Category Archives: Travel

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, The Creative Process

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, The Creative Process

Kangaroo Island: Remarkable Rocks

Our first trip ‘Down Under’ took place in the Spring of 2009. There it was Fall. We had landed in Auckland, NZ after a 14 hour flight and then continued on to Sydney. And so began our first Australian adventure.

Following a 4 day stay in Sydney we flew to  Launceston on the island of Tasmania the start of a week long drive along the eastern coast to Hobart. From Tasmania we flew to Melbourne and then drove the Great Ocean Road to Adelaide.

Adelaide is home to our good friends  Kathy and Kari whom we met here in Kelowna. They spent a year in Kelowna when Kathy was on the teacher exchange program and taught in the same school as Ellen.

Adelaide is a beautiful city especially the coastal suburb of Glenelg where Kathy and Kari live. But touring of Adelaide would have to wait.  A weekend trip to Kangaroo Island would come first.

After a 2 hour drive and about the same on the ferry we landed on Kangaroo Island. Kari described our accommodation as being highly rated. Upon arrival the ladies were somewhat dubious. We made it work.  

An event that I will never forget was the pelican feed. We had driven to a nearby fish shop. All manner and size of fish were displayed for sale. Out back above a narrow beach were 2 grandstand style risers. They were empty as was the beach. A bus arrived and the risers began to fill. Then a stocky man wearing a brimmed Aussie hat, rubber gloves and waist high waders appeared. He was carrying a large plastic bucket.

A whistle and they started to arrive, gulls first, followed by huge white and black pelicans. My guess at the time was that between 25 to 30 pelicans flew in,  all of them calling out and  gathering around the man with the bucket. The audience was captivated.

Over the next half hour the bucket filled with fish guts was emptied. What a show the pelicans put on as they scrambled and grabbed for any morsel they could reach. When it was over the risers emptied, the bus filled and drove off. It was again quiet except that the man came out with a second bucket. I alone, was treated to another pelican feed. My camera was so busy.

Our tour of the island continued. We visited many interesting places and  interesting sights. Clearly this island was affected  by the wind. High sand dunes, low lying plants, evidence that fire had quickly moved through  the scrubby forest and waves that relentlessly pounded the shore all play a part in making this a very special eco system.

Along one part of the drive we came across many termite colonies, their outer surface covered with crusted mud as protection  from the wind and sun. We encountered a colony of Fairy Penguins, also known as Little Penguins but we did not see a single Kangaroo.

The display of ‘Remarkable Rocks’ was perhaps the most impressive sight. They are the signature landmark of the island and a ‘must see’ for any Kangaroo Island holiday. These naturally sculpted boulders are balanced precariously on a granite outcrop. Evidence shows that these rocks were formed by rain, wind and pounding waves over a period of 500 million years . They are part of Flinders Chase National Park.

Also posted in Education, My Work

Route 60: Boyce Thompson Arboretum

A one hour drive east along U.S. Highway 60 from Phoenix, Arizona will take you to the Boyce Thompson Aboretum. It is located in the Sonoran Desert along Queen Creek near Picketpost Mountain, a prominent vestige of long ago volcanic action. The images I made there are part of a collection I call “Route 60”.

Founded in 1924 and opened to the public in 1929 the Boyce Thompson Arboretum is the largest and oldest garden of its kind in Arizona. Originally designed as a plant research facility and a ‘living museum’ it attracts over 75,000 visitors annually.  There are over 2600 species of arid land plants  on display. The Audubon Society  has recognized it as an  Important Bird Area due to the presence of about 270 bird species.

I’m a believer in repeat visits to the sites I love to photograph. This is true here in Kelowna with the Fascieux Creek Wetland as well as in Victoria, B.C. and other locations on Vancouver Island. And it was certainly true in Arizona. There was so much to photograph, especially at the BTA where I visited up to 4 times in the winter/spring season.  When light conditions weren’t ideal a visit on  another day might produce better results. If the images I made were not that great then another trip might build on the previous experience.

There is an entry fee to the BTA  and it does get very busy especially later in the day and on weekends. I generally was there as the gates opened in the morning  and stayed until it became too crowded. In the winter months due to the BTA’s altitude, temperatures could be below freezing especially in the shadows. But that was a small price to pay for a bit of solitude as I made my images. 

I especially loved the creative possiblities in the cactus garden and in the Australian exhibit but the image possibilities in the South American exhibit and Aloe garden interested me as well. The Chihuahuan, Curandero and High Trails provided an interesting ecological and geographic perspective for the BTA’s plant collections.

If or when we are able to make a return trip to Arizona the Boyce Thompson Arboretum will again be high on my list of photographic destinations.

The collection of images I’ve included below reflects the diversity of plant life in the Boyce Thompson Arboretum. The rustic Australian exhibit reminded me of scenes I had observed on Australia’s Kangaroo Island when we visited there several years ago. 

