Category Archives: Travel

On Every Path An Image: Victoria Well Travelled

From our home away from home last month near Victoria’s Quadra Village I took a long circuitous walk through Chinatown, the downtown area and the water front. My walks really have no set plan. If a street looks interesting, that’s where I go.

I took a break at the Breakwater coffee shop. I enjoyed a very good cup of coffee and a scone while examining the images I had made so far. A few, especially those I made at Fisherman’s Wharf had possibilities.

Continuing on, I decided to explore some of the back streets of the James Bay neighbourhood. I’ve written of this area in an earlier post. It is historic, colorful and it has a special character that sets it apart from all others.

As I explored the streets I noticed that some residents had built small raised vegetable gardens on the boulevards in front of their homes. A good use of space I thought . As I approached the corner of Niagara and Pilot Streets I noticed an older woman (probably my age) struggling along with a walker. I was more interested in the school and park across the street so paid her little attention until we both reached the middle of the crosswalk on Pilot Street.

“Have you seen the Fairy Gardens?” she inquired. “They would make good pictures!”

Surprised, I replied, “No.”

“Over there!” She replied with a wave, her tone, impatient.

I looked and saw only houses and fenced yards.

“Follow me,” she commanded. And off she went. I followed.

‘There!’ she exclaimed, pointing to a patch of ground at the base of a large tree.

To my surprise, laid out neatly around the base of a large tree was a miniature village. Tiny whimsical characters, houses, fences and animals all placed to tell a ‘fair tale story’.

Pointing out that other villages surrounded the next few trees she bid me a pleasant good day and went on her way.

Much care and love had been devoted to the creation of these miniature fairy villages. I spent some time appreciating and photographing these beautiful little creations before continuing my walk.

After a few more streets of exploration I crossed Beacon Hill Park and found another coffee shop to enjoy lunch and of course another cup of coffee. Reflecting on the interesting people I’ve encountered on my walks I smiled.

The images below were made on several camera walks. They are but a sample of the many I captured along the ‘trail’. (Tap images to enlarge)

Also posted in My Work

My Old Stomping Grounds: A Camera Walk

Last week, just before returning home from Victoria I embarked on a camera walk that took me  through my old stomping grounds: the Fairfield, Rockland and Fernwood neighbourhoods.  I passed by  a number of landmarks in this area that are as prominent today as they were almost 60 years ago.  

One of those landmarks,  a giant Sequoia, is located at the corner of Moss and Richardson Streets. . Commonly found in California it was planted here as a seedling in 1854.  

Giant Sequoia

I biked past it on my way to and from school in the late ’50s and early ’60s.  A particular memory flooded back as I walked past it last week.  

Located at the bottom of the Moss Street hill a group of us regularly blew through the stop sign at the bottom of the hill. One day though, that practice came to a fateful end.   

Not noticing the parked motorcycle we raced down the hill intent on winning some sort of race. Through the stop sign we went, coming to a screeching halt when a policeman stepped out from behind a parked car, with the command, “Stop!” 

It was Constable Haymer, VPD’s motorcycle cop. He had been waiting for us.  Sternly reprimanding us he handed each of us a  ticket. I said nothing at home. A week or so later a summons to appear in court was hand  delivered to my parents. To say the least I was in trouble.  

It was a very embarrassing experience for my Mom as she was a court reporter and knew many of the court officials I was standing before. A stern warning and a fine from the judge and a lot of ‘humble pie’  from me for some time afterwards at home.  

At first glance most of the homes in this area were much the same as they were in the early 1960’s. But as I explored a saw that some had seen better days while others and been beautifully refreshed. Others, particularly in the Rockland area were exactly as I remembered them, big, solid and in some cases, enormous.  

I found our house on Craigdarroch Road, just below the castle walls. Our house on Oscar Street  had long since been replaced by an apartment complex. I walked through the beautiful gardens of Government House remembering the fire that consumed its predecessor.  

At the end of my hike I sat down in a small coffee shop on Cook Street and thought about all that I had seen. Many of the homes and gardens I had walked past seemed not to have changed. It was a great walk. It was fun to revisit memories of a time past.  The images (click to enlarge) I’ve included with my article are a mosaic of my old neighbourhood and for me a reminder of those memories.

 

Also posted in My Work

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, The Creative Process

Opportunity Knocks: Workshop at the Coast

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Also posted in Education, 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, The Creative Process

Widen Expectations: Find Images Everywhere

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Contrasts of Colour and Textures

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

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

Also posted in My Work

Victoria Favourites: 2nd Installment

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

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

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

Also posted in My Work

Under the Hood: James Bay

Stately and pristine, Victoria’s best neighborhoods are always on display. Broadmead, Ten Mile Point and the Uplands are top drawer. A leaf has only to flutter towards the ground to have a rake equipped gardener move to scoop it up before the local ratings take a negative plunge.

