Category Archives: My Work

Random Thoughts: Artwalk

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

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

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

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

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

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

the most important outcome from the Artwalk experience.

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

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

 

Also posted in Education, The Creative Process

Choices and Themes: Artwalk

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Also posted in Education, The Creative Process

Artwalk Weekend: Coming Soon

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

Also posted in The Creative Process

Boys Will Be Boys: The Way It Used To Be

Following the memorial service for Ellen’s dad we headed to Qualicum Beach to visit with her sister, Diane and brother in law,  Pete. On the way we stopped in at Canvas Plus in Ladysmith, B.C. to pick up the prints that I will have on display at this year’s Art Walk in Lake Country. As with last year they did a great job.

While in Qualicum, I made an early morning visit to Rathtrevor Beach in Parksville. The tide was low and the beach seemed to stretch out forever. After making some images of beach textures and a few landscapes I drove to the government wharf at French Creek.

Fishing season is in full swing for commercial and recreational fisherman. It was very busy at the French Creek wharf. I love the colour and action as fishermen unload their catches while others clean their fish at the fish table. Gulls screech in frantic excitement as they clamour for castoff bits and pieces.

As I poked around the wharf I noticed a crowd gathering at the fish table so wandered over. A proud fisherman held up a 31 pound Chinook salmon. He was joined by another who sported a 19 pounder. As they cleaned their fish interest grew not only from other fishermen but from the gull population. Entrails and fins were washed down the sluice into the water below. In a screeching  frenzy gulls tried to snag  pieces  of the enticing smorgasbord.

But the basis of this story occurred on a return trip to the wharf two days later. Again, it centred on the fish table.

My focus was to capture action and colour around the fishing boats but the screeching and clamour of gulls near the fish table distracted me. Passing a fisherman carrying a huge salmon filet I headed in that direction.

Two boys, likely about 12 years old, were working at the fish table. Their bikes complete with backpacks and fishing rods were lying on the ground. They appeared to be cleaning a large salmon. Instead they were working on the remains of a fish left behind by a previous fisherman. I inquired about what they were up to. “Bait!” they exclaimed together. Obviously, they were on their way to their favourite fishing spot and needed bait for their hooks.

As we chatted they flung bits and pieces into the water to the great approval of the gulls and a lone otter who managed to grab a huge chunk before swimming to a safe haven under the wharf.

I was reminded of my childhood as I asked them a few questions. How wonderful it was to be able to ‘cruise’ my neighbourhood in Victoria when I was their age. Unsurpervised, me and my friends spent long summer days playing scrub softball, swimming at the old Crystal Pool or fishing off the end of the Breakwater. After a few daily chores and giving Mom a rough idea of where we would be we were off. The only stipulation, “Be on time for supper!”.

In today’s modern world with so many technical gadgets to grab our attention such stories seem few and far between. These boys on the wharf in French Creek in my opinion were living the dream.

Also posted in The Creative Process, Travel

Moments in Time: The Henry Ford (Part 2)

In a previous article I wrote about Greenfield Village the outdoor museum associated with the Henry Ford in Dearborn, Michigan. The indoor museum at the Henry Ford is just as captivating as Greenfield Village. It too, is a wonderful place to reminisce and of course to make photographs.

Beginning as Henry Ford’s personal collection of historic objects the indoor facility is housed in a building of over 500,000 square feet. Antique machinery, ordinary household utensils, pop culture items, automobiles, aircraft and locomotives are housed in this wonderful building. It opened in 1933. A careful examination of the images I’ve included below reveals that this building is absolutely stunning.

The Henry Ford complex is advertised as a museum of American history and innovation. I like to think of it as applying to both Canada and the United States. Old photographs of my grandfather’s farm in Saskatchewan show tools, machinery and modes of transportation that were commonly used in both countries and that are now on display at the Henry Ford Museum. In one of my first visits to the Henry Ford my mom accompanied us. She pointed out numerous appliances and utensils that were in use in her family’s home in the early 1900’s.