Also posted in Education, My Work

Gearhead: Need for the latest or just an upgrade

As I understand it, a  Gearhead is one who must have the newest, latest, greatest piece of gear. The term could apply to golfers, fishermen and of course, to photographers.

So, recently when I first considered the idea of a new camera I wondered if the name Gearhead applied to me. After all, I already own 2 Nikon digital cameras and a Canon film camera.

The Canon sits on my book shelf as a reminder of a time  long past. The other two, a Nikon D700 was introduced 12 years ago and a 4 year old Nikon D7200, are both in regular use. Old technology in some respects but they are still capable of making excellent images.

I bought the D700 because it has a full frame sensor. I am its 2nd owner. Of all the cameras I have owned the D7200 is my favourite. I especially like its ergonomics, light weight and it’s WiFi capabilities.

The camera I’ve been researching, a Nikon D750, combines the full frame sensor of the D700 with all the features I like on the D7200. Additionally, it has a back screen that flips out. This is the feature I’ve been looking for.

At my stage of life gravity has a negative effect on how I can contort myself to get in the best position to make an image. Getting down low when my camera needs to be set up close to the ground can be a bit awkward. However, breaking the bonds of gravity to get back up is quite the act. This camera provides a solution. The flip out back screen allows me to compose images by looking down at the screen. No need for me to get as low as the camera.

Equally important,  for the photography I like to do, I really only need one camera and one set of accompanying lenses.

As I write this post I’ve been shooting with the D750. Yes! I bought it! After researching prices at a variety of vendors across Canada I found that I could purchase this camera in Victoria. Saved a bundle!  Now I have 2 cameras to sell as well as a couple of lenses.

Even though it was windy and wet in Victoria last Thursday I headed to Fisherman’s Wharf and Ogden Point to give my new camera a spin. Then, on Friday we made our way up Vancouver Island to Qualicum Beach. We stopped at the Nanaimo harbour, Rathtrevor Beach and the French Creek government wharf so I could make some additional images. 

On Saturday I walked Qualicum’s long beautiful beach. I believe it is in excess of 3 km long. Massing along the beach were seagulls, thousands of them, likely searching for herring or herring eggs from this year’s run. I’ve never seen so many birds in one place. I was reminded of Hitchcock’s movie, The Birds. They remained on the beach and in the shallows most of the day. By dusk they were gone only to return on Sunday morning. This was definitely a highlight and a good opportunity to create some interesting images.

We had hoped to stay longer on Vancouver Island but decided to head for home on Monday morning. Given the urgency of the Coronavirus situation we felt we would be more comfortable at home where we are far more familiar with our surroundings. It will be a good opportunity to work on the several hundred images I made with my new camera.

Also posted in Education, My Work

Cruising in Europe: After Thoughts

As the crow flies the distance from Budapest to Amsterdam is just over 1200 kilometers. The winding route of our river cruise from Budapest along the Danube River to the Main River and then on to the Rhine River would be well in excess of that distance. It gave us an interesting view of European culture.

At every turn history was on display. Centuries old  castles and their surrounding walls and narrow cobblestone streets all exuded a permanence that is difficult to compare with anything we’ve experienced here  in North America. Homes and businesses occupied buildings that in some cases were built 500 years ago.

Three memorials  particularly caught our attention. The Shoes on the Danube Bank Memorial in Budapest, The  Anne Frank House Museum in Amsterdam and the ‘Stumble Stones’ Memorial Plaques in a number of cities, all commemorate  Jewish persecution during the WWII in Europe. The memorials were riveting, poignant and thought provoking to say the least. Rather than write about  each I’ve linked them to websites where descriptions are more complete. And within the gallery of some of my favourites below I’ve included an image of Anne Frank, one of the memorial shoes and another of three Stumble Stones. 

We had never experienced the European culture. The food, art, architecture and life in general is so interesting. The landscape was just plain beautiful.  In all of our walks, tours and interactions we found the local residents to be friendly and very helpful. Now that we have an understanding of how to get around and what we would like to see more of,  I’m sure another European adventure will be planned for the not so distant future.

 

Also posted in Education, My Work

Amsterdam: Canals, Narrow Streets and Bicycles

At the end of the dock our taxi, a large black BMW sedan, was waiting. The driver, neatly attired in a white shirt, black tie, suit and shoes, had already loaded our bags into the trunk. With sunglasses he could easily have been mistaken for a foreign operative.

Accelerating smoothly away from the dock we drove towards our new address, Bilderdijkkadje 18. The drive was not long but our eagerness to get out and explore was only heightened by Amsterdam’s sights and sounds. The next phase of our European adventure was about to begin.

