Category Archives: Travel

The Polar Express: A Huge Opportunity

Belching steam, a 400 tons steam locomotive, sat restlessly in front of me. Roaring, spewing, breathing! It seemed to be alive.

The Pere Marquette 1225 was the model for the Christmas classic, The Polar Express. Built in 1941 with a 2-8-4 configuration, it ran on rails that connected the towns of Flint and Pere Marquette with Detroit. In 1957 it was put on display at Michigan State University and is now owned by the Michigan State Trust for Railway Preservation.

When the opportunity to photograph a steam train came up I jumped at it. Amy, our daughter-in-law called to invite us to accompany them on a steam train excursion to Ashley, MI where the residents had set their small town up as a Christmas destination.

Two weeks ago Ellen and I travelled with our son and his family to Owasso, Michigan where we boarded the Pere Marquette steam train. In all its glory the beautiful steam engine was waiting at a level crossing.  Its beauty and power were very evident. And I had the opportunity to photograph it. Priceless!

Departing in late afternoon I was a bit concerned when I realized that our arrival would be after sun down. Would I be able to capture decent images in low light conditions?

The conductor walks the line past the locomotive prior to departure.

The conductor walks the line past the locomotive prior to departure.


Arriving in Ashley, I quickly saw that darkness was going to be my friend. The ambient light that affected my subject would work. Black subject, black background and enough light to cast the subject dramatically. How then, would I setup my camera to take advantage of these conditions?

I decided to utilize the auto ISO function on my camera. That way I could set aperture and shutter speed to capture images with a fairly wide depth of field. I was pleased with my images. They were sharp but due to the high ISO some were somewhat noisy. I found that this could be dealt with in large degree in computer. Next time though I will limit the ISO range to that which would allow me to capture the best image.



Also posted in My Work

Memories: Photographic Inspiration

The Dale family moved to Cadboro Bay near Victoria, B.C. when I was about 15 years old. After years of renting Mom and Dad finally could afford to own a home. Newly built to their specifications, it was their palace. Looking back, I’m sure it was a financial stretch but they did it. They were so proud.

Having lived in the Fairfield area of Victoria since grade 5, I came to know the nooks and crannies of the Victoria waterfront. Clover Point, Smugglers’ Cove and the Breakwater were places I regularly visited especially in the summer months.

Once we moved to our new home I had new places to explore. A short bike ride would get me to the beach at Cadboro Bay, Cattle Point and even the Oak Bay Marina. Today, whenever we visit Victoria, I take at least one drive along the waterfront from Cadboro Bay to the Breakwater. There are always lots of stops and many images captured.

Storm clouds pass along the Strait of Juan de Fuca

Storm clouds pass along the Strait of Juan de Fuca

The view above is from Cattle Point just past Willows Beach in Oak Bay, B.C. I’ve spent many hours there even into my university days conducting observations for my biology and zoology courses.

About 10 days ago, I sat there in the front seat of my pickup with my father in law. The view of a storm passing along the Strait of Juan de Fuca was fascinating. He too, had spent many hours of his youth here. At almost 93 he has many fond memories. As we sipped our coffees we talked about times past…he in his sailboat 75 years ago, me exploring the rocks and beach combing. And both of us at different times somehow getting out to Chatham and Discovery Islands and meeting the reclusive owner Captain Beaumont.

His eyes sparkled as we shared our experiences and enjoyed each other’s company. He just loves to get out and see the world around him. I love being with a man who over the 50 plus years I have known him has aged but not changed…still kind, gentle, honest, respectful and witty. I’m looking forward to our next shared coffee!

I think my childhood in Victoria and the places I frequented motivate me to return and capture its beauty with my camera. On my most recent trip I managed to get to some of my other favourite haunts – the Inner Harbour, Fisherman’s Wharf, Mount Douglas Park and of course Cattle Point.

Vivid colour is displayed in the reflections at Fisherman's Wharf.

Vivid colour is displayed in the reflections at Fisherman’s Wharf.

My  images were of reflections in the protected waters of Fisherman’s Wharf. These colourful distorted reflections made for some interesting compositions. I think that a few of them will look stunning as prints. Getting them to that stage will my next challenge.

Also posted in My Work

Vancouver Island: A Return Trip

Forty-seven years ago Ellen and I moved from Victoria, B.C. to Quesnel in the central interior of British Columbia. Having been married for only a year it was a big move. My father-in-law helped with the move. I’m sure he thought we were out of our minds. But he kept his thoughts to himself…ever the gentleman.

We had never experienced temperatures of -45 degrees Fahrenheit. We did that winter and in a few winters after that. Our sons were born there and our careers in education took off. After 6 years we moved to our current location, Kelowna, B.C.

