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Category Archives: The Creative Process

The Fascieux Creek Wetland: My Book

A  real feeling of  accomplishment came over me when I pushed ‘return’ on my computer last week sending  my book about the Fascieux Creek Wetland to the publisher. Months spent selecting images,  formatting, writing, proofreading and finally conducting a detailed  examination of the entire project had come to an end.

I am thrilled with what I have done, yet I am nervous. Will the book  meet my expectations?  I’m sure that feeling will remain  until the moment I finally have the completed book in my hands.

My story of the Fascieux Creek Wetland is about much more than photography. It’s  about an urban wetland that I knew nothing about. It’s about a chance conversation that drew my attention to it and it’s about realizing that there are many such locations in the Okanagan watershed each of which is an ecosystem where many critters thrive.

There are so many places  in the world I would love to visit and photograph particularly along British Columbia’s west coast. Whales, grizzly bear and otters are just a few of the animals I would love to aim my camera at. But age has snuck up and is now a reality that must be considered. So when I discovered the Fascieux Creek Wetland I discovered a new reality. Nature is right in my own ‘back yard’.

Patience and perseverance is often associated with wildlife photographers. Regardless of the size of the beast or their location these habitats are so important.

Ecosystems like the  Fascieux Creek Wetland cannot be considered as  ‘one and done’ photo trips. I found that to make the most of such locations I had to visit many times and at many different times of the day.  Learning the  rhythms of the seasons and how the critters behaved in each of the seasons  was crucial to making the best photographs.

Having the book in my hands will not be the end of the story. There are publishing options to consider for further editionsHard and soft cover books,  coffee table books, magazines and  ebooks are formats that Blurb, the company I am working with,  is able to  produce. I am leaning toward an  eBook option. But, I’m getting ahead of myself. Once I have the finished product in hand  I’ll consider my options.

I love to have my images printed and hung on the wall.   Some of these have found new homes. But in reality most of my work resides on a hard drive unseen and not shared with others. The book option is an excellent way to enjoy my work and to share it with others. I’m thinking that this book, The Fascieux Creek Wetland: Seasons of Beauty, may be just the beginning.

Cover photo for my book, Fascieux Creek Wetland: Seasons of Beauty

Also posted in Education, My Work

Just Another Year: Not Quite

A year ago Ellen and I had  just returned from a wonderful European river cruise.  It had been our first trip to Europe. The euphoria of that trip though had quickly disappeared on learning I had come down with a serious health issue. By the time  my issues had been dealt with all of us were living under the black cloud of Covid 19.

The combination of living in a bubble, lockdowns and medical procedures  has meant that this year I have made about one quarter of the images I usually would make. But I’ve not been idle!

There has been much recreational reading. I discovered 4 or 5 authors whose writings I thoroughly enjoy. Two of the series I’m reading are based in Europe. Our trip there has given context to their story lines.  At one point during the first lock down I was reading a book every 4 to 5 days. In my world that’s called devouring a book.

Much time was devoted to the renovation of my website. When that was complete I thought it looked pretty good. Unfortunately, I didn’t account for an upgrade that WordPress was planning to conduct. It was a ‘no choice’ operation that when it occurred   the design features I had employed were altered. So, I still have some work to do.

Most significantly, I started and have almost completed my long planned coffee table book about Kelowna’s Fascieux Creek Wetland. Narrowing thousands of images to a manageable group and then to the final selection of less than 100 was definitely a chore, albeit a pleasant chore. Currently, I’m writing the text that will accompany the images. This is a slow process but so far so good.

I began my Instagram Project in early January where I posted an image every day. My next blog post, the first of 2021, will be devoted to this project.

It’s fair to conclude that none of the above would have occurred had Covid not been a factor. Trips planned to Mexico and to visit our son and his family in Michigan would not have been  cancelled. More than likely, we would have made several trips to Vancouver Island too. Both at home and away my camera would have been busy.

In early December, one more distraction was added to the mix. A puppy! A twenty week old bundle of fun, energy and mischief has quickly become a valued family member. He, Tucker, loves to play in the park in front of our home, cuddle and camp out under my chair when I’m editing images. He even gives us an undisturbed night of sleep. His happy demeanour has been part of a very different yet meaningful Christmas season.

For seven and half years I’ve used this space to tell the stories behind my photography. As much as I love to make photographs I love to write. Readers from many different places have read my articles. I’ve appreciated the comments I’ve received and questions that some have asked. Sometime in 2021 a better, new normal will have settled in. I’m looking forward to making more images and continuing to tell my story.

