Needles in a Haystack: Hidden Gems

Golf is underway! I haven’t been too active for several years but this year I’m in again, ‘driver, wedge and putter’! That means I’m not out as much with my camera although I’m making frequent visits to the Fascieux Creek Wetland.

Once the social distancing requirements begin to be relaxed I’ll return to a more active ‘shooting’ regime. In the meantime, I’ve devoted my energies towards reviewing my image library. My overall objective is to identify images for my website and for my book about the Fascieux Creek Wetland

Revisiting images that have been buried in the depths of my library has been a very rewarding experience. Sports events especially those involving our grandchildren are prominent to my library as are images of  National Pickleball tournaments, the recent 55+ Summer Games and Kelowna’s Annual Apple Triathlon. Mostly though, my images reflect my interest in the places we have traveled to, the natural world and in my desire to practice and improve my image making. 

At about 80,000 images, my library is small compared to some. All the images I’ve made can be found there whether good, bad or just so so. Typically, I don’t delete images. I keep them all.  It’s interesting to see how my photography has changed or even improved over time. My current review reveals  that my proficiency with the image development software that I use has increased.  Now, some images that I once had no interest  in are being revealed as  hidden gems.

Six different cameras, all Nikons, were used to make my images.  All were good cameras that served my needs very well. In reality the brand makes no difference. In my film days I used other brands and was happy with their performance as well. Reconfirmed in my mind  is the fact that the camera is just a tool  to make the photograph. Regardless of the camera’s technological capabilities it’s the vision of the photographer that is the most important factor in the making of an image. This is clearly evident as I look back.

All of the images I’ve included with this article were mired deep within my library. Why I didn’t see their potential when I first made them is hard to say. It might have been a case of not knowing my software well enough or perhaps I was distracted by other images that at the time seemed to jump off my computer screen, not needing much help from my software. So, the hunt for other elusive needles in the haystack will continue. As I have been doing this last few months, these will be posted on Instagram and on Facebook as I find them. 

Posted in Education, My Work, The Creative Process

Creativity: vs Commerce

What unusual times we are experiencing! Uncertainty and fear are such prevalent feelings. Other than the polio epidemic that ended in 1955 with the introduction of the Salk vaccine nothing in my lifetime really compares.

Social isolation that now governs our lives leaves us with much time to attack the forever full ‘to-do’ list, to read, to work on projects and of course to think about new projects and ideas. I’ve read lots, ‘who-dun-its’ for the most part. And I’ve lost a bunch of weight. No booze or restaurant food and excellent home cooked meals have paid off.

Broken wagon wheel on Cotter’s Ranch near Quesnel, B.C.

The two projects I have underway are  progressing slowly but well. So far the design aspect to my website revision is almost complete. I’ve identified the images that will appear in my first book. It will be about the critters in the Fascieux Creek Wetland. In the background, ideas for my blog are always percolating.

This article arose from my  desire to include online sales through my  website. Logistically speaking, it should relatively easy to do. But previous experiences with commerce and my photography actually  led me to give up on photography for awhile. “Is this what I really want to do?”

Barrel Racer at the William’s Lake Stampede

Like many photographers there are two chapters to my involvement with photography, film and digital. The chapter  about film began at  a very early age. Over time the creative possibilities of black and white photography captured my imagination.  I even had the opportunity to exhibit  my prints in a few art shows. Then the idea of earning money through my photography crept in and  became a serious consideration. Sadly, this motivation took me away from the creative aspect of photography. In the end, I lost my desire to make photographs just for the fun of it. I sold all my gear!

The growth of digital image making in the intervening years led  me back back to photography. There was no need for darkroom equipment, chemicals and all the other necessary paraphernalia related to film photography. Results were immediate.

Bronco rider at the Calgary Stampede

My interests today parallel those of my years with film photography. Family photography was and still is very important to me. Back then I  loved to photography events such as the Williams Lake Stampede, Kelowna’s Snow Fest and  the spring River Race on Mission Creek sponsored by radio station CKIQ. Now, I enjoy photographing events such as Versaiki here in Kelowna and the Northwest Duces Auto Show in Victoria. Most of all, I love to photograph landscapes, wildlife and other subjects that I can artistically represent with my camera.

The images included in this article were made in the mid 1970’s. My photography today reflects similar interests. The image of the old wagon axel was made on my aunt and uncle’s ranch on Dragon Lake near Quesnel, B.C. The first rodeo image was made at the Williams Lake Stampede and the last image was made at the Calgary Stampede. 

Again, I am making photographs for the love of it.  Should an  image sell my hope would be that the purchaser was moved by an inner feeling  created by that image. That’s what is most important to me.