We were very happy living in the central interior and are equally as happy here in Kelowna. Both have their own special beauty. But in the back of our minds we missed Victoria and the coastal area of British Columbia. I think the beauty there is unsurpassed. Whenever I have the chance to visit I take as much of it in as possible. My camera becomes very busy.

This week we will be travelling to Victoria. I can hardly wait to get on the road. Last year we made several trips to Vancouver Island and Victoria. I loved being up early and wandering around the wharves, back alleys and streets of Victoria and the coastal forest as seen in Mount Douglas Park.

Some of my favourite images were captured on those trips. Others though, could have been better. So, this trip will be a perfect opportunity to ‘redo’ those that didn’t turn out the way I expected.

As I wandered Fisherman’s Wharf last year I shot a small group of reflections. Two or three captured the colour and whimsical feeling I experience when there. At the time I didn’t think too much about it but on this trip I’ll be looking to capture as many interesting and colourful reflections as I can. Should be fun.

Oh, there is one more item on my list…an outing with my father-in-law. He’s 93 this year. All things considered he’s doing pretty well. So we’ll head out in my truck, grab a couple of coffees at ‘Mickie D’s’, drive to Dallas Road and the Victoria waterfront and have a great chat about life and things…..Priceless!!!

Vivid colours are reflected by the waters of Victoria, B.C.'s inner harbour

Vivid colours are reflected by the waters of Victoria, B.C.’s inner harbour

Also posted in My Work

A Creative Choice: Colour or Black and White

“A photo shoot on Vancouver Island…?” Tell me when. I’m always ready!

Several Vancouver Island destinations completely capture my interest and imagination. Victoria harbour, Chesterman Beach near Tofino, B.C. and Cowichan Bay just south of Duncan, B.C. are some of my favourites.

Last year, I made two early morning treks to Cowichan Bay. Opening to the east the growing intensity of predawn light gradually reveals shapes, lines and patterns of this beautiful west coast landscape.

I like to plan my arrival at Cowichan Bay to coincide with the emergence of ‘first light’. Usually, I locate myself at the community boat launch which allows an almost 180 degree view of the bay, marinas and surrounding hills. By the time I have my tripod and camera set up the glassy surface of the bay begins to emerge from the blackness of night.

As the light intensifies, surface breezes begin to tickle the water. Gorgeous reflections persist where headlands and wharves protect the stillness of the water. The resulting patterns and tones are so beautiful. Mist that hugs the distant hills and mountains begins to rise with the heat of the first rays of the sun. The haunting screeching of seagulls indicates that their relentless search for food has begun for the day. So beautiful!

The emerging light of sunrise reveals the tranquility of Cowichan Bay.

The emerging light of sunrise reveals the tranquility of Cowichan Bay.

The emergence of the sun reveals a much different landscape. So colourful! I visualize the jaunty activity and beauty of the many pleasure craft, tugs, fishing boats and their surroundings as colour images. However, my vision of the monotones created by the emerging light of a Cowichan Bay dawn are best presented in black and white.

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The Saguaro: Cactus with Character

My first encounter with the desert in Arizona was on a road trip shortly after retiring in 2002. Staying at an RV resort near Blythe, California close to the Arizona border we decided one day to trek over to Quartzite, Arizona, a 20 minute journey.

Rave reviews circulated that the ‘Quartzite Yacht Club’ served a great plate of fish and chips. Interesting, we thought.

The ‘Quartzite Yacht Club’ was a club in name only. There was no water….no boats either….just pictures on its rough board walls of wave cresting sailboats and lots of dust. True to it’s billing, the fish and chips were indeed very good.

As I recall the trip now, the ‘Yacht Club’ was also known as a hangout for those who loved to bet on the horses. Half a dozen TV screens hung on the walls each broadcasting a different race. Sitting at a corner wicket a crusty babe busily collected money and passed out tickets and winnings. Memorable for the absurdity of the moment was that she was smoking up a storm while connected to an oxygen bottle. Quite the scene.

The desert around Quartzite was rocky, dry and dusty. Vegetation was sparse. Ideal for rock hounds and desert rats but I found little of interest there and looked forward to getting back to California. I had lots to learn.

Extending over the distant mountain saguaros stand as sentinels in this rocky environment.

Extending over the distant mountain saguaros stand as sentinels in this rocky environment.

After almost annual trips to the Desert Southwest in Arizona and countless hikes in the desert my perspective has changed. Regardless of the terrain interesting images are there for the taking. Vast scenes of rocky outcrops, wind blown designs in the sand, grasses reaching deep for life giving moisture or a high flying raptor searching for its next meal are all subjects for interesting compositions.

