Handle With Care

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This is perhaps the most peaceful and beautiful place on Earth for me. About 45 minutes away from my home is this amazing beach with this sandstone island called “Split Rock”.

The time to visit is at low tide so you can experience walking on the ocean floor. Not just the beach and shoreline, but the true ocean floor allowing you to also get up close to the awesome rock. Twice a day for a few hours this opportunity presents itself. If I lived close enough I would be there each time it happens. It’s magical, peaceful and absolutely beautiful. The photography is endless and subjects abound everywhere; on the ground, in the rocks, in the trees and sky.

Lately, what strikes me is that even though this place is a bit out-of-the-way for the public and not known to a lot of people they are regulars who visit often. Yet it remains pristine. The area has little to no trash to speak of. It shows that if people really care and want to have a beautiful place we are capable of keeping it that way.

To those who visit, thank you for being good stewards. Now let’s do it everywhere. We’ve proven it’s possible.

 

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Trouble in Paradise

"The Cove" - Paradise Island, Bahamas.

“The Cove” – Paradise Island, Bahamas.

My wife and I celebrated our 20th anniversary last month in the Bahamas and enjoyed some absolutely spectacular scenery on the resort. Off the resort the scenery was still fantastic, but at times I was saddened by the condition of environment and amount of litter on the beaches and in the water. On a few occasions I saw some of the locals treat the water around the wharf like a giant trash can and I continually thought to myself “don’t they realize what they are doing to this paradise”.

As the days have gone by and I’ve edited my photographs from our trip the thoughts of the trash on the beaches and in the ocean have continued to distress me, until recently. As I’ve started photographing around my own home town I’ve realized the people in my area are no different than those in the Bahamas.

"The Veil" - Welsford, New Brunswick

“The Veil” – Welsford, New Brunswick

A few weeks ago I was hiking though the woods looking for this waterfall and during my walk came across several piles of trash along the paths in the woods, some of it right next the falls itself. It was at this point I started to feel a bit of remorse for the thoughts I had while we were visiting the Bahamas because I realized how hypocritical I was being in my judgment of the local people when they are no different than those of us in the north. We tend to think of paradise being a tropical location but the truth is the God has created the whole Earth and there is fragility and beauty to be found everywhere, not just where the white sandy beaches are.

 

 

It’s Not What You Think.

Glen Falls

Glen Falls

I’ve been involved with an organization called the Atlantic Coastal Action Program (ACAP) for about five years. ACAP has spearheaded a project for several years called the Marsh Creek Restoration Initiative. Marsh Creek is an estuary which starts in the suburbs of Saint John and cuts through the heart of the city. The project was initiated by ACAP because the creek has been contaminated by raw sewage and abused by industry in a small section of the marsh for several decades. Thanks to the attention ACAP has brought to Marsh Creek a plan has recently been put in place to finally fix the problem.

If it wasn’t for the work ACAP is doing I would have continued to associate Marsh Creek with the polluted parts, like most people. When I got involved with ACAP I began to learn that there is so much more to the creek and started to realize how many beautiful parts there are besides the small part that’s been polluted. I like the shot above because it’s not what most people think. You tell them it’s part of Marsh Creek and they are so surprised; just like I was the first time someone told me.

In Search of Silence

I was with some friends recently listening to a Pastor by the name of Rob Bell talk about how difficult it is to do nothing and just sit and be quiet. We are surrounded by noise, sometimes by choice, but sometimes it’s not. We are a society that is always “on”; homes with multiple TVs, radios that are on in the house, at work, and in the car. We have cell phones with different ring tones for each app that cause us to react instantaneously at the sound or vibration of the phone in our hand. I will admit that I am a fan of all these things, however there are days when it’s nice to get away from it all.

Early Saturday morning is my favourite time to explore and take photographs. The attached shot was taken about 2 minutes from my house. I had the entire beach to myself and took advantage of it.  It was quite refreshing to take a little time to sit and be in a quiet place with only the sound of the wind and waves.