Best wishes to all my readers for a happy and safe Yew Year! I so much appreciate  your interest and support.

Fireworks in Celebration

Also posted in Education, My Work

Whining: And, a Reality Check

Two weeks ago I launched my revised website. I was really proud of the work I had done to get it up and running. I thought it was finished. And then 10 days later, all that work seemed to be such a waste of time.

Photocrati, the company that supports my website in an email message reminded me of a necessary upgrade to their software. There was no choice as the software version I was using would not be supported going forward. I performed the upgrade.

When I opened my webpage afterwards I was shocked and disappointed. My content remained but the design features I had carefully implemented were gone. To me, it looked atrocious. I was ticked.

I am writing this article while watching  Remembrance Day programming on  November 11th.  I’ve done this for many years. Ellen’s grandfather fought in WWI and WWII  and one of my uncles was a veteran of WWI. Each of us have uncles who were WWII veterans. More current to me are the soldiers who participated in the Vietnam War.

Most of the soldiers in these conflicts were very young. Many were just out of high school. Wounded or killed they were deprived of a full and happy life. They gave everything. As I watched and appreciated what these young men and women endured  I found it difficult to fight back the odd tear.

So what’s with being upset about a website issue. It’s hardly a calamity.  

As much as possible I decided to  ‘pretty up’ the state of my website, learn the ins and outs of the new software  and wait for one more external upgrade next month. Then, I would attempt to regain some of the features that have been wiped out. Perhaps, it will be even better.

The images I’ve included with this article` are recent additions to my library. Now that we are well into fall and perhaps the start of winter I’ve been out with my camera looking to capture the colours, patterns and textures of the season.

Also posted in Education, My Work

Website Project: Up and Running at Last

Eight months ago Covid 19  lockdowns were just beginning.  With ‘in the bubble’ living just beginning we were facing  a  summer of isolation.

The lockdown, I hoped, would be a good time to make progress on a few projects. 

A book about one of my favourite places to photograph, the Fascieux Creek Wetland, was top of mind. It’s a small  urban wetland in which a diversity of wildlife resides. For me,  the FCW is a very special place.  Over the last 3 or 4 years I have spent many hours there and made thousands of images.  A coffee table style book with my favourite Fascieux Creek Wetland images would be a great way to display and celebrate the beauty of this wonderful little gem.

Initial  image selections  are done but there are a few ‘holes’ to fill. So, until I can make those images the project is on hold.

My website has been in need of attention for some time. It needed  a new look, new material and perhaps e-commerce capability.

When I started my website  several years ago I built it using a theme package from Photocrati a company that offers presets that are completely  customizable.  I would pick a theme as a base and then rework it to fit my needs.

Once I understood how the customization tools worked the process  became somewhat easy. But I had to keep in mind that the tools were there to keep the user, me, away from the real site developer’s language.

Twice, I ventured too far. I still don’t know how. I’m sure the techies at Photocrati’s Help Desk were wondering, “What in the heck is he doing?” But, after several days of down time they prevailed and fixed my miss steps.

Progress has been slow. It took time to  narrow galleries to a reasonable size then number and name each image. With that done I addressed how the site would look. I felt that the ‘old look’ was too confining.  I chose a ‘sky’ for a background from an image I had made at the coast. It’s wide and expansive. Just the look and feel I was hoping for.

So, as of this morning, my website is up and running again. I love the way my images are presented. There may be the odd glitch but at this point I think it will be minor.

So, peruse and enjoy!  If you feel like it,  let me know what you think. Suggestions would be welcome. 

Also posted in Education, My Work

Finally, A Road Trip: The Island

We recently returned from a two week road trip to Vancouver Island. After months of lockdown, Covid warnings, masks on, masks off and generally feeling a bit out of sorts a trip was a welcome change. Any trip would have sufficed but ‘The Island’ is always  a favoured destination.

We split our stay on the Island between vacation rentals in Sidney and up island in Nanoose. Our car was packed with golf clubs, e-bikes, Ellen’s pickleball gear and of course my camera bag. As always, catching up with friends and relatives on the Island was a priority.  Unfortunately, weather and trail closures interfered with some of our planned outdoor activities. That was not the case with my photography.

Regardless of the weather, I visited most of my usual haunts in Victoria including the Oak Bay Marina, Fishermans’ Wharf, the Inner Harbour, old James Bay and the Breakwater District. Wet, windy conditions in Victoria added an element of drama to images that otherwise would have been similar to those I’ve previously made. This time I dressed for the weather and didn’t come down with a cold, an added bonus.

