Category Archives: The Creative Process

The Colour of Fall: Brilliant

My motivation to be out and about with my camera this last few weeks was to capture the colour of the leaves before they fell to the ground. While there is a wonderful range of colours in the total landscape including orchards and gardens my focus was on the natural landscape.

Ponderosa pine is the predominant species of trees in the Okanagan area. Douglas fir, Engleman spruce and other conifers are also present depending on elevation, soil and moisture conditions . Deciduous trees including alder, birch, aspens, cotton wood and maples provide the colour. They tend to be located where there is greater access to moisture. So, I sought out hillside depressions and local area creeks.

The closest and most popular waterway is Mission Creek, a major tributary to Okanagan Lake. It’s a beautiful area with a very popular walking trail. I find the upper reaches of Mission Creek to be more desirable as it is not as busy and has more interesting compositional opportunities.

Powers Creek runs through Glen Canyon

I also made trips to the ranchland above Lake Country, B.C., Kalimoir Park and the Regional Parks around Mill Creek, Bertram Creek and Glen Canyon. All of these locations provided me with great opportunities and I think some pretty good results.

On all the trips to these locations I was blessed with bright, sometimes filtered sun. The lower angle of the sun served to brighten the orange and yellow leaves.

Fast rushing waters of Powers Creek in Glen Canyon

The images I’ve included with this article were made in the Glen Canyon Regional Park along Powers Creek. I loved how the colour of the leaves enhances the surrounding textures.

I hadn’t been to this part of Powers Creek before. The canyon itself is very narrow. Somewhere in the upper reaches of the canyon there is likely a water fall. I’ll have to check that out on a future trip to this area.

Fall colours surround Powers Creek as it emerges from Glen Canyon

Sometimes, I think I’ve been spoiled by all the photography I’ve been able to do on Vancouver Island this past 4 or 5 years. At home, I’ve caught myself thinking, “There’s nothing to photograph around here!” That of course is a myth. There are many photographic opportunities in the Kelowna area and in the Okanagan Valley. It’s just a matter of getting ‘you know what’ in gear and getting out there with my camera.

Also posted in My Work

Fascieux Creek: An Urban Wetland

One would assume, based on  the images I have included below that the the Fascieux Creek Wetland is located in a rural area far from urban development. Its not! It is located in the Okanagan Mission area of Kelowna. Bounded on opposing  sides by two major city streets and on its other two side by townhouses and apartment buildings it’s an urban wetland.

When I was setting up for this image I didn’t realize that the water was frozen until this group of ducks came shuffling into my view finder. 

This little wetland has an area of about three and a half acres and is a popular walking area for local residents. It  is fed by a network of streams, some now encased in culverts, that ultimately empty into Okanagan Lake. 

From my home to the Fascieux Creek Wetland is about a 15 minute drive. I had no idea that it existed until a friend mentioned it to me several years ago. Since then, I have made countless trips to capture literally thousands of  images of the critters and plant life that reside there.

Red wing black birds, hawks and a variety of ducks are just some of the birds that frequent Fascieux Creek. But the most impressive and my favourite is the Great Blue Heron. I’ve photographed the resident Great Blue many times. Grudgingly it seems, he has allowed me into his space to let me make some very interesting photographs. 

Also present in this wetland are muskrats, beaver, raccoons, rats, weasels and turtles.  I’ve even found a nest of garter snakes.  The most important resident is the beaver. I think he falls into the category of a keystone species. Without the beaver the water level would not be consistent. This allows all the other species to thrive.

The beaver is also an engineer, always constructing dams. City workers show up every now and then to remove the dams only to have them rebuild somewhere else in the wetland. It is an interesting dynamic which the beaver always seems to win.  

Within the Fascieux Creek Wetland are areas of quiet water, beautiful refections, tangled bush and fallen, dead trees.

Initially, there was lots of  open water in the wetland. Photographic opportunities were available in all seasons of the year. Now, as a consequence of the beaver’s engineering  and the resulting the higher water level there is a proliferation of reeds and bull rushes that have clogged up most of the open areas of water.

Some of the branches on this tree are dead. Most of the leaves from the other branches are on the ground,

The best times to make photographs in the wetland now are in late fall, winter when the reeds are pushed down by snow and in the spring before the reeds start to grow. I’ve learned where and when to find many of the wetland’s species. Those that are nocturnal are more difficult to observe but I have spotted their tracks in the wintertime snow.

There are other small urban wetlands in the Kelowna area that I am starting to pay attention to so I don’t spend as much time as I used to at the Fascieux Creek Wetland. It, however, is still my ‘go to’ place to find interesting images when I just need to get out with my camera for an hour or so.

 

Also posted in 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, My Work

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, My Work

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 My Work

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 My Work, 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 My Work, Travel

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