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.

Posted in Education, The Creative Process, Travel

Spirituality with Colour: Vaisakhi

Recently, I attended Vaisakhi celebrations here in Kelowna. My awareness of Vaisakhi was limited to news broadcasts of similar events in Vancouver and Surrey where the turnout is reported to be in excess of 500,000.  I decided that it was time to learn more about what appeared to be a very important community event.   

 Vaisakhi has its roots in Hinduism and Sikhism. It is a historical and religious festival with distinct significance for each culture.  Vaisakhi marks the birth of the Sikh faith and is celebrated at Kelowna’s Sikh Temple. 

 Rain was threatening when I arrived at the temple but thankfully held off.  Traditional dress prevailed, men with their turbans, mostly orange, women garbed in their colorful, traditional gowns.  The area in front of the temple was jammed in readiness for a parade through the community. Music, revving motorcycles, loud chatter and even the bagpipes from the local Scottish marching band made for a rather chaotic scene. 

 But this day was much more than preparations for a parade. It was about sharing food and a meal with friends and neighbours. It was about happiness and strength garnered from an extended, productive family unit. And it was about celebrating the traditions and faith of a centuries old religion.  I hope the gallery of images I’ve included below captures the incredible feeling and excitement that permeated this celebration.  

 So, for 3 hours I joined the crowd. While I made lots of images I spent much time people watching and chatting. Clearly, there was respect of all members of the community regardless of age. I discovered also, that the ethnic food that was free for the asking was delicious. All and all it was a wonderful afternoon. 

 

Posted in Uncategorized

Artistic Longevity: Keeping the Fire Burning

Two men, two old men, entered stage right. They shuffled across the stage, the taller, his arm around the shoulder of the shorter. Both were bald. The shorter, obviously frail, wore comfort shoes that seemed to have velcro clasps. Both carried guitars. 

They found centre stage each behind a microphone, each in front of a stool. Looking out at the audience, a full house, they silently took in the moment. Then they each began to speak, quickly, not together. Laughter filled the theatre. And then the music began just as it had done 60 years ago, guitars played exquisitely, voices clear and strong. We  all were transported back to an earlier time.    

Over all these years their message has been the same:  inclusion, fairness, equality and civil rights. Always unapologetic they are as relevant today as they were in the 1960’s. 

It was  the Peter and Paul show but really it was a Peter, Paul and Mary performance. Although she passed away 9 years ago her presence was surely felt. The show was fabulous. 

So what’s the point of my story? Peter, now 80 and Paul, not that much younger,  have kept their creative  drive burning for many, many years. How? 

They believe in themselves, their art and the message it conveys. I think that is the basis of their drive and longevity. Total commitment serves to keep the ‘fire in the belly’ burning.  It’s the same for all artists, I believe.  ‘Likes’ or as some call them ‘digital hugs’ are not important. It’s about belief in one’s art and personal  commitment to improvement. With those ideals firmly held age doesn’t matter.  

The images above were made last week at the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix, Arizona. It houses one of the largest collections of desert plants from around the world. It was a day well spent.   

Posted in Education, My Work, 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.   

Posted in My Work, Travel

Back Roads: Treasure Revealed

About a month ago I was the driver on a hockey road trip with our son and grandson who had an afternoon game in Oliver, B.C.

I left the boys at the arena and headed off to explore a few back roads in the area. I had an hour. After passing a now defunct recreational vehicle factory I continued on passing snow covered fields, dilapidated farm buildings and several rural residences.

Curiosity slowed me down as I passed a high board fence. Looking through the gate I saw that many old cars and trucks were piled there. I continued on but I slowed again feeling that I had missed something on the other sided of the road. I returned.

There, in the ditch opposite the junk yard’s gate was a vintage pick up truck. I think it was an early 50’s Dodge. Realizing immediately that this weathered old truck and its surrounding weeds, branches and other junk had some creative possibilities, I stopped.

This image was one of about a dozen I made that afternoon. My camera was equipped with a 35mm lens which allowed me to move in close to the truck and still capture its surroundings.

This interpretation is my favourite. I love the way this old Dodge seems to be trying to extricate itself from the underbrush, rusted junk and snow.

A vintage Dodge pickup rests in a snow filled ditch engulfed in underbrush and junk

Posted in My Work, The Creative Process

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.   

Posted in My Work, Travel

A New Year: A New Post

Gulls soar on the wind as waves crash at Cattle Point

Happy New Year! How quickly 2017 flew by. The days, months, seasons just seemed to run together. As the saying goes, “time flies when you’re having fun”. I must have been having fun. 