The Ford name is associated best with the automobile industry. Within the museum is a huge collection of beautifully restored vintage cars, representations of vintage fuel company signs and even early recreation vehicles.

The aviation display is also impressive and features a 1925 Fokker F VII triplane, a 1939 Sikorsky VS 300A helicopter and a Replica of the 1903 Wright Flyer. A 1939 Douglas DC-3 hangs from the ceiling.

The inventions of Thomas Edison and the growth of the electric power grid are well displayed but to me the most dominant display can be found in the museum section devoted to railroad history. Foremost in this exhibit is the 600 ton Chesapeake & Ohio Railway’s massive Allegheny steam engine. It was introduced into service in 1941. It was one of the largest steam locomotives ever built and could pull 160 fully loaded cars each loaded with 60 tones of coal. By the early 1950’s diesel locomotives had replaced these steam giants but the romantic period of steam is indelible in our history.

It would take many visits to the Henry Ford Museum to really appreciate the scope and meaning of the artifacts that are on display. There is so much to see and to photograph. Certainly, I will be making a return visit the next time we are in Michigan. 

Also posted in Education, Travel

Coastal Experience: Deep in the Forest

My first encounter with B.C.’s old growth forests occurred in the mid 1960’s. I was employed by John Motherwell, a B.C. land surveyor and engineer. We were working on a project in Holberg, B.C. a logging community on northern Vancouver Island.

I distinctly remember the size of the ‘off road’ logging trucks that plied the gravel roads we travelled to access our job site. They were huge. One morning a loaded logging truck approached us. It was carrying just one log, a section of an ancient old growth tree.

A few years later in the spring of 1968, Ellen and I packed our Volkswagen Beetle and headed off to Long Beach for a long weekend camping trip. Now, it is a very popular tourist destination located between Tofino and Ukuelet on the west coast of Vancouver Island. Back then the road to the coast was fairly new and rough. In poor weather conditions the trip was difficult. Now, it is part of the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve and easily accessible.

Passing Kennedy Lake on our way to the coast we were stunned by a devastated forest. What had been an ancient old growth forest was gone. It had been clear cut. Stumps and logging rubble littered the landscape. Protests by indigenous and environmental groups eventually lead to an outright ban in some areas of cutting old growth trees and certainly a more sustainable forest practices code. But, the damage had been done.

Fifty years later, those clear cut areas look refreshed. Seedling that were planted to replace the old trees have grown into a vibrant ‘second growth’ forest. Interestingly, hikes through these renewed forests reveal the huge stumps left behind by the loggers who felled the old growth giants half a century or more ago. Today, they are just rotting relics but serve as a reminder of what had once been a magnificent ancient forest.

In the last year, I’ve made two trips to Port Renfrew, B.C. and to sections of the wild west coast that reflect the reality of today’s coastal forests. There are several areas where blocks of second growth forest have been logged. Even here, the stumps of the original ancient forest remain in start contrast the most recent cut.

For the most part though the forest, right down to the ocean edge, is thriving. Streams bubble through small valleys and cuts bringing the essence of life through the forest and down to the ocean.

It is interesting to witness how ‘Mother Nature’ heals the land after it had been reduced to rubble. Slowly, the old stumps are being returned to the earth. New growth finds small nooks and crannies even in the bark of an ‘ancient, to find life sustaining nourishment.

I remember the hike to Sombrio Beach where the second growth trees are flourishing. But just before the beach the path passes through a campsite and a grove of ancient trees. They seem to reach to the sky. Magnificent!

Avitar Grove, about a half hour’s drive from Port Renfrew is an example of an Ancient Old Growth forest that has been preserved. Huge ancient old trees, new trees, deciduous and evergreen as well as some that have fallen cover the landscape. Here the presence of the ‘Ancients’ is felt. Its almost mystical and to my eye, beautiful.