Other Victoria neighbourhoods are significant in their own right. One though is special. It is the oldest residential neighborhood on the west coast of North America, north of San Fransisco. Like an old doll dressed to the nines heading out for a day of shopping, a little tipsy, hat askew, ankles in ill fitting hose and heals, tottering along, it’s character and textures well earned. That’s the “Hood”, James Bay.

James Bay has been home to sailers, gold panners, loggers and some whose past is somewhat nefarious. Its homes have stood resolute against the ravages of weather and the passage of time. Many date back to the late 19th century.  

Dallas Road Beauties by Rick Thomas

Getting ‘under the hood’ reveals its timeless beauty. Houses, large and small, front onto narrow streets originally designed for horse and buggy traffic. Some have been refurbished, others torn down and replaced by more modern structures. Most though, remain. Pealing, faded paint adds to the overall ambiance.   

Rickety fences contain small front yards. In some, small urban farms flourish. Chickens, ducks and geese, their scent unmistakeable, mingle amongst bushy rows of herbs and vegetables. English style gardens their flowers protruding through fence pickets splash colour on the scene.  

The interpretive style of Victoria artist Rick Thomas brings life and character to the homes of the James Bay neighborhood. His sketch above of two old Dallas Road beauties is indicative of his work in ‘the Hood’. 

I think of his work when I meander through the streets and lanes of James Bay. My challenge is to photographically represent the character of ‘the Hood’ as Rick has done through his sketches.

Street Side Flowers

 

 

 

 

Also posted in My Work

Thinking Time: Exercising the Brain

Three times a week, Monday, Wednesday and Friday, at 7:30 AM I head up to my neighborhood’s YM/YWCA. I, like many others arrive early to work through an exercise routine in an effort to keep fit. Its relatively mindless activity so I also use this time to think, solve problems and develop ideas.

The ‘exercisers’ are interesting and generally fall into two groups. The young who possess the great figures and chiseled physiques and the rest, a group that is working hard to arrest the affects of gravity on certain body parts. That’s my group.

Lately, Facebook and my participation in Lake Country’s Artwalk are the topics most current to my ‘thinking workouts’ at the ‘Y’. The 24th annual edition of Artwalk will be held this weekend, September 9th and 10th.  I’ll save that discussion for my next blog article when the show is over and I’ve had time to consolidate my thoughts.

Facebook and social media in general have been top of mind lately. With the plethora of material that is displayed on Facebook every day I wonder if it is the best platform to exhibit and promote my photography. In the past few months I have virtually ignored my blog and website opting to post very regularly to Facebook. I’ve even tried Instagram and a Facebook Page. Instagram seems to reach the same audience that my regular Facebook posts do. Facebook Page has become annoying with its constant effort to ‘sell’ me advertising.

I’m interested in Google Plus but have so far only dabbled with it. It does reach a different audience and I believe it’s searchable on Google’s vast network. That could be advantageous. And, I love the way it displays photographic images.

So the challenge is to get my website up to date and return to writing regular blog posts. The big question remaining though, is how do I become more efficient with Facebook and perhaps take advantage of the power that Google Plus offers?

 

Resting on an old iron fence this bicycle patiently waits for its owner.

 

With Lake Country’s Artwalk scheduled for this weekend I thought I would include one of the images I entered in 2010. I captured it near the town of Cormorandel in New Zealand. As we completed a hike through a forested area we came across an old bicycle leaning on a fence. It’s appearance suggested it had been there for quite some time. The fence was constructed from sheets of corrugated steel. It was very rusty. In developing the image I chose to bring ‘life’ to the image by increasing the colour saturation. I liked the way it turned out as did the person who purchased it.

Also posted in Education, My Work

Cross Country Flight: Thinking Time!

Window seat! Awkward, but it was a must for the view.

Early last Thursday morning as our flight climbed into the sky a rolling landscape emerged. Grasslands, then the checkered patterns of farms and in the distance cumulus clouds like fluffy pillars rose high into the sky. I hoped that our flight wouldn’t become bumpy.

Sleep doesn’t come too easily when I’m traveling by plane. So I find that times like these are wonderful opportunities to read, write or play with a few images. I neglected to pack my reader so I chose to work on my images.

Even though I don’t have the hard drive with my library of images with me I am able to edit smart previews that reside in my library catalogue. I chose one that I thought had some creative possibilities. It was a good time to experiment with Lightroom and the creative possibilities of my Nik and Topaz plugins.

Waves and Wind Batter a Lone Tree

On a Sunday afternoon hike we visited a narrow, stony beach on Lake Michigan. It was windy, warm and wave crashed onto the beach. A narrow peninsula protruded from the beach. It extended a short distance into the lake. A lone, skeletal tree guarded its entrance. Waves flowed freely over the peninsula as the level of Lake Michigan is higher than normal.

I thought that one of the images I captured that hike was a good candidate for applying some of the techniques I practiced on the plane a few days earlier. I worked within Photoshop using Topaz Lab’s Impression plugin. 

All elements of the scene seemed to be in motion as the wind was very strong. My objective was to create that feeling of motion. I’m happy with the end result!

 

Also posted in Education, My Work