Exploring outdoors with my camera and my backpack is not only about trying to create an image. There are times when it is about getting away from the busyness and noise of life. Bringing home a photograph that is worthy of a frame is just an added bonus.

"Silver Surf"

“Silver Surf” – The Bay of Fundy

When The Well Runs Dry

Most photographers have a favourite subject. For some it’s portraits, others flowers and for some it’s landscapes. Water, especially the ocean has become the magnetic attraction for me. I’m fascinated by the way the ocean shapes the coastline, the sound of the waves and how a sunrise reflects off it. There is something peaceful, yet so powerful and at the same time fragile about water.

Today, April 22nd is Earth Day. As I’ve thought about the day and what it means, I started thinking over the decisions I make everyday and what else I can do to help with the issues we are dealing with. I won’t get into the debate of whether climate change is real, however there are other challenges relating to the environment that are undeniable. Being concerned about the environment isn’t just about climate change, the trees in rain forest or wildlife it’s also about people. As important as the issues in the Amazon and the loss of wildlife habitat are, the challenges with respect to water are just as great, if not greater.

Some statistics to consider….

Over 1.5 billion people do not have access to clean, safe water.

Almost 4 million people die each year from water related diseases.

The average toilet uses 6-8 litres of clean water in a single flush.

At any one time, more than half the world’s poor are ill due to inadequate sanitation, water or hygiene.

It takes over 11,000 litres of water to produce a pound of coffee.

Half the world’s schools do not have access to clean water, nor adequate sanitation.

It takes about 300 litres of water to make the paper for just one Sunday newspaper.

Agriculture is responsible for about 70% of the world’s water usage. Industry uses a further 22%.

443 million school days are lost each year due to water related illness.

On average, women in Africa and Asia have to walk 3.7 miles to collect water.

It takes up to 5000 litres of water to produce 1kg of rice.

80% of all illness in the developing world comes from water born diseases.

Drilling a fresh water well can cost anything from a few hundred dollars to over $40,000.

Over 2.6 billion people lack access to adequate sanitation.

90% of waste-water in developing countries is discharged into rivers or streams without any treatment.

About 1.8 million child deaths a year are due to diarrhea.

An 18 litre can of water weighs 20 kilos.

About half the world’s hospital beds are occupied by someone with a water related illness.

A five minute shower in an American household will use more water than a person living in a developing world slum will use in a whole day.

A third of the people without access to clean water live on less than a dollar a day. More than two thirds live on less than two dollars a day.

Water consumption in a US household is eight times that of an Indian household.

In India alone, water born diseases cost the economy 73 million working days per year.

In sub-Saharan Africa a child’s chance of dying from diarrhea is over 500 times greater than in Europe.

Approximately 2.5 billion people lack access to appropriate sanitation facilities.

About 1.2 billion people have absolutely no access to a sanitation facility.

In a typical year in Africa 5–10 times the number of people die from diarrhea than from war.

Simply washing hands can decrease the chance of diarrhea by around 35%.

Global sales of bottled water account for over $60-$80 billion each year.

A child dies of water born diseases about every 15 seconds (that’s about 12 children just since you started reading this article). By this time tomorrow, another 2,500 will be dead.

As little as one dollar can provide clean water for a child in the developing world for an entire year.

SOURCE: http://matadornetwork.com/change/40-shocking-facts-about-water/

We have had a few boil orders recently in my town and it’s made me realize how much I take water for granted at times. It’s so easy to go the sink, turn the tap, and magically water appears. When a pipe breaks or water levels become low and we can’t drink the water from the local reservoir, we feel so inconvenienced with having to get into our cars and drive to the store to buy a bottle. My inconveniences are minuscule compared to those in the developing world.