Saguaro and other cactus thrive in rocky outcrops.

Saguaro and other cactus thrive in rocky outcrops.

My favourite areas to hike and make photographs are where the saguaros grow. The saguaro stands above the many species of cactus that thrive in these areas. No two saguaros are the same. Each seems to have a personality. Many stand straight like soldiers. Some can exceed 40 feet in height. Character comes with the development of arms that appear when a saguaro is between 75 and 100 years old. Some seem to be swinging their arms as if dancing, others saluting, clapping or even pointing directions. Older saguaro offer housing for birds that peck holes for their nests.

Character and expression seems to emerge when Saguaros develop  arms

Character and expression seems to emerge when Saguaros develop arms

Last week I found a trail in the Tonto National Forest where many huge saguaros reside. This past weekend I journeyed to the Saguaro National Park near Tucson, Arizona. Reaching well in to Mexico this ecosystem has wonderful saguaros seemingly standing in regiments for as far as the eye can see. This weekend I hope to hike in the Pikachu Peak State Park near Casa Grande, Arizona to photograph the saguaro and hopefully, desert wildflowers.

Also posted in My Work

Blog Silence: A Creative Funk

Photography and blogging has been on the back burner this past two weeks. I’ve been distracted. This month two friends both of whom had a huge impact on me passed away. Louise Burgart was a colleague of mine during my term on the Council of the B.C. College of Teachers. Her patient demeanour helped Council navigate though some difficult times. Stanley French was a former president and later Director of Communication and Executive Director of the British Columbia Principals’ and Vice Principals’ Association. His integrity, honesty, and friendship guided me through my term as the Association’s president. My thoughts this past few weeks have been with them. I will miss them both.

Yesterday, I was finally able to sit down with my images and begin the process of selecting those that I will post to my website. My website has been active for several years. As mentioned previously, I built it. For some, not a big deal. But for me, a Geezer, it has been a real challenge at times.

I chose my site on a WordPress platform. That was fortunate. I found lots of material on You Tube and on the ‘Net’ to guided me through the process. Even better, I purchased a theme package from Photocrati. It provided the look that appealed to me. In my opinion, their technical support was second to none. It had to be.

A ‘tinkerer’ at heart, I’m always tweaking and trying to make changes to my website. Sometimes, that’s been good but on other occasions it’s been a disaster. Lots of lessons learned.

Scrutinizing my images has been interesting. I’ve become really picky. Images that at one time I wouldn’t hesitate to post on my website or for that matter on Facebook or Flickr, now don’t make the cut. So, in the next few weeks and certainly before I return to Canada my website will have a different look and much of the content will have been changed. Stay tuned!

The skeleton of the S.S. Dicky slowly erodes into the sand

The skeleton of the S.S. Dicky slowly erodes into the sand

This image will make the cut. The S.S. Dicky ran aground in February 1893 on what is now called Dicky Beach near Caloundra, Queensland in Australia. Plans are in place to move the wreck as a matter of public safety.

I was on Dicky beach well before sunrise on a beautiful morning in April, 2010. Several other photographers showed up shortly after my arrival. Sunrise was spectacular. I captured images from many different angles. My only regret is that I didn’t have a tripod due to airline weight restrictions. A long exposure image would have been great. Now I’ll have to live with this image and others I captured at the time. The wreck of the S.S. Dicky will have been moved by the time I get there again. Dang!!!

Also posted in Education, My Work

Road Trip: Gateway to the Copper Corridor

A road trip to the mining area east of Phoenix, AZ is a ‘must do’ on my photography calendar. The towns of Superior, Miami and Globe are where I like to stop. Superior is the beginning of the Copper Corridor, which extends south to Oracle Junction on highway 77. Miami and Globe are east of Superior.

Developed towards the end of the 19th and early 20th century mines in is area produced copper, gold and silver. Huge open pit operations show that some of these mines are still in operation today.

Superior, AZ celebrated its 128th anniversary this weekend with a historical home tour. Unfortunately, I was unaware of the tour so missed out on a great opportunity to step back into history.

“Vacant” is the name I gave to an image I captured in Superior several years ago. It shows the decaying façade of an old hotel. It is one of my favorites. When I returned there yesterday I found that the old hotel was in the finishing stages of restoration. It will become a bed and breakfast.

Hotel with the character of age.

Hotel with the character of age.

Clearly, the old hotel in Superior had seen better days. Exposed bricks, weathered window frames and faded signage yielded a feeling of character that I hope to bring out in my final rendition.

Using Photoshop Elements 10 as the foundation I worked in Nik’s Viveza 2 and Color Efex Pro to bring out the texture and color that resulted in my final version, “Vacant”.