Our second week was spent at the Pacific Shores Resort in Nanoose. It is located at the mouth of the Craig Creek Estuary, a beautiful, undisturbed  west coast ecosystem. It was new to me and a complete surprise. I was out making images every day in this natural paradise

The Craig Creek Estuary is a protected natural environment. This wetland is one of just a few that  can be found on our west coast. They are habitats for thousands of birds and animals. Much larger than the Fascieux Creek Wetland that I love to visit in Kelowna, Craig Creek is small in relation to its surroundings. It is bounded on 3 sides by condo and residential developments and a major road. Fortunately, the ocean borders the remaining side.

I arose well before the sun on most mornings. As dark turned softly to light I watched as the tide reached its full height, became slack and then turned again to empty. Two full tide cycles occurred each day. And with the emergence of early morning light and at the end of the day, twilight, the photographic opportunities were amazing.

At the mouth of the estuary I loved the rock formations and boulders that emerged as the tide receded and later disappeared as it flowed back in. Deep in the estuary I found a fish trap that undoubtedly had been built by early first nation hunters and gatherers. Salmon in abundance were obviously caught here by the  first nation inhabitants. Berries, shellfish, birds, and mammals were also in great supply. 

I look forward to a return visit to the Craig Creek Estuary. I have learned  how to navigate the paths and routes to get to the most interesting areas.   It is such a wonderful area to explore and photograph. 

Also posted in My Work, Travel

Route 60: The Mining Towns

Four miles east of the Boyce Thompson Arboretum is the mining town, Superior, Arizona. It is the first of three mining towns that I have often photographed  while wintering in Arizona. Eighteen miles further is Miami and then after another 6 miles  is the county seat, Globe. 

There is beauty in this semi arid landscape. It is rocky and rugged with a wide range of cacti and other plant life suited to the climate. Even though the elevations of this area are higher than those close to Phoenix  summer temperatures can regularly reach up to 100 degrees F while below freezing temperatures are common in the winter.

Mining in the area began in the 1870’s. The original Magma mine in Superior was founded in 1875 and closed in 1996. Today, efforts are underway to open a much deeper mine below the Magma site. Copper has been mined in the Miami area since the early 1900’s. It has been described as a classic Western copper boom-town.

One would think when first walking the streets of Superior that it was a ghost town. It is not. While the homes are small and run down most are occupied. Many of its downtown brick buildings are boarded up. On my last visit through there, there were several buildings being renovated so perhaps the ongoing mineral exploration is having a positive affect.

Most of my images were made in the Superior to Miami area. I was attracted to the rustic run down aspect of these towns and the affect that the harsh climate and the up and down nature of the economy has had on the buildings.

The central image of this article was made in Superior. It is part of the façade of an old hotel. While the walls and the signage were almost completely bleached out by the sun I found that by adjusting the setting in my image software I could bring out the hidden colours. I called it ‘Vacant’ and entered it in Lake Country’s Artwalk several years ago. It sold!

I noticed during my last visit that this building is being renovated and  probably is now an active hotel again.

The images in the gallery below represent the geographical landscape and some of the sights from around the Superior and Miami areas.  I found several active antique stores in Miami. They were chock-full of memorabilia and old household items that would interest most antique hunters. One of the store owners allowed me in to photograph her store. That was fun.

Also in Miami were several old cars stored behind a tall fence. To make these images I had to hold my cameral high over my head above the fence and hope that I was pointing it correctly. Most of the time that was not quite the case.

Also posted in Education, My Work, Travel

A Challenge: What do you say to a naked ….?

Being out with my camera has not been top of mind lately, although I’ve made fairly regular trips to my ‘little wetland’ in the Lower Mission area of Kelowna. It’s always good to catch up with my friend, the Great Blue Heron. Nor have I spent a lot of serious time on my proposed book projects or on my website. And I have not written much on my blog. But with sunny skies,  warmer temperatures and a lightening of the Covid 19 lockdown that all seems to be changing. Motivation might just be returning.

During the lockdown I did take the time to view several photography specific You Tube presentations. In doing so I was reminded that early on, when I first started with digital photograph I committed to an annual in-service  program  tailored to 3 specific areas: composition, ‘seeing’ light and learning the processes of the digital darkroom.

Waiting

A series of workshops conducted by Victoria professional photographer, Dave Hutchison related well to my goals.  His workshops located in the Tofino and Port Renfrew areas of Vancouver Island were excellent. I learned so much from him and hope in the future to get together with him on new learning experiences.