Since starting my blog in June of 2013 I’ve written and posted just over 130 articles. Generally, the topics I chose to write about reside in 3 thematic areas – My Work, Travel and Education. Starting with this post I’ve added a new theme, The Creative Process. This new theme reflects my growing interest in this area. It will be fun to explore.  

My goal, to write and publish a weekly article has not always been accomplished.  As with New Year’s resolutions distractions happen. So, this year my goal is simply to write whenever I can. That’s it.  

This post is the 1st of several in which I will display my favourite images of 2017. I spent almost 2 months of 2017 in Victoria, including the month of October. On almost a daily basis I was able to get out with my camera. Back streets particularly in James Bay, the Oak Bay Marina and the Victoria waterfront became my frequent destinations. This selection of images and others to be posted in subsequent articles show my appreciation for Victoria’s beauty. 

 

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

 

 

 

 

Posted in My Work, Travel

Better Images: Practice, Practice, Practice…..

Photography is my passion. I love getting out with my camera. Sometimes I’m asked, “How do I improve my photography?” 

As an amateur it is not an easy question to answer.  While I had been involved in photography since I as a youth I didn’t make a serious effort to improve. That changed when I began to delve into digital photography. I really wanted to learn as much as possible about photography.     

I determined early on that I should study composition and exposure. It would be time well spent.   

Many resources are easily available to help with this process. David Du Chemin’s book Within the Frame: The Journey of Photographic Vision I found to be very useful.  

A  three day composition workshop with Sydney, B.C. professional photographer, Dave Hutchinson helped me apply the academic knowledge I was acquiring to direct practical use. His workshop took place in Tofino, B.C. and in the Pacific Rim National Park. Obviously, a very motivating place to be enjoying photography. Dave offered the same course the following year. I again signed up having enjoyed the previous year’s experience so much.  

Understanding the fundamentals of exposure,  ISO, shutter speed and aperture, became a priority. Again there are many resources available. I chose the highly acclaimed  book by Bryan PetersonUnderstanding Exposure. It remains current with the recent publication of a 4th edition. It is an excellent resource.  

And then, there is the real key to improvement….practice, practice and more practice. Putting all that has been learned to practical use is the best way to grow and improve photographic skills.  

Regular photography outings are important even if for only a short time. To help me concentrate on my composites I’ll often make a ‘one lens’ camera walk.  Usually, this would be my 35mm prime lens. 

Others will approach their photographic journey differently, however practice and lots of it are likely to be a common element. 

Great Blue Heron on a cold afternoon

The Fascieux Creek Wetland is an urban marsh close to home. It affords me regular opportunities to make photographs and practice my skills. Last winter, I visited there almost every day. Coincidentally,  a Great Blue Heron also visited regularly. It had found a perch just above the ice covered water that caught a few rays of sun in the afternoon. It seemed to enjoy whatever heat the sun generated. I enjoyed the gorgeous light. After a few visits it became comfortable with my presence. As long as I didn’t move quickly and was relatively quiet I was allowed to move into its space.

 

 

Posted in Education, My Work

V Dub in the Trees: Creative Opportunity

Beyond all others, my favorite car has always been the Austin Healey 3000 MK III. Ownership of a MKIII remains a dream. A distant 2nd on my list was the Volkswagen Beetle Type I. To me both are character cars. 

We had a blue 1968 ‘V Dub’, a Type I. It was brand new and lasted until our family grew.  Size then began to matter. I wish we still had that little blue beetle.  

Some are still on the road. The sound of their noisy exhaust pipes, unmistakable. Sadly, many others are inoperable and can be seen as relics in back yards, vacant lots or in lonely sections of farmers’ fields rusted out amongst other irrelevant junk.  

Last week, while exploring for photo opportunities near  Witty’s Lagoon and Albert Head in Metchosen, B.C. we chanced upon a farm yard with this wrecked  ‘V Dub’ resting near a back fence. It was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up. As the 19th century scientist, Louis Pasteur, said, “chance favors the prepared mind.”   

Often in our travels I’ve observed relics of old cars and trucks resting in roadside properties. Creative ideas flowed with many ideas imagined.  As I made a series of image of this particular find, I visualized a workflow that would result in a creative interpretation of the scene before me.   

Farmyard Relic

The composition I chose to work with was a vertical. I felt it more effectively showed the car blending into the world in which it lives. As I composed my images I carefully thought about each element to reduce or hopefully eliminate the need to crop out unwanted objects.   

Plugins from NIK Software and Topaz Labs that work within the Photoshop framework are ideal for what I was hoping to achieve. After performing a few basic adjustments in Lightroom I moved the image off to Photoshop and my plugins where the creative possibilities are endless.  

This old relic and its gritty surroundings instilled a feeling of nostalgia within me. I wondered how long it had been there and if it would ever feel the loving hands of a restorer.  

Posted in Education, My Work