage vehicles he had stored on a nearby property.  Looking back it was one of my most interesting camera adventures.  

Now it seems, Mike is doing well in the movie business.  

A short search of my image catalogue revealed  the images I made of Mike’s treasures. I also found the images I made in Victoria, B.C. in July of 2016 at the Duece Coupe Festival. The Duece, a 1932 Ford Coupe is considered by some to be the definitive ‘hot rod’. 

The differences between Mike’s rusty relics and the Duece Coupes couldn’t have been more stark. The ‘Dueces’ had been revived and totally rebuilt. They were absolutely stunning.  

I’m sure that some of these beauties started out as rusty relics.  After a great deal of hard work and money they had evolved into beautiful works of art that only a truly addicted ‘car guru’ can really appreciate.  

Some of the images I’ve included below were made at Mike’s auto restoration site. There is a certain beauty in their decayed and rusty appearance. Also included are several images I made at the Duece Coupe Festival in Victoria. Their beauty is obvious, their true beginnings, not so much.

 

Images and Thoughts: A Year in Review

In this, my last article of 2018 I’ve included a selection of my favourite images for the year. First narrowing in excess of 8,000 down to about 350 was time consuming yet fun as I relived the story behind each image. Whittling this collection down to the 20 presented here was a little more challenging. In the end I think they represent my photographic style and interests quite well.

As can be seen from this collection I have not specialized in my choice of subject matter. I like to photograph subject that at the time grab my attention. That could be people, events, landscapes, objects or wildlife.

I have spent a great deal of time at the Fascieux Creek Wetland here in Kelowna where I am able to photograph wildlife in an urban setting. It’s a place that’s easy to get to and one where I now know the best vantage points to capture interesting images.

But my work also includes images captured in my travels to the Rocky Mountains, the West Coast of British Columbia, Victoria, the Oregon Coast, Arizona, Michigan, Australia and New Zealand. Some of these are included in this collection.

Also included here is an image I made early in 2018 near Oliver, B.C. Driving along a backroad I came across an old Dodge truck in the ditch covered with snow. As it was a Sunday afternoon there was no traffic so I had lots of time to make my images. I chose this image to use plugins from Nik and Topaz Labs to make the finished product look like a painting.

(Click image to enlarge)

 

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 Education, 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 Education

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 Education

On Every Path An Image: Victoria Well Travelled

From our home away from home last month near Victoria’s Quadra Village I took a long circuitous walk through Chinatown, the downtown area and the water front. My walks really have no set plan. If a street looks interesting, that’s where I go.

I took a break at the Breakwater coffee shop. I enjoyed a very good cup of coffee and a scone while examining the images I had made so far. A few, especially those I made at Fisherman’s Wharf had possibilities.

Continuing on, I decided to explore some of the back streets of the James Bay neighbourhood. I’ve written of this area in an earlier post. It is historic, colorful and it has a special character that sets it apart from all others.

As I explored the streets I noticed that some residents had built small raised vegetable gardens on the boulevards in front of their homes. A good use of space I thought . As I approached the corner of Niagara and Pilot Streets I noticed an older woman (probably my age) struggling along with a walker. I was more interested in the school and park across the street so paid her little attention until we both reached the middle of the crosswalk on Pilot Street.

“Have you seen the Fairy Gardens?” she inquired. “They would make good pictures!”

Surprised, I replied, “No.”

“Over there!” She replied with a wave, her tone, impatient.

I looked and saw only houses and fenced yards.

“Follow me,” she commanded. And off she went. I followed.

‘There!’ she exclaimed, pointing to a patch of ground at the base of a large tree.

To my surprise, laid out neatly around the base of a large tree was a miniature village. Tiny whimsical characters, houses, fences and animals all placed to tell a ‘fair tale story’.

Pointing out that other villages surrounded the next few trees she bid me a pleasant good day and went on her way.

Much care and love had been devoted to the creation of these miniature fairy villages. I spent some time appreciating and photographing these beautiful little creations before continuing my walk.

After a few more streets of exploration I crossed Beacon Hill Park and found another coffee shop to enjoy lunch and of course another cup of coffee. Reflecting on the interesting people I’ve encountered on my walks I smiled.

The images below were made on several camera walks. They are but a sample of the many I captured along the ‘trail’. (Tap images to enlarge)

Also posted in Travel

My Old Stomping Grounds: A Camera Walk

Last week, just before returning home from Victoria I embarked on a camera walk that took me  through my old stomping grounds: the Fairfield, Rockland and Fernwood neighbourhoods.  I passed by  a number of landmarks in this area that are as prominent today as they were almost 60 years ago.  

One of those landmarks,  a giant Sequoia, is located at the corner of Moss and Richardson Streets. . Commonly found in California it was planted here as a seedling in 1854.  

Giant Sequoia

I biked past it on my way to and from school in the late ’50s and early ’60s.  A particular memory flooded back as I walked past it last week.  

Located at the bottom of the Moss Street hill a group of us regularly blew through the stop sign at the bottom of the hill. One day though, that practice came to a fateful end.   

Not noticing the parked motorcycle we raced down the hill intent on winning some sort of race. Through the stop sign we went, coming to a screeching halt when a policeman stepped out from behind a parked car, with the command, “Stop!” 

It was Constable Haymer, VPD’s motorcycle cop. He had been waiting for us.  Sternly reprimanding us he handed each of us a  ticket. I said nothing at home. A week or so later a summons to appear in court was hand  delivered to my parents. To say the least I was in trouble.  

It was a very embarrassing experience for my Mom as she was a court reporter and knew many of the court officials I was standing before. A stern warning and a fine from the judge and a lot of ‘humble pie’  from me for some time afterwards at home.  

At first glance most of the homes in this area were much the same as they were in the early 1960’s. But as I explored a saw that some had seen better days while others and been beautifully refreshed. Others, particularly in the Rockland area were exactly as I remembered them, big, solid and in some cases, enormous.  

I found our house on Craigdarroch Road, just below the castle walls. Our house on Oscar Street  had long since been replaced by an apartment complex. I walked through the beautiful gardens of Government House remembering the fire that consumed its predecessor.  

At the end of my hike I sat down in a small coffee shop on Cook Street and thought about all that I had seen. Many of the homes and gardens I had walked past seemed not to have changed. It was a great walk. It was fun to revisit memories of a time past.  The images (click to enlarge) I’ve included with my article are a mosaic of my old neighbourhood and for me a reminder of those memories.

 

Also posted in Travel

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 Education