Also on Vancouver Island was a  summer symposium, ‘Image Explorations’, held at a private school in Shawnigan Lake, B.C. This experience was five days of intensive instruction. Except for sleep time it was photography all day every day.

While some of the attendees like me were serious amateurs, most were professionals. Over the four years I had attended Image Explorations I benefited from well known Vancouver photographers Aura McKay, Craig Minielly and Don McGregor as well as others from south of the border. Sadly, Image Explorations has ceased to operate.  I really enjoyed the total immersion experience it provided.

Triple Exposure

Renown U.S. photographer and  educator, Laurie Klein was one of the visiting instructors at Image Explorations.   I hadn’t heard of Laurie before reading her in the course sylabus. The questions posed in her course description were intriguing to say the least. “Do you want to awaken your senses?  Do you want to stretch your creative mind?  Do you want to release your inhibitions in order to go beyond self-imposed boundaries? Do you want to find your visual voice?”  She was obviously putting forth a challenge, which I decided to accept. It would be interesting to examine the intellectual aspects of my art and photography.

Silhouette

Within the course description was the mention of working in some situations with models, some of could be ‘au natural‘. At the time I registered for the course I gave this information little to no attention. But as July approached and the course was immanent I wondered how that was going to work. I hadn’t photographed nude models before! How do you speak to a naked person, especially when you are holding on to camera equipment?

By the time I.E. finally arrived my mind was tied up with so many questions and  ‘what ifs’ that I was becoming distracted from the real purpose of the course. I don’t think I was the only one in our group that inwardly wondered, “What in the world am I doing here?’

Back to nature

That’s where Laurie’s original challenge became so relevant. She kept delving into the thought processes we engaged in to make  our images. What were you thinking? Why did you choose to set up from this angle? What is with this composition? Tell us how your images makes your feel?

It didn’t take long to put our models, both female and male,  in proper context. The subject matter became irrelevant. Composition, light and creativity are what mattered.

In my mind I botched the course. I came to the conclusion that my approach to photography was just too mechanical. Rules needed to be bent, even broken. Understanding why I made my images in a certain way was what I needed to work on.

Sailing

When I learned that Laurie would be returning the following summer I  registered again. I enjoyed the depth to which we  examined our collective work. As a group we worked well together. We were engaged  in the language of art and creativity. I needed to continue.

 

 

Also posted in Education, My Work

Needles in a Haystack: Hidden Gems

Golf is underway! I haven’t been too active for several years but this year I’m in again, ‘driver, wedge and putter’! That means I’m not out as much with my camera although I’m making frequent visits to the Fascieux Creek Wetland.

Once the social distancing requirements begin to be relaxed I’ll return to a more active ‘shooting’ regime. In the meantime, I’ve devoted my energies towards reviewing my image library. My overall objective is to identify images for my website and for my book about the Fascieux Creek Wetland

Revisiting images that have been buried in the depths of my library has been a very rewarding experience. Sports events especially those involving our grandchildren are prominent to my library as are images of  National Pickleball tournaments, the recent 55+ Summer Games and Kelowna’s Annual Apple Triathlon. Mostly though, my images reflect my interest in the places we have traveled to, the natural world and in my desire to practice and improve my image making. 

At about 80,000 images, my library is small compared to some. All the images I’ve made can be found there whether good, bad or just so so. Typically, I don’t delete images. I keep them all.  It’s interesting to see how my photography has changed or even improved over time. My current review reveals  that my proficiency with the image development software that I use has increased.  Now, some images that I once had no interest  in are being revealed as  hidden gems.

Six different cameras, all Nikons, were used to make my images.  All were good cameras that served my needs very well. In reality the brand makes no difference. In my film days I used other brands and was happy with their performance as well. Reconfirmed in my mind  is the fact that the camera is just a tool  to make the photograph. Regardless of the camera’s technological capabilities it’s the vision of the photographer that is the most important factor in the making of an image. This is clearly evident as I look back.

All of the images I’ve included with this article were mired deep within my library. Why I didn’t see their potential when I first made them is hard to say. It might have been a case of not knowing my software well enough or perhaps I was distracted by other images that at the time seemed to jump off my computer screen, not needing much help from my software. So, the hunt for other elusive needles in the haystack will continue. As I have been doing this last few months, these will be posted on Instagram and on Facebook as I find them. 

Also posted in Education, My Work

Creativity: vs Commerce

What unusual times we are experiencing! Uncertainty and fear are such prevalent feelings. Other than the polio epidemic that ended in 1955 with the introduction of the Salk vaccine nothing in my lifetime really compares.