Also posted in Education, Travel

Moments in Time: The Henry Ford

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Also posted in Travel

Coastal Experience: Learning Continues

Port Renfrew, B.C. is a small coastal town on the west coast you of Vancouver Island located directly opposite Cape Flattery, the northern most point of the continental United States. It marks the entrance to the Strait of Juan de Fuca which separates Vancouver Island from Washington State. In mid 1900’s Port Renfrew was central to the logging industry. Today, it is better known for ecotourism activities.

Recently, I participated in a four day workshop in the Port Renfrew area with professional photographer, Dave Hutchison and four other enthusiasts. He presented a similar workshop in September, also in Port Renfrew which I attended. .

On my most recent trip to Port Renfrew conditions were mild and relatively calm. In September it was stormy. Winds, waves and hanging mist along the foreshore and in the forest were ideal for making very interesting images. Regardless of the weather it is always beautiful.

I’ve participated in four workshops with Dave Hutchison. Two have been in Port Renfrew. The other two have been in the Tofino/Ukuelet area in the Pacific Rim National Park. His workshops are well organized and thoroughly researched. I have appreciated and benefitted from his hands on teaching style. The ease with which he helps his students solve problems reflects his wide photographic base of knowledge.

Pristine beaches and ancient old growth forests are easily accessible from Port Renfrew. Dave designed this workshop to take advantage of the best light for making effective landscape photographs in these beautiful locations.

The Vancouver Island photography workshops have been wonderful learning experiences for me. I’ve learned a lot about photography, my camera and about the effective use of ‘light’ in making landscape compositions. But I’ve also learned a lot about myself.

We hiked into some pretty tough (for me) locations. The willingness of the mind was certainly overshadowed by the reluctance of the body. Fortunately, the mind prevailed.  I’m sure that when an opportunity arises for me to again spend time on the west coast of Vancouver Island with my camera, I’ll take a very close look. But fitness will have to remain a priority.

The collection of images I’ve included with this article were made in close proximity to or along the various beaches we hiked during the May and the September workshops. I so much enjoyed the variety lighting conditions, the textures of the beaches and rocky cliffs  and the beautiful vistas as I hiked along such beautiful west coast beaches.  

Also posted in The Creative Process, Travel

Family Photos: A Life Documented

The Canadian Journey for both sides of my family began in the mid to late 1800’s. J.L. Cotter came to Sault St. Marie at the age of 18 to begin a long career with the Hudson’s Bay Company. The Dales were drawn to Canada from England by slick government and CPR advertising that promised free land and a better way life.

Like many settlers, their expectations were likely tempered by much uncertainty. Over time the Dales learned to farm and did eke out a living. But extreme winters, drought conditions, plagues of grasshoppers and the blowing dust storms that affected most of central North America in the 1930’s must have at times, made life unbearable.

The Cotter’s were “Hudson Bay People”. They were assigned to remote trading posts along the Labrador Coast, the northern and central regions of Quebec, Ontario around James Bay and in Saskatchewan where housing was supplied. Their stories were more about the friends and the relationships they developed not of the obvious hardships they had to deal with.

The articles I’ve previously posted about my family photos were focused on the history and development of photography. The story of glass plate negatives, large heavy cameras, Kodak’s first Brownie camera and the emergence of transparent plastic negatives and much smaller cameras is remarkable.

But there is another aspect of photography that is also very important. The use of the camera to tell stories: documentary photography.

The stories of grasshoppers devouring crops of wheat on the Dale Family farm near Qu’appelle or my mom’s experience of traveling to and from boarding school in Prince Albert via dog sled in winter and canoe in the spring and fall months are so different from daily life today. But to see how and where they lived in the photographs they collected evokes a completely different emotion. It’s visual and very real.

There are a great many photographs from both sides of the family. From them I have developed a fairly accurate understanding of the environment in which they lived. But it’s my mother’s albums that have really captured my interest. They document her life from her early years through to a short time before she passed away in 2000.

