Category Archives: My Work

Updating my Blog: Testing Functionality

I’ve finally found a notification system that meets my needs. It will send those that sign up and confirm their participation  an email whenever I post an  article to my blog. 

If you are interesting in receiving a notification email whenever I post a new article to my blog please sign up as indicated on the right. You can opt out at any time. If you’re not interested in participating that’s just fine. My blog will still be published and I’ll post it to Facebook as a general notification. Participation ensures you won’t miss future posts.  Thanks in advance for considering my request. 

I’m starting to prepare for our now,  annual month long trip to Victoria. Again, I’m looking forward to spending time with family and friends and to the photographic opportunities that are so prevalent there.

Below is an image I made at Cowichan Bay near Duncan, B.C. It was just after sun up and so calm. The black and white version is my favourite. 

The emerging light of sunrise reveals the tranquility of Cowichan Bay.

 

The Workshop Experience: Loving the Coast

Dave Hutchison’s “ Vancouver Island Coastal Experience” took place last weekend in Port Renfrew, B.C. I had been looking forward to this workshop for several months. It more than lived up to my expectations.

September weather conditions on the west coast of Vancouver Island can be variable. Sunshine is not guaranteed. For the most part the sun did not shine for the duration of the workshop. Rain came instead, sometimes heavily. Despite being well prepared, I did get soaked a few times. Most important though, I was able to keep my camera gear reasonably dry.

Most of what Dave had planned for the weekend took place. Unfortunately, overcast skies on Saturday forced the cancellation of a night shoot. Given the complete lack of light pollution that would have been spectacular. Instead, we hiked back to Botanical Beach creating interesting compositions until darkness set in. A debrief session at the Port Renfrew Pub was a welcome end to the day.

Age is a factor when I go on wilderness hikes and workshops. I use the word Geezer in the title of my blog for a reason. I’m old! For that reason I make sure I have a good understanding of the physical challenges that I will be faced with. And I try to keep reasonably fit.

The eleven or so kilometers of hiking we did on Saturday plus those accumulated on Friday and Sunday were OK. But I had difficulty finding solid footing while climbing up a wet rocky headland on Saturday morning. Despite my best efforts to remain upright I took a tumble. Luckily, I was not seriously damaged. I mention all this only as a caution to be considered when embarking on a wilderness workshop or expedition.

Dave had us in the field from first light until after sundown. Short breaks to change out of wet clothing and to grab a bite to eat were the exceptions. Always teaching, Dave challenged us to simplify our images by selecting the lens suited to the landscape and by using appropriate exposure and focusing techniques.

The locations he guided us to were stunning. Each had unique possibilities for creating beautiful landscape photographs. Each of us was challenged by the qualities of the light, weather conditions and our individual technical and creative abilities.

Botanical and Sombrio Beaches at either high or low tide had many interesting compositional opportunities. The poor weather with its rather somber light brought a unique look to these beautiful landscapes.

It was raining steadily on Saturday afternoon when we reached Sombrio Canyon. Everything was wet. It’s beautifully sculpted sandstone walls formed a very narrow passage that only 2 of us could work in at a time.

Beyond the beaches and rocks the forest began. At first, knarled trees twisted and bent from the relentless wind and then those that were tall reaching high above the forest floor. Many of these were second generation to those that years ago had fallen to the logger’s axe. But some of the old growth trees remained. They were magnificent. Even in the solitude of Avitar Grove these huge trees made my existence seem small and unimportant.

Some of the images I made at Port Renfrew I really like but it will take me awhile to sort and process the images all of them.   I have included a selection below.

Also posted in Education, The Creative Process, Travel

Opportunity Knocks: Workshop at the Coast

In a perfect world I would live closer to British Columbia’s wild Pacific Coast. I love its  power and majesty. Even along its more sheltered bays and coves this ever changing landscape brings me great peace and inspiration. 

Well, I live in the Okanagan Valley, in its own right a lovely place to live and photograph.  The 5 hours of driving  time  to reach the coast is not insurmountable. So, whenever the opportunity arises to travel to the coast, I take it. Most of the time my destination would be the coast of Southern Vancouver Island near Victoria, B.C. or even the small coastal communities of Maple Bay and Genoa Bay near Duncan. Some of my favourite images have been made in these beautiful locations. 