Social isolation that now governs our lives leaves us with much time to attack the forever full ‘to-do’ list, to read, to work on projects and of course to think about new projects and ideas. I’ve read lots, ‘who-dun-its’ for the most part. And I’ve lost a bunch of weight. No booze or restaurant food and excellent home cooked meals have paid off.

Broken wagon wheel on Cotter’s Ranch near Quesnel, B.C.

The two projects I have underway are  progressing slowly but well. So far the design aspect to my website revision is almost complete. I’ve identified the images that will appear in my first book. It will be about the critters in the Fascieux Creek Wetland. In the background, ideas for my blog are always percolating.

This article arose from my  desire to include online sales through my  website. Logistically speaking, it should relatively easy to do. But previous experiences with commerce and my photography actually  led me to give up on photography for awhile. “Is this what I really want to do?”

Barrel Racer at the William’s Lake Stampede

Like many photographers there are two chapters to my involvement with photography, film and digital. The chapter  about film began at  a very early age. Over time the creative possibilities of black and white photography captured my imagination.  I even had the opportunity to exhibit  my prints in a few art shows. Then the idea of earning money through my photography crept in and  became a serious consideration. Sadly, this motivation took me away from the creative aspect of photography. In the end, I lost my desire to make photographs just for the fun of it. I sold all my gear!

The growth of digital image making in the intervening years led  me back back to photography. There was no need for darkroom equipment, chemicals and all the other necessary paraphernalia related to film photography. Results were immediate.

Bronco rider at the Calgary Stampede

My interests today parallel those of my years with film photography. Family photography was and still is very important to me. Back then I  loved to photography events such as the Williams Lake Stampede, Kelowna’s Snow Fest and  the spring River Race on Mission Creek sponsored by radio station CKIQ. Now, I enjoy photographing events such as Versaiki here in Kelowna and the Northwest Duces Auto Show in Victoria. Most of all, I love to photograph landscapes, wildlife and other subjects that I can artistically represent with my camera.

The images included in this article were made in the mid 1970’s. My photography today reflects similar interests. The image of the old wagon axel was made on my aunt and uncle’s ranch on Dragon Lake near Quesnel, B.C. The first rodeo image was made at the Williams Lake Stampede and the last image was made at the Calgary Stampede. 

Again, I am making photographs for the love of it.  Should an  image sell my hope would be that the purchaser was moved by an inner feeling  created by that image. That’s what is most important to me.

 

Also posted in Education, My Work

Fascieux Creek: Springtime Rhythm

Spring has arrived at the Fascieux Creek Wetland. Located in the lower Okanagan Mission area of Kelowna, B.C., it is a small urban wetland about 4 acres in size. Fed by a network of creeks and ditches it ultimately drains into Okanagan Lake.

For the last 4 years I have spent many hours photographing its critters and studying its rhythm. I’ve found that learning the rhythm of this little wetland allows me to be more productive with my photography.

On first impression one would think that this small natural area is just a tangle of trees, brush and bulrushes. In reality it’s a natural ecosystem, teeming with life, within the bounds of an urban setting.

Over the winter, not much happens here that is obvious. Yes, there are tracks that indicate the presence of critters. But for the most part they are hunkered  down in their dens and nests. The Great Blue Heron is a regular visitor throughout the year and the beaver generally can be seen year round but not so much in the winter.

The wetland is slowly starting to wake up  after a long winter. Reeds and bulrushes are starting to push through the heavy mat of last year’s crop that was pushed down by the blanket of snow.  Mallard ducks are year round residents. Usually, they move about in flotillas. Now they are pairing up and going through their annual mating rituals. Sometime in late April the first ducklings will appear.  Red Winged Blackbirds are already in full throated song and Robins are in their annual nest building mode. Muskrats are out and about, silently cruising the narrow channels of the wetland.

I have yet to see the resident  Great Blue Heron. Usually, he sticks to a very predictable schedule. Once I do see him I’ll know when to come to the wetland to photograph him. The beaver’s presence is obvious but it is a nocturnal animal. In order to photograph him I’ll have to be up early or stay late in the evening. However, my favourite time of the year at the Fascieux Creek Wetland  is when the ducklings emerge. 

The images I’ve included below were made over the last 4 years. They are some of my favourites and may be included in a book I am considering. Seasonally, they span a timeframe from late Winter to mid Spring. It’s a time when the Fascieux Creek Wetland is alive with new life and energy. It is such a special time.

Also posted in Education, My Work