We were left standing at the top of a narrow steel staircase. Below was  a float home on a quiet canal. This would be our home for 3 days. Linda, our host was waiting on deck. She had been in this location for 40 years in 3 different house boats. She raised her family here.

Linda gave us a brief orientation then we gathered ourselves and headed out.  We had no idea where we were going.  She had marked the location of her house boat on a map and outlined relevant trolley routes. That was it. We began to explore. It was 11:30 am.

Our days were long. For the next 2 and half days we returned well after dark. We ate in small cafes and ethnic restaurants, walked narrow streets, figured out how the trolley system worked and signed up for a canal cruise. We could have visited any number of galleries and museums but chose only to visit the Ann Frank museum. Oh, and the Red Light District Museum. What really interested us was Amsterdam life.

The tall narrow buildings in most areas we visited fascinated us. The oldest building still standing is the Old Church which was consecrated in 1306.There are only two wooden building remaining in Amsterdam. One of these was built around 1425. Most of these had disappeared by the 16th century replaced by brick construction.

It was amazing to walk streets and pass buildings as citizens of Amsterdam did centuries ago. Some of the buildings we passed displayed plaques designating the year in which they were built.  The most interesting to me were located in the Canal District. They were narrow and tall. The narrowest that we saw looked to be about 3 meters wide. I loved the character of these buildings. Some seemed to be tipping over. Each had a distinctive facade and street presence. 

Our favourite area of Amsterdam was the Canal District. Amsterdam started out as a small fishing village in the 12th century. In the 17th century canals were built to facilitate trade and commerce. Today,  Amsterdam, due to its large number of canals which now form a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is sometimes referred to as the “Venice of the North”.

Everyone rides bicycles in Amsterdam. Bicycles transport lone riders, two riders, small families and packages. There are regular two wheelers and large bicycles with up front cargo containers. Riders dress casually or in their ‘going out to dinner’ finest. Poor weather doesn’t stop people from riding. There are bike parkades and of course bike paths and bike traffic rules.

 But the most important rule is for the pedestrian. Don’t linger in the bike lane! Riders don’t slow for pedestrians. We had to be careful. More then once when I was concentrating on my camera, Ellen had to tug me away from oncoming bicycle traffic.

 The images below are just a slice of the many sights that can be seen in Amsterdam. There is just so much to photograph there. 

All too soon it was time to leave Amsterdam. We loved each chapter of our European trip. But next time in Europe I think we would spend more time exploring. The cruise was fantastic. A great introduction to Europe. But getting to know a community or neighborhood is what we like to do.

Also posted in Education, My Work

Cruising in Europe: Rhine Gorge to the Sea

The Rhine Gorge fell behind us as our ship, the Scenic Opal, made its way past the town of Koblenz, Germany. The high hills and cliffs above the winding river were replaced with a more rolling pastoral landscape. It was our second last day on the ship.

Farms, small towns and as we sailed closer to our destination, Amsterdam, industrial sites dotted the river banks. Groups of travelers gathered in the lounge to share last visits and later in the evening a gala supper and party with the staff. What fun we had!

The next morning we awoke to a very busy river. It was an amazing sight after so many kilometers where it seemed no other boat was on the river. We were close to our destination. At first glance it appeared to be very disorganized but in reality it almost seemed to be choreographed with each ship, boat or barge knowing  what the other was doing and where they were going.

Just before noon on our last day the Opal docked near Amsterdam’s Central Station. An early lunch then we boarded busses for our ‘free choice’ tour. Since we would be spending the next three days in Amsterdam we chose to tour  Zaanse Schans,  a neighborhood in the Dutch town of Zaandam and the small town of Edam. Both are  about a 30 minute drive north of Amsterdam.

Zaanse Schans is renown for its windmills and distinctive green wooden houses which were relocated  to recreate the look of an 18th/19th-century village. The working windmill we toured is the only one  of its kind in the world that still produces chalk powder for centuries old paint recipes. It was so interesting to watch wooden gears and their supports that were made in the 1700’s actually performing the the task they were designed to do. A windmill nearby which we didn’t tour seemed to be set up as a saw mill. 

Artisans demonstrated the rare skills of wooden clog carving, barrel making and pewter casting. Today, clogs are made on a ‘pattern’ lathe but the artisan still has to roughly shape the block of wood before it is attached to the lathe. 

Edam was  founded in the 13th century. It was known for ship building and fishing and is the original source of the cheese with the same name. A canal system in this region serves to keep homes and fields dry and ready for the raising of cattle. 

As darkness fell our busses returned us to our ship for our last night aboard. It was a quite evening with the usual scrumptious dinner. Good memories of the last 14 days were shared and hopes expressed that  paths would again cross. 