For me though, the most beautiful areas I have photographed are near Tofino and Ucluelet, right out on the west coast. It is where huge waves pound the beaches and rocky outcrops, where the beaches run on endlessly and the sunsets are magnificent. 

In early 2011 a photography workshop about ‘composition’  offered by Sydney, B.C. photographer, Dave Hutchison caught my attention. Tofino and Ucluelet would be the base of this workshop. It would be for three days and two night and the cost was very reasonable. I was in! I so enjoyed that June weekend that I signed up again in 2012. 

Over the intervening years I’ve followed and admired Dave’s work on his website, on Facebook and through his regular newsletters. Recently, I saw that he was offering a workshop in Port Renfrew, B.C. a small community about 2 hours from Victoria on the southern end of Vancouver Island . It is located on the Strait of Juan de Fuca at the head of the famous West Coast Trail. The opportunity was not lost on me. I signed up immediately. 

The Port Renfrew workshop is next weekend. I’ll be leaving on Thursday and am really looking forward to again spending time with Dave and benefitting from his instruction and experience. 

More than anything though I’m looking forward to being surrounded by the beauty and tranquility of such places as Botanical Beach, Avatar Grove, Fairy Lake and Sombrio Beach and Canyon. What more could a person ask for?

The images  below were made in and around the towns of Tofino and Ucluelet. They are among my favourites as they remind me of a place that I love so much. 

Also posted in Education, Travel

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 Education

Tech Developments: Improved Workflow

Photoshop is a wonderful program. Its application to photography is almost unlimited. But the learning curve for me to become proficient in utilizing its many features to develop and enhance my photographs is very steep. Enter the ‘plug-in’. 

A plug-in for me is best described as a mini program that works on the Photoshop and Lightroom platforms. They can take hours of work with Photoshop and reduce it to mere minutes. And best of all they offer so many creative possibilities.  

I have really enjoyed the plugins offered by Nik Software. I accumulated most of the plugins they offered as they applied to my photography. Google saw their benefit and purchased Nik Software offering the whole package at no cost. Several years later Google decided not to support the Nik plugins. With upgrades to Lightroom and Photoshop the plug-ins began to fail.  

Recently, a French company Dx0 purchased the Nik Collection of plugins. Bringing them up to date they now work well with Lightroom and Photoshop. Of course I’m thrilled. The creative possibilities of the Nik Collection are again available photographers.  

The image below remains one of my favourites from a trip to Western Australia in 2010. I made it in the town of Busselton at its famous jetty. The light was perfect. The image in my opinion turned out really well. I had hoped to enter it into this year’s ArtWalk in Lake Country, B.C.

In the development process I noticed that the jetty was surrounded by a chain link fence. I remembered, sadly, that at the time it was under renovation. As a small digital image it was great. But it would not work hanging as a large canvas piece. No amount of work from my plug-ins or within Photoshop was going to make it acceptable. So sad!

Sunset at the Busselton Jetty in Western Australia

Recently, I read an interesting article about Adobe’s integrated image development system. The author describes how he imports images into Lightroom Mobile on his iPad, performs initial adjustments, rates images and then syncs them via the Creative Cloud to Lightroom Classic CC, the desktop version. All adjustments made with Lightroom Mobile are carried forward to the desktop where more in-depth development could occur.  

My immediate thought with this feature related to travel. When deciding what gear to include on a trip why would I include my laptop when I could simply travel with an iPad or  jus my an iPhone?  

Results from my initial trials were positive.  I will have to become more fluent with the mobile platform but essentially it worked. Several trips are in the offing. It’s then that I’ll fine tune my travel workflow.

 

 

 

 

Also posted in The Creative Process

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 Education, The Creative Process

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 Education, The Creative Process

Widen Expectations: Find Images Everywhere

Two years ago, winter in the Desert Southwest was dry, very dry. I thought that the weather had been wet enough to result in a wild flower bloom on the desert that would equal or surpass that of the previous spring. I was sadly mistaken. Where flowers once formed a carpet between the Giant Saguaros and other cacti only dust and dried grasses remained. 