When the well's dry, we know the worth of water. - Benjamin Franklin

When the well’s dry, we know the worth of water. – Benjamin Franklin

If you are interested in helping or learning more about water issues, below is a list of organizations you might want to consider. For those who are not in a place financially to sponsor or give right now that’s OK, because as much as we need people to be reactive to the situations around the world, more of us (including me) need to be proactive in preventing some of the issues in the first place. Hopefully as you read through the list above you’ve thought of a few ways to share the water we have with those who really need it.

http://www.one.org/international/

http://www.worldvision.org/

http://www.samaritanspurse.org/

http://www.charitywater.org/

http://thewaterproject.org/

One Man’s Trash…

I was in middle school in the mid 80’s when one day I threw a wrapper on the floor in a hallway. Unfortunately for me, I did it in front of a teacher without realizing it. That day I spent my lunch-hour picking up garbage around the yard with much embarrassment. It wasn’t until many years later that I realized just how valuable of a lesson it was. In my early days of learning photography I spotted this beautiful lake with an early morning fog lifting during sunrise. When I got back the prints I quickly realized that the horizon was not straight and the sky washed out; however that’s not what bothered me the most about this photo. If you look in the lower left corner you’ll see the cup from a fast food restaurant that likely got thrown out a car window and blew into the grass. That’s what ruined the picture for me. Suddenly I had a flashback to that day in middle school and I realized how important the lesson was my that teacher taught me about putting garbage in its place.

The Inconvenience of a Coffee Cup

This past week I received an email from a friend introducing me to a new movie called Midway which is schedule to premier later this year. (Please take the four minutes to watch the trailer, it’s worth it). I have watched it several times now and still can’t believe the stark contrast in the images and video that Chris Jordan has captured. Some of the photos are so beautiful, yet many of them very disturbing and demonstrate the horrific damage that garbage is having on the wildlife in our oceans. I’ve seen trash many times during my walks along The Bay of Fundy and Atlantic Ocean. It’s quite common to see coffee cups, broken glass, plastic bottles, fishing buoys and other trash lining the beach. I’ve also seen the images and videos of animals and fish injured or killed by trash that is in our coast waters. I’ve watched the documentaries where they empty the contents of a shark’s stomach and then display the trash from it. So the movie by Chris Jordan just adds to the visual evidence which demonstrates the man-made catastrophe we’ve created in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. In addition to the Pacific we also have the garbage patches in the Atlantic and Indian Oceans. We now have a real mess on our hands. (Visit Howstuffworks.com to learn more about The Great Pacific Garbage Patch).

"Seaview"

This past Saturday morning I left the house early to go and watch the sunrise in a small community on the west side of the city. Although I didn’t come home with as many keepers as I hoped for I did discover a few beautiful locations to keep in mind for future reference. After about 20 minutes of shooting the sunrise I wandered around a fishing dock and waited for the sun to rise through the clouds in hopes some God-Beams would appear. It turned out that there were no God-Beams on this day but I did see a few seabirds and what I think were red necked grebes swimming around the area. As I walked around I noticed that the dock was covered with lobster elastics and they were collecting along the cracks in the ties and other pieces of garbage littered the beach. Suddenly I had visions from Chris Jordan’s documentary and little bird bellies full of plastic and other trash.

Tiny Perils

Over the past 5 or 6 years I’ve been involved with an organization called ACAP (Atlantic Coastal Action Program) in Saint John. The purpose of ACAP is to help restore damaged coastal areas while focusing on water quality, air, land, and wildlife issues. My primary involvement has been with assisting and organizing beach cleanups. The last few years I’ve participated in 2 annual cleanups, one in May and one in September. It’s been encouraging to see the change from one year to the next, and we are noticing that there is less garbage with each year of the cleanup. While all of this is positive I’ve been reminded in recent weeks that there is still lots of work to do and we need to continue to educate on the problem of the trash in and around our waterways. I know most of you reading this are nature photographers and I’m sure you have seen areas filled with litter near your hometowns while out shooting. This is likely as frustrating for you as it is for me. As April approaches and we prepare for Earth Week events please consider donating your time to a beach or park cleanup in your town. If you are looking for a cleanup to take part in you might want to visit http://www.oceanconservancy.org/ or contact a local environmental organization like Ducks Unlimited for information on any events in your area, or you can organize your own. Bringing home the perfect image from a beach or a park is a great feeling but there is something uniquely special about helping to cleanup the environment so others can appreciate it as well. By picking up another man’s trash you might just save some wildlife too.