This first set of images documents the 1907 wedding of my grandparents, H.M.S. Cotter and Beatrice Wilson in Longueuil, P.Q. The remaining images were made in and around the HBC post, Fort Chimo on Ungava Bay.

Most of the images in the second group of images were made in Cumberland House, the Hudson’s Bay Company’s first inland post. It was Saskatchewan’s oldest permanent settlement, founded in 1774 by Samuel Hearn.

The last group of images are about life after the Hudson’s Bay Company. Most were made in Victoria, B.C. while the last two were made in Vernon, B.C.

It occurred to me as I studied my family’s photographs that social media is nothing new. The mode of making and storing images has changed dramatically. But even in photography’s infancy images were shared, discussed at family gatherings, sent in the mail and collected in albums. I’m sure that if my mom had the use of an iPhone camera her images would be numerous and well organized. Instead of being stored in plastic tubs they would probably fill the ‘Cloud’.

Family Photos: Photographic History (Part 3)

In a previous article I described how my great grand father, A.A Dale, brought his family to Canada. They left what seemed to be a safe and secure in search way of life in England in search of a better life in Canada. They settled on a quarter section of land near Qu’Appelle, Saskatchewan. Stories told by my dad indicate that they were totally unprepared for conditions they had to endure.

My mom’s side of the family, the Cotter’s, arrived in North America and ultimately Saskatchewan via a very different route and purpose than that of my Dad’s family. James Laurence Cotter (J.L. in short), my great grandfather, was born in Madras, India. His father, George Sackville Cotter was a colonel in the Royal Madras Artillary.

J.L. left India for Edinburgh, Scotland at an early age. There he went to school and was raised by his grandmother. In 1857 at the age of 18 he joined the Hudson’s Bay Company as an apprentice clerk and was send to Sault St. Marie to begin his career. In 1868 he married Frances Ironsides. They had 11 children one of them being my grandfather, Henry Martin Stuart Cotter. Over the course of his career J.L. rose to be in charge of the Hudson Bay Company’s Southern Trading District based in Moose factory.

My grandfather was born at Little Whale River. He also joined the HBC. He was posted to Fort Chimo, on Ungava Bay in the north eastern part of Quebec where my Aunt Francis was born. He and his family were transferred to Cumberland House in Saskatchewan where he was the chief trader.

In the mid to late 1930’s both sets of grand parents, the Cotters and the Dales, moved to Victoria to live out the rest of their lives in retirement.

My great grandfather, J.L. Cotter while well travelled in the wilds of Ontario and Quebec is said to have been better known as a photographer.

He made his own camera. I sometimes wonder whether he had purchased a kit from which a camera could be assembled. My research showed that in the 19th century these were available. His photographs were some of the first ever taken around Hudson’s Bay. They are sharp, clear images of life in the wildness in the 1870’s. Historians and anthropologists have shown particular interest in his artistically composed images. His photographs captured a view of life that had changed very little since the establishment of Moose Factory, Ontario at the southern end of James Bay in 1673. Nine drawing in the June 7, 1879 edition of Harper’s Weekly in New York feature drawing based on his photographs.

Travel in the Ontario wilderness in my great grandfather’s era was by canoe on the rivers and under sail on the waters of Hudson’s Bay. That makes this story even more remarkable.

Negative were made on thin glass plates coated with a light-sensitive emulsion of silver salts. Contact prints were made from his 4 x 6 inch glass plates using a ‘silver salts on paper mounted on card – albumen’ process. Certainly, the supply of glass plates and chemicals was heavy, awkward to pack and cumbersome to carry.

The images I’ve included with this post were all made between 1870 and 1880. They are a remarkable view of life in the northern regions of Ontario and Quebec at the time and very likely for decades previous. While many of my great grandfather’s images are housed in the Hudson Bay Company’s archives in Winnipeg and in the National Archives in Ottawa I found these on line at the private McCord Gallery which is located in Montreal.