Our trip to Arizona is much shorter this year but it is at a time when desert foliage usually blossoms.  Even though I was aware of drought conditions News reports of heavy rain in the early part of the winter built my optimism. I fully expected an excellent flower bloom on the desert to photograph. Two ‘scouting’ trips, however,  yielded only disappointment.  

For a few days my camera sat idle. Long held anticipation had been replaced by a lack of motivation. That didn’t last.  

Near our Mesa residence is a garden ornament shop. Really, it’s just a large section of a dusty parking lot, fenced in and fill with all manner of Mexican pottery. The colours, patterns and textures of the pottery are so interesting. Amongst this wonderful colour a collection of welded, steel sculptures. Horses, dinosaurs and other interesting creations, some life size, seem to be waiting to be loaded onto a pickup truck and taken to a new garden home.   

After asking permission to make my photographs I wandered about looking for creative compositions.  Being so close it has become my go to place to photograph when I have a bit of time.  

Earlier this week I travelled to the Boyce Thompson Arboretum State Park east of Phoenix. I made sure I arrived there just after the gates opened to have time and space to myself before the crowds arrived. It’s a great place to immerse oneself in the creative process. After spending several hours making images visitors began to crowd the paths and walkways. I headed for the parking lot.

Yesterday, I visited the Desert Botanical Gardens in Tempe, AZ, a suburb of Phoenix. With several previous visits to reflect on I was looking forward to spending time there. Again, I made sure to arrive early.

Contrasts of Colour and Textures

I love the textures and shapes emphasized by the low angle of the early morning sun. They just seem to jump out of the shadows when lit by sunlight that has found its way through the branches above.

I’ll make one more trip to the desert before leaving for home at the end of the month. Hopefully, wild flowers will have emerged and the cacti have blooms to show off.   

Also posted in Travel

Back Roads: Treasure Revealed

About a month ago I was the driver on a hockey road trip with our son and grandson who had an afternoon game in Oliver, B.C.

I left the boys at the arena and headed off to explore a few back roads in the area. I had an hour. After passing a now defunct recreational vehicle factory I continued on passing snow covered fields, dilapidated farm buildings and several rural residences.

Curiosity slowed me down as I passed a high board fence. Looking through the gate I saw that many old cars and trucks were piled there. I continued on but I slowed again feeling that I had missed something on the other sided of the road. I returned.

There, in the ditch opposite the junk yard’s gate was a vintage pick up truck. I think it was an early 50’s Dodge. Realizing immediately that this weathered old truck and its surrounding weeds, branches and other junk had some creative possibilities, I stopped.

This image was one of about a dozen I made that afternoon. My camera was equipped with a 35mm lens which allowed me to move in close to the truck and still capture its surroundings.

This interpretation is my favourite. I love the way this old Dodge seems to be trying to extricate itself from the underbrush, rusted junk and snow.

A vintage Dodge pickup rests in a snow filled ditch engulfed in underbrush and junk

Also posted in The Creative Process

Victoria Favourites: 2nd Installment

From a photographer’s point of view Victoria is subject rich.  Historic buildings, Fisherman’s Wharf, the Esquimalt Lagoon and Mount Douglas Park are locations I love to visit. There are many more.   Almost 8 weeks spent in Victoria in 2017 allowed me to revel in that richness and make many photographs.  

‘Random’ would best describe my approach to photography. I love to get out on a camera walk and make images of subjects that catch my interest.  Now, as I examine the images I made in and around Victoria last year I see several themes emerging: Nature, On the Water, At the Dock, Historic Buildings and Landscapes. Of the several thousand images I captured in Victoria my objective now is to sort and render them down to a Favourites Collection.  

I started this process with my last article, the first of 2018. I don’t believe I’ll be able to work my Favourites down to a small groups. I like so many of them. It will probably take one or two more posts to cover my Favourites 2017 Victoria images. Then I’ll work on the others. Maybe I’ll even get to making a collection of Favourites overall. But that’s for another day.  In the meantime, I hope you enjoy the images I’ve included with this article.   

Also posted in Travel