Falling For It

For some reason I’ve been looking forward to fall this year more than I ever have before. I think it has become a new challenge for me as I’ve started to see some amazing images from other photographers I follow. My anticipation also has something to do with the fact that, for whatever reason, I haven’t had a lot of success capturing really good images this time of year. Fall usually brings a very busy time for my family; back to school, the start of new activities for kids along with shorter days, so I don’t get outside as often as I would like.

I’ve typically found that fall is the most challenging of the seasons to photograph because of the short time colors are at their peak. The other seasons just feel longer. Snow in winter can last for four to six months on the East Coast of Canada. Summers are fairly long from May until mid September bringing lots of wildlife, sandy beaches and late-night sunsets. Spring can be from March until mid to late June, providing thawing ice and snow, new flowers and birds returning from winters away. When looking for the colors of leaves to change it is a bit of a guess for locations at times, depending on the proximity to the coastline line and elevation. Add to all this different tress change colors at different times and it becomes quite an exercise. Peak colors may only last a few weeks. Blink and you may miss it.

I read a story recently on CBC’s website that suggested capturing the fall colors could be even more challenging this year due to the unusual weather we’ve had in the early part of the year. A mild Winter and the dry Summer may make for less vibrant colors. The article also suggested that climate change could also be part of the reason that we aren’t seeing as much of the intense colors like we usually do. Early Springs and warmer Falls can impact the intensity of the leaves as they change. I have my own thoughts on climate change and I know that scientist on both sides have their opinions and will likely debate back and forth forever. With that being said, I feel that I can say with a fair amount of certainty, we are not helping the situation.

This past Saturday I had an hour to fill in while waiting for my son so I decided to visit a couple of local parks in the uptown area. The colors haven’t fully changed yet and the area is filled with lots of buildings and cars so it’s not the typical landscape image that I would try to capture. I thought I would experiment a little, push myself to work outside my “comfort zone” while still making every effort to get outside and photograph when I can this Fall. I took advantage of the hour and the end result didn’t provide that many keepers but I still consider it time well spent.

Sometimes I get so caught up in what I want the end result to be, I forget to enjoy the moment. I need to spend a little more time enjoying the journey and less time worrying about the end destination. I have to keep reminding myself that success with my photography isn’t about the image and whether or not I can sell it, but more about, what did I learn today. The same goes for rest of my life. It isn’t about getting to the next location as quickly as possible, it’s enjoying the place I’m at right now because just like the colorful leaves it won’t be here very long.

What A Rush!

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One of the main advantages of living next to the highest tides in the world is the change that happens every 6 hours and 13 minutes…(give or take). According to the official Bay of Fundy website a 100 billion tonnes of water flow in and out of the bay during one tidal cycle. I’d love to make a comparison to help put it in perspective for you in relation to Olympic swimming pools or bathtubs but that is just too much math for me, so we’ll just leave it at being a lot.

Evening Tide – Just a few hours later and I would be totally under water if I stood in the same place.

One of the more used apps on my phone is my tide chart. The best free apps that I have used are Shralp Tide for iPhone and Tide Prediction for Android. The tide app has become one of the more useful accessories among the other stuff that I have in my camera bag. I find myself referring to it several times a week in order to revolve my photography around either the low or high tide. There are several beaches close to my home and even though I may visit the same place several times a week, each trip can still provide many unique images.

Weir and Seaweed – At high tide this shot wouldn’t be possible. Knowing when to go made this image.