Further on in Miami, AZ I wondered what life had once been like in these now ramshackle homes. While many were in serious state of decay some seemed be occupied. This home was clearly empty.

One of many empty relics in Miami, AZ.

One of many empty relics in Miami, AZ.

I felt that  black and white  would be the best way to illustrate the weathered and run down state of this building. Starting in Lightroom 5, I moved the image to Photoshop CC and then to Nik’s Viveza 2, Color Efex Pro 4 and Silver Efex 2 to ultimately arrive at my final version.

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An Image Finally Realized: The Georgina Point Lighthouse

Active Pass, named after a US Navy survey ship in 1855 could very well have been named for the waters that force their way through this narrow passage. It is about 5.5 km in length and separates Galliano Island from Mayne Island. Never really still, the waters course back and forth through the pass with the ever changing tide.

Marine traffic including pleasure and commercial fishing boats, freighters, and the B.C. Ferries navigate Active Pass every day. Ferries that join Vancouver Island to the mainland of British Columbia pass very close together at a much reduced speed.

I have travelled this route since the inception of the B.C. Ferries System in 1960. It provides a panoramic snapshot of the landscape that comprises the Southern Gulf Islands.

Often, I have my camera with me on the chance that I might capture an interesting image. One image has eluded me for years…the Georgina Point lighthouse on Mayne Island. Guarding the eastern entrance to Active Pass it stands out against a background of rocks and trees ensuring that mariners steer their boats safely into the Pass.

I’ve captured many images of the lighthouse at Georgina Point. However, I have not been satisfied with many of them. That is, until recently. Last year in October during a trip to Vancouver Island I had another opportunity capture that elusive image.

Conditions this time were perfect. The distant background was shrouded in fog and seemed to merge easily with the sea. Bright, muted sunlight illuminated the foreground. The red roofs and white walls of the Georgina Point buildings stood out so brightly. As if applied by a painter’s brush the colours of the sea birds, trees and the kelp covered fore shore further emphasized the beauty I saw in this scene.

The Georgina Point Lighthouse guards the eastern entrance to Active Pass.

The Georgina Point Lighthouse guards the eastern entrance to Active Pass.

Also posted in My Work

Old Mining Town

Mining on the Desert Southwest has had a long and storied existence. Remnants of past mining ventures can be found in many remote locations. Even today, huge mines work the ground in areas around Miami, Superior and Globe, Arizona.

 Abandoned windmill.

Abandoned windmill.

Last year, I toured the Goldfield Ghost Town a few miles east of Apache Junction, Arizona. Founded in 1893 this was a vital and busy town. At it height this little town had 3 saloons, a general store, meat market, brewery, blacksmith and a school. Just when it looked like it might exceed the growth in Mesa, the quality of the mine’s ore dropped. Slowly the town died. By November of 1998 Goldfield was a ghost town.


Wreckage of old wagon lays on the desert near Appache Junction, AZ.

Wreckage of old wagon lays on the desert near Appache Junction, AZ.

In the mid 1980’s efforts were made to rebuild Goldfield. Now, visitors will find many building that closely resemble those that existed more than a hundred years ago. Many people now visit Goldfield as it has become a popular tourist attraction.

Weathered and rusted truck

Weathered and rusted truck

My interest in the town is the old equipment, vehicles and run down buildings that lay in behind the rebuilt town site. Rusted abandoned equipment, shattered vehicles and broken weathered boards make for some interesting compositions and photographic effects.

Next week I’ll be writing about some of the images I’ve made that show off the colour, rust and textures of the old equipment I found in around the Goldfield Ghost Town.

Also posted in My Work

The Beauty of Rust

Photographers often look for rusty old relics as a source for their artistic images. One can find old cars, trucks and disabled equipment resting on farmland along most rural roads and major highways in Canada and the United States. Getting access to relics of the past to photograph them can often be a major issue.

Rusty relics make for interesting artistic opportunities

Rusty relics make for interesting artistic opportunities

A cache of 200 rust buckets on a hidden farmyard near Salmon Arm, B.C. was a great source of images for me several years ago. On that occasion I had the permission of the owner to wander freely for several hours.

A farm along Intestate 5 in Oregon caught my attention with its display of Volkswagon busses along the fence line. Would I love to work around those old vehicles. In Miami, Arizona I found a cache of junkers behind a security fence. The only way to get an image of them was to hold my camera high over the fence. Using a wide-angle lens I was able to capture a decent image without looking through the view finder.

With any of these images the creative possibilities are limitless. Black and white, HDR or even with the colors totally saturated.

I’m always on the lookout for old junk to photograph. Next week I will be back in Arizona. A trip to the old mining areas east of Phoenix is on my list of must do photo shoots.

Also posted in My Work