 

Posted in Education, My Work, The Creative Process

Fascieux Creek: Springtime Rhythm

Spring has arrived at the Fascieux Creek Wetland. Located in the lower Okanagan Mission area of Kelowna, B.C., it is a small urban wetland about 4 acres in size. Fed by a network of creeks and ditches it ultimately drains into Okanagan Lake.

For the last 4 years I have spent many hours photographing its critters and studying its rhythm. I’ve found that learning the rhythm of this little wetland allows me to be more productive with my photography.

On first impression one would think that this small natural area is just a tangle of trees, brush and bulrushes. In reality it’s a natural ecosystem, teeming with life, within the bounds of an urban setting.

Over the winter, not much happens here that is obvious. Yes, there are tracks that indicate the presence of critters. But for the most part they are hunkered  down in their dens and nests. The Great Blue Heron is a regular visitor throughout the year and the beaver generally can be seen year round but not so much in the winter.

The wetland is slowly starting to wake up  after a long winter. Reeds and bulrushes are starting to push through the heavy mat of last year’s crop that was pushed down by the blanket of snow.  Mallard ducks are year round residents. Usually, they move about in flotillas. Now they are pairing up and going through their annual mating rituals. Sometime in late April the first ducklings will appear.  Red Winged Blackbirds are already in full throated song and Robins are in their annual nest building mode. Muskrats are out and about, silently cruising the narrow channels of the wetland.

I have yet to see the resident  Great Blue Heron. Usually, he sticks to a very predictable schedule. Once I do see him I’ll know when to come to the wetland to photograph him. The beaver’s presence is obvious but it is a nocturnal animal. In order to photograph him I’ll have to be up early or stay late in the evening. However, my favourite time of the year at the Fascieux Creek Wetland  is when the ducklings emerge. 

The images I’ve included below were made over the last 4 years. They are some of my favourites and may be included in a book I am considering. Seasonally, they span a timeframe from late Winter to mid Spring. It’s a time when the Fascieux Creek Wetland is alive with new life and energy. It is such a special time.

Posted in Education, My Work, The Creative Process

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.

Posted in Education, My Work, Travel

Facebook, Instagram, a Blog: What’s the Point?

Europe was great!  So many pictures and wishes that I had made more. Mexico on the other hand didn’t happen. Disappointing for sure but there has been a silver lining. ‘Time found’.  It’s time that I’ve devoted to my on going photography projects at home.

At this time of year I look for inclement weather conditions to provide atmosphere and mood for the landscapes I want to create. The images I’ve included below were made under such condition in the Kelowna area, near Victoria and in Michigan. Some of those made in Kelowna were made a year ago in conditions that were extreme with temperatures reaching -19 degrees Celsius.

For the most part this year the conditions here in Kelowna have been calm and not very dramatic.  So my time  has been devoted to reviewing my image library, examining my presence on social media, planning for revisions to my blog and trying to answer these questions: Why am I doing this? What’s the point?  Is it time well spent?

Of the few social media platforms I’ve joined Google+ was my favourite. It rendered images so well and its defined photography communities were awesome. I loved participating in the Landscapes and Black and White communities. Sadly, Google decided to scrap its social media platform.

Initially, I thought Facebook would be an effective  avenue to show off my photography and communicate with other photographers and  friends. I dove right in!

I enjoyed posting my photographs and  interacting with friends on Facebook. In time though, I learned that there was a downside. Some of my friends were hacked which meant that I had to constantly be on guard to prevent the same thing happening to me. And then I became concerned about Facebook’s volume of mindless clutter and advertising that buried the content that I wanted to share. A solution though emerged. 

Until recently, Instagram has been on the back burner. I couldn’t determine how to include it into my workflow. This platform seems to be ideal for posting photographs. All posted content is readily available on the ‘home’ page. This was a game  once I figured out that Instagram could easily be connected with Facebook.The combination of Instagram and Facebook has given my the social media vehicle I’ve been searching for to properly share my images.

Geezer with a Camera, my blog, has been active since June of 2013. I’ve published close to 200 articles. Based on a WordPress platform I just love the way it renders photography. Images are so clear and sharp. And I love to write.  I’ve made countless modifications  to give my blog and website their current look. But to me they look a bit tired and in need of refreshing. New content and a new look is badly needed. So, in the next week or so my website will go ‘under construction’ while I tend to that work. Once that is done I will tackle my blog. 

I’m not sure how long the reconstruction process will take. Hopefully not long. Regardless, it will be interesting to see what I can create.

Posted in Education, My Work, The Creative Process

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.

 

Posted in Education, My Work, Travel

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.

Posted in Education, My Work, Travel

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. 

Posted in Education, My Work, Travel

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.

Posted in Education, My Work, Travel

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.

Posted in Education, My Work, Travel