Category Archives: The Creative Process

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, My Work

New Camera: Full Frame

Recently, I purchased a full frame camera, a d700. It’s not new but it’s new to me. Ten years ago it was one of Nikon’s top professional models. 

I’ve had this particular camera model on my radar for quite some time. The reviews that I have read indicate that it was a great camera and still is.  I certainly could have purchased a current ‘top of the line’ model but cost was a major factor. Yes, it is old and lacking some to today’s bells and whistles but with a shutter count of less that 7,000 it is virtually new. The shutter count  for this caliber of camera can reach up to 150,000.  

So now I have a  full frame and a cropped sensor model of camera. Those with a sensor the same size as a 35mm slide are full frame cameras. A cropped sensor is smaller. 

I use my cropped sensor camera, a Nikon d7200, for photographing nature, wildlife and sports. And I love using it when I’m traveling.  It’s built in WiFi allows me to connect to my iPhone or iPad and quickly move images to my processing apps and then to social media. 

I’ll use my d700 primarily for architectural,  landscape and panorama photography. The image quality of this camera is excellent for this type of photography.  

I’m not a ’gear head’. I don’t have to have the latest greatest equipment. Previously owned equipment in excellent condition works just fine for me. My overarching interest is to create the best possible images with my available equipment. 

Rainy afternoon near Sombrio Beach

The image above was made about a month ago at Sombrio Beach near Port Renfrew, B.C. It was raining heavily but I had found some shelter in small cave. A long exposure smoothed giving it a silky look. 

I was glad to have two cameras available on this occasion as changing lenses is difficult under such poor  conditions. By having one camera equipped with a longer zoom lens and the other with a short zoom lens I found I could deal with most photo opportunities without exposing the inner workings of  my cameras to the weather. 

 

 

 

 

 

Also posted in Education

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, My Work, Travel

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 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 Education, My Work

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 Education, 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 Education, My Work

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 My Work