Smoke and Fire

Winter can be cruel. This year it seems even more-so. The bitter cold, day after day, a ridiculous ice storm followed by a few days of mild weather, and then back to the deep freeze. With January done and the short month of February here, I can feel spring just around the corner.

"Smoke and Fire" - Bay of Fundy, Saint John, NB

“Smoke and Fire” – Bay of Fundy, Saint John, NB

The photograph above was taken in January on an extremely cold morning. I dropped my daughter off at school and I noticed the sea fog was floating over the Bay of Fundy so I went back home to get my equipment. The cold air over the bay created a thick fog and with the sunrise shining through it made for a fabulous scene. I fired off a few shots for about 10 minutes and then headed back home because the wind chill burned through my jeans and made it just too uncomfortable to continue. Winter conditions can be challenging at times. Fortunately, photographic excursions don’t have to be to far away, or for a long time to be successful.

I created this image using a Canon 50D and a Canon EF-S 1755mm f/2.8 IS USM, set to aperture priority (AV) at f/8 with a shutter speed of 1/400 of a second at ISO 100 and with the focal length of the lens at 38mm. Post processing was done using Corel AfterShot Pro.

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There Is No Such Thing As Bad Weather

“There is no such thing as bad weather, there is only bad gear”.

This was some of the best advice I have ever received with respect to being a photographer. I met BBC and National Geographic photographer Ian Kellett while assisting with Alexandra Cousteau’s Expedition Blue Planet in 2010 on their visit to New Brunswick. Ian wanted to visit Deer Island in October on a very cold and damp day and I don’t remember exactly what I said when he asked about going but obviously it had something to do with the weather conditions based on his response.

I was reminded again this week how good Ian’s advice was. The Maritimes have been experiencing a week-long cold snap. It’s been so cold that schools have kept kids in for lunch and some schools have cancelled classes all together. The temperatures have been near or below -20 Celsius (-30 with the wind chill) which has been a similar temperature to places like Iqaluit in Nunavut. It was actually warmer this week in Whitehorse in the Yukon than here in New Brunswick.

Fortunately the cold weather has brought an upside. The mornings on The Bay of Fundy have produced a week of some of the most spectacular sunrises I’ve ever seen. As the cold air moved across the normally colder water, it has created a lot of very heavy sea fog or sea smoke as it is sometimes called. I decided that I would venture out on a few mornings to see what I could record with my camera. Of the two days of shooting, the image below of Partridge Island is my favourite. To provide some scale, Partridge Island is approximately 24 acres in size and the lighthouse stands about four storeys tall. In some places the fog reached close the height of the base of the lighthouse.

The Cold And The Beautiful

“The Cold And The Beautiful”

It was likely one of the coldest weeks in recent years that I’ve gone shooting. The two days I went out to try and get a shot of Partridge Island it was so cold that even with a hat and two hoods it was only tolerable to be out of about ten to fifteen minutes at a time. I found that I was short of breath after climbing a couple of flights of stairs to shoot this image.

During my twenty years of photography winter has likely presented the most challenges and the temperatures have been some of the most difficult situations to shoot in. Ian was right; your gear and clothing can make all the difference between getting the shot or not.

Living in a Fog

Living on the East Coast of Canada provides so many photographic opportunities. The ocean coastline, rivers, lakes and the Acadian forest all provide magnificent spaces to record images. There is also another factor that makes shooting on the East Coast so great. The weather. The weather creates much of the drama for my photography, especially fog. A foggy day is one of my favorite times to go on an exploration or to go back to places that I’ve photographed previously. It allows for a totally different type of image. It makes for a true Maritime experience.

Sea fog also known as advection fog over the Bay of Fundy and Campobello Island

For most of my friends the fog is generally not welcome, but I receive it with open arms. It’s cool and refreshing on the hot summer days. It is nature’s air conditioning without any of the energy draining environmental impact. It is one of the benefits of living along the Bay of Fundy. There is no shortage of foggy days and in any season. Living in a place with fog year around might explain why some records show that the invention of the foghorn took place in my hometown of Saint John, New Brunswick in the 1850’s.

There are several types of fog, and living where I do next the Bay of Fundy there are  ample opportunities to experience just about every type. Some of the different types of fog that you may see are radiation fog sometimes known as valley fog, evaporation fog, advection fog and freezing fog. The fog I like to look for is the evaporation fog over different bodies of water.

Steam fog is a type of evaporation fog and occurs when cold air moves over warmer water

This evaporation fog can add so much to an image especially if you can combine it with an early morning sunrise or sunset on a cold day. I have been fortunate to record images on ponds, rivers and on the ocean in all different seasons. With my camera in hand I’m constantly on the lookout for a scene where evaporation fog is present.

Shooting in different types of weather can be a challenge and fog is no different. It is still moisture and sometimes can be so wet if feels like rain, so protecting your equipment is very important. A rain jacket for your camera or even a zip lock type of bag will work to offer extra protection. Also, working near the ocean can mean the fog may have some extra salt which will quickly wreak havoc on equipment.

Fog is naturally monochromatic. Quite often converting to a fully black and white image seems appropriate.

Don’t let the weather deter you from getting out and enjoy photography. Weather can help with the mood of a photograph, and especially fog. Some of my favorite images were taken on cloudy and foggy days. It can be hard to get motivated on these days but the rewards can be once in a lifetime shots.

I hear is said quite often on the East Coast; “if you don’t like the weather just wait five minutes”. Sometimes that can be bad, or sometimes it can be good, depending on your point of view.

A Snow Day

I love to think of nature as an unlimited broadcasting station, through which God speaks to us every hour, if we will only tune in.
George Washington Carver

Finally!  It has snowed.  This has been the brownest winter I think we have ever had.  Aside from a dusting at Christmas we really haven’t had much in the way of a major snowfall.   So when a storm hit the East Coast this past Friday, I knew how I was going to spend my Saturday morning.  The Kennebecasis Valley was going to be my destination. It is just east of Saint John, and offers so many opportunities with its winding rivers and rolling hills and of course the valleys as its name suggests.  My day started at 7:00 am with a quick stop for some fuel for both the car and me.   From there the journey began.

Ice Fishing @ Sunrise - Kennebecasis River, New Brunswick

I had some visions of what I was hoping to come home with as far as images from my day out.  There is a small town about 30 minutes past Saint John called Norton, and this would be my final destination.   Prior to getting there, I stopped to see my old stomping grounds in the Kennebecasis Valley where I spent most of my youth.  One of the areas I stopped to see in the town was a small ice fishing community.  The colors, shapes and sizes of the ice shacks made for a terrific panorama opportunity.

After I took a few shots from the wharf in front of the ice shacks that were lining the Kennebecasis River, I continued on to the town of Norton where I hoped to capture an image of the snow covered town. As much as I wanted, I couldn’t find the right lookout to capture the landscape of the town and the centerpiece, a church with its red roof. Unfortunately it wasn’t meant to be.

Snow on Rocks - Kennebecasis River, New Brunswick

A little disappointed, but not dejected, I headed towards home.  I was about 15 minutes from home when I drove past the exit for Darlings Island and its covered bridge.  I decided to head into the village and see what I could find.  I’m so glad I did.  It was the highlight of the day.  The river was open and created a fantastic opportunity create a high contrast image with open water and the snow covered ice.  I also captured a wonderful shot of a snow covered lane lined by the leafless trees.

Leafless Lane - Darlings Island, New Brunswick

The day didn’t go as planned but the results were still very satisfying.   My kids love snow days and I couldn’t agree more; even if it is for different reasons.