Category Archives: Travel

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

History: A Photographic Opportunity

‘Prof. Loft’ at the University of Victoria could make Canadian history come alive. His lectures captivated me. It was one of my favourite subjects.

That was a long time ago but my interest in history and how our landscape has evolved is still of interest to me. “How did our forefathers cope with such an inhospitable environment?” and “How were they able to build such wonderful structures with tools that we would term primitive?” are questions I often ask myself while on my travels.

In most of Australia’s cities the beauty of historic architecture both domestic and commercial is very evident.  Individual houses have unique rooflines, verandas and facades. Commercial and government building are made of stone and are usually quite ornate. It is wonderful to see  that history and heritage is important to Australians and  that their buildings are restored and repurposed rather than torn down in favour of new modern structures.

Some of these buildings are more that 100 years old. They are often surrounded by modern, tall structures. The contrast is remarkable. Both are beautiful but it’s the old that seem to tell a story. These buildings reach back in time to reveal a resilient forward thinking heritage.

 

 

Also posted in My Work

Aussie Cuisine: Pie, Slice, Flat White

Australian summertime temperatures, particularly in the semi arid and desert regions of the continent often exceed 40 degrees Celsius. For the remainder to the year temperatures tend to moderate. This is especially so in coastal regions where most of Australia’s 24 million residents reside.

Family activities, sports and restaurants all thrive under these moderate conditions. Parks are very popular and often have protective awnings from the still dangerous sun. Community barbeques located in many parks are very well used. Also popular are bakeries and restaurants with outdoor seating and patios.

An inexpensive coffee as we would find in North America doesn’t seem to exist in Australia. I had thought that McDonald’s universal menu would include my favourite, a “medium coffee, 3 creams”. Not so!

Australian McDonald’s fondly referred to as Macca’s, have barista machines and serve a small selection of specialty coffees at a cost of about $4.00 or more. In fact, barista machines can be found in the vast majority of coffee shops.

Restaurant patios present themselves in many different forms. They are prevalent wherever there is shade from the sun and room on the sidewalk. A small meat pastry or pie and cheesecake are inviting choices to accompany my favourite coffee, a flat white. Very tasty and addictive despite the price.

Enjoying a relaxing moment in Hahnsdorf, South Australia

 

I photographed many street side patios. Those in small towns were particularly interesting. Visitors and towns folk alike seemed to revel in these colourful, active gathering places.

Patio in the trees in Flinders, New South Whales

A patio in Glenelg, South Australia, in the shade of beautiful palms

The Hahnsdorf Inn, a colourful, street side patio in South Australia

A busy seaside patio near Glenelg, South Australia

The Great Blue Heron: A Continuing Story

The Great Blue Heron…majestic, solitary, territorial. In recent months I have made many attempts to photography the Great Blue that is the resident heron of the Fascieux Creek Wetland in Kelowna’s lower Mission area. While I have been somewhat successful this heron knows his territory. Most of the time it cunningly locates itself behind a wall of reeds or is perched high in an old snag.

A Great Blue Heron resting on the rocks near the Oak Bay Marina.

A Great Blue Heron resting on the rocks near the Oak Bay Marina.

In Victoria where we have been visiting for the last month it is a much different story. I have spent a lot of time along the Dallas Road and Beach Drive waterfront. Great Blue’s are much more evident.

Within an easy walk of our residence is the Oak Bay Marina. Two herons seem to reside close by. One in particular has caught my attention. On a number of occasions it has allowed me into its space. As long as I move slowly and oblique to its location I can get quite close. Last week the two of us sat staring at each other on the rocks about 20 feet apart.

Regardless of the weather its routine seems to be quite regimented. It will hunt, rest while standing on one leg seemingly for hours and fly off to its perch in a nearby oak tree. Then with a loud squawk its routine begins again. It flies off to a nearby beach for another hunting expedition. At some point it returns to where I first spotted it. I love the way it moves in on its prey, catches it, deftly tossing it about before sending it down its gullet.

The image quality of my Nikon d7200 even at higher ISO settings is excellent. It is ideal for ‘birding’. Its cropped sensor when compared to a full frame camera sensor increases the reach of my lenses by a factor of 1.5. So my 70mm to 300mm lens would seem like a 105mm to 450mm lens. For my budget and shooting style it is perfect.

In the few days that remain of our Victoria visit I’ll be out and about with my camera as much as I can. There is so much to photograph. And I will remain on the case of the elusive, Great Blue Heron.

Also posted in Education, My Work

Oregon: Back Stories

The Thursday Morning Shooters’ trip to Oregon had its memorable and perhaps not so memorable moments. For me, it started a day earlier when I sliced off the end of left thumb while chopping onions. Fortunately, I’m a righty so my photography was not overly hampered. But it was not a good omen.

As mentioned in my last article, I was one of two ‘back seat boys’. We had chosen or were assigned to travel in the backseat of our respective travel vehicles. I rode in absolute comfort. My ‘backseat’ partner travelled in a different level of comfort. He appeared to have been shoehorned into his seat. Surrounded by gear and after many miles of discussing camera and software issues and debating  U.S. politics I’m sure he felt somewhat battered.

Our accommodation at the Silver Falls State Park although warm and dry bordered on rustic. Rain forced us to cook and socialize on the porch of one of the cabins. Somewhat difficult but we made it work.

On the morning of day two, I emerged from my cabin to laughter and guffaws. It was coming from our pilots and co-pilots. They pointed to a cooler bag lying on the ground. It was scratched, dirty, ripped and empty. It was mine. Needing a coffee, I was not amused.

During the night a ruckus on the porch had woken them. Through their cabin window they observed two raccoons fighting over the contents of my bag. Not wanting to interrupt they watched. My breakfast options were severely reduced as a result. Note to self…’Don’t leave food items accessible to the ‘wild ones!’

While on the beach near Lincoln City one of our pilots lost his keys. Our pilots had exchanged their spare keys in the event of such a situation. Fortunately, a kind soul found and turned the keys in to the restaurant at which we were lunching. All of us were relieved but it did give us another opportunity to direct barbs and insults at one another.

I don’t think any of us had an understanding of the terrain within the Silver Falls State Park. The trail to the North Falls was easy. But to get to the other falls and the far reaches of the park we had to descend into a gorge some 200 feet. This was not really a concern until it was time to come out. The uphill climb was long, strenuous and slow. As a result we missed rendezvous times and we worried. It was a good reminder that our youth has long passed.

Our plans for day three unfortunately changed. One of our group was not well. So after much discussion and a quick final trip into the park we headed for home.

A shaft of light shines on moss covered branches iOregon's Silver Falls State Park

A shaft of light shines on moss covered branches iOregon’s Silver Falls State Park

Our Oregon trip was a success despite being cut short. We made some excellent images, shared ideas and told forgettable stories. The ancient trees in the Silver Falls State Park and the thundering waves on the Oregon coast have left me with the lasting impression of nature’s beauty and power.

Waves relentless crash the beach near Lincoln City, Oregon

Waves relentless crash the beach near Lincoln City, Oregon

Also posted in My Work