Also posted in Education, My Work

Cruising in Europe: The Main River to the Rhine River

The Danube Main Canal with its long  series of locks has enabled the connection of the south flowing Danube River to the north flowing Rhine River. It is an astounding engineering feat. This route allows river traffic to travel over the European water divide with  cargos of coal, fertilizers, building materials,  fuel and of course passengers.

It is not always smooth sailing though. High or low water levels can render sections impassable. Accidents can also reek havoc with the system as happened earlier this year when the lock at Regensburg was damaged by a river cruise ship.

Low water levels in the upper reaches of the Danube River resulted in our ship being held up. We had the option of continuing the trip by bus or sticking with the ship and accepting a reorganized schedule once predicted rain had raised the water level. We stayed as did everyone else. I wanted to see the beautiful and historic Rhine Gorge. I was hopeful for  a daylight passage.   

Only a few centimeters of water were required to move us to an acceptable level for safe transition through this part of the river. The ship waited while busses transported passengers to some of the planned city and Christmas market tours.

The Danube Main Canal part of the cruise is dotted with beautiful old cities dating back through the 13th century. Bamburg, Germany is my favourite. Its complete Old City is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Others, also in Germany, such as Rudesheim, Rothenburg and Nuremburg exhibit stunning architecture that on more than one occasion I exclaimed,”How were they able to build that?” The skyline in Cologne is dominated by the elegant twin towered Gothic Cathedral. It too, is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Most important for our river cruise were the Christmas Markets. Ever popular with local citizens,  tourists also flocked to them. It was not uncommon to see crowds of people, shoulder to shoulder move slowly up and down city streets. Set up along cobblestone streets and central squares vendors offered for sale a wonderful array of Christmas decorations and souvenirs. But the festive atmosphere would not be complete without  the tasty offerings of street food and local variations of gluhwein. Each city had created a unique cup in which to serve its particular gluhwein. We managed to collect 10 of these which miraculously survived the flight home. 

 At some point our captain decided to make an attempt at getting through the impass on the river. Water levels had stabilized.  He was successful but from what our cruise director opined, just barely. We were on our way again. 

The Rhine Gorge was placed on the list of World Heritage Sites in 2002. It is a 65 kilometre section  of the upper middle Rhine Valley. Castles, some intact others in ruins, occupy high, strategic ridges above the valley. At one time it was the core region of the Holy Roman Empire and was the centre of the Thirty Years War. It is truly a magical area. 

After breakfast, on the second last day of our cruise,  I positioned myself on a window seat in the main lounge where I could observe our progress through the Rhine Gorge. It was too cold to stay outside on the upper deck. This would do nicely. And I was close to the coffee machine. As castles and ruins appeared on the landscape I moved  outdoors to either the port or starboard deck to make my images.

We arrived in Amsterdam anticipating chapter three of our journey. Having never been to Europe we were having the time of our lives.  The history, architecture and customs were so interesting.  And we met some new friends. Hopefully, our paths will one day cross again.

Also posted in Education, My Work

Cruising in Europe: Along the Danube

Sixty Eight locks allow our cruise ship the Scenic Opal to transit the south flowing Danube River over the continental divide to the north flowing Rhine River via the Main River Canal on its voyage from Budapest to Amsterdam. And while these rivers, canals and locks are popular with travelers they are major transportation routes for barges carrying everything from new cars, bulk commodities and fuel.

We are at the half way point in the cruise section of our trip, all so far on the Danube River. Weather has become a concern for our cruise director. A lack of rain in the upper reaches of the river has resulted in low water levels. Our ship and others are stopped in the small town of Vilshofen in Germany waiting for a weather system to drop some much needed rain. It seems that the river cruises in Europe can be susceptible to the mercies of high or low water levels. And so we wait.

In the meantime, our cruise director has utilized the fleet of 4 luxury busses that Scenic owns to transport us to a variety of beautiful little towns and villages. Christmas markets are extremely popular not only with tourists but with local citizens. Central squares and side streets are clogged with tiny booths that are decorated for Christmas and exhibit a wide range of traditional and popular ornaments and souvenirs.

Our favorites though are the markets where local artisans display their own creations. There is something very special about an original piece created locally by a talented craftsman.

Also very popular at all Christmas markets is traditional food such as bratwurst, pretzels and strudels. One cannot forget the popularity of gluhwein (mulled wine) of which there seem to be many different varieties each served in a mug representative of the local area.

The images I’ve included here were made in and around Vienna, Durnstein, Melk and Salzburg in Austria and Regensburg, Germany. To my eye the beauty of the street scapes and architecture is breathtaking. The crowds in Vienna in the central square around St. Stephen’s Cathedral and in the various Christmas markets that we were able to visit were astounding.

Early last Sunday morning I enjoyed the quiet solitude of Durnstein’s cobble stone streets. It was a great opportunity for me to get a feel for the history and layout of this old Austrian village and capture a few scenes of interest.

Also posted in Education, My Work