It is really quite amazing to see how many images can be created on the same shoreline by simply visiting at a different tidal heights. Then add to the mix the different lighting situations of either sunrise, sunset, pending storms or fog and the possibilities can sometimes seem endless. Before I arrive at the beach I have generally visualized an image or several images, but sometimes what has been provide by nature is better than what I imagined.

Split Rock in Fog

There are a few necessities that will help when working with the water. The first is a (sturdy) tripod, which will allow for slower shutter speeds giving the water that milky look. I also like to use a polarizing filter to remove glare from the ocean, and to assist with slowing down the shutter speed on bright days. A polarizing filter will also offer some protection for your lens against salt spray. For really bright sun or just when there is a big difference in exposure between the sky and water, I will use a split neutral density filter. These filters are dark on top and gradually move to transparent on the bottom so the water still looks as it should but the dark part on top helps the sky from looking washed out. Finally a cable release is also very beneficial but a 2 second self-timer will also work in a pinch to help avoid camera shake during long exposures.

What a Rush – Sometimes the sound is just as impressive as the sight.

As much as I enjoy getting out to photograph, sometimes it is just as nice to leave the camera at home and head to the bay just to watch and listen. There is nothing like a trip to the beach for a quick get away after a stressful day. When things gets crazy and the pressures of life close in, I find it very relaxing to hear the rush of the waves and to know that there is a God at work, who is more powerful and more in control than I may realize.

Glorious and Free

I had another topic for this week’s blog, but after listening to the Canadian National anthem in church yesterday and seeing everyone in their red and white I was left with a much stronger sense of patriotism than I anticipated. It also got me thinking this afternoon about all the reasons I love my country and the places that I have been lucky enough to visit and photograph. The landscape of Canada is a huge part of my photography and one of the many reasons I love it. I’ve also been seeing a lot of the things going on in other countries around the world in the news, and it make me appreciate Canada even more.

Mahone Bay, Nova Scotia is a small town with just over 900 people living in it, but it is still one of my favorite places in the Maritimes to visit. This famous scene of the Three Churches is just one of the many photographic opportunities this coastal community provides.

Over the last 20 years I’ve been fortunate enough to spend time in 3 of the 4 Atlantic Provinces as well as Ontario and Quebec. The rest of the provinces and territories are on my to-do list. Since Canada is the second largest country in the world by land mass it will take some time so see everything that I would like to. I have a map of Canada on the wall in front of my desk and quite often think about the places I want to visit. Someday I hope to have the opportunity to visit places like the Queen Charlotte Islands in BC, Grass Land National Park in Saskatchewan, Churchill Manitoba, or the Torngat Mountains National Park in Newfoundland.

I had the pleasure of visiting  The Lang Pioneer Village on a few occasions while living in Peterborough Ontario. It is a fabulous living museum and a wonderful reminder of what our country would have been like in the 19th century.

When I hear people talk about vacations it quite often is about going someplace warm and tropical. As much as I enjoy traveling to south, there is part of me that enjoys a staycation and discovering new places in my province of New Brunswick or visiting family in Nova Scotia and PEI. The older I get the more I enjoy revisiting the familiar places in my hometown or other places close to the Bay of Fundy.

Close to my home here in New Brunswick, the Nerepis River reminds me of the Florida Everglades… but without the gators thankfully.

There are many places around the world that I would love to visit and photograph. The Amazon, The Galápagos or Easter Islands to name a few; and they would all be amazing, but there is really no place like home. I live in a wonderful country and there are still so many places that I have yet to see here in Canada. The True North strong and free.

Give and Take (Nothing)

For many photographers the concept is fairly simple. Give me money and I’ll take your photograph or sell you one that I’ve taken. The idea of getting paid to take a photograph is not a new concept and quite often becomes the desire of many aspiring photographers, myself included. For some of you who follow my blog on a regular basis, you might recall some of my recent posts when I have talked about wanting to do more with my photography and use it for a greater purpose. Over the last few weeks I’ve been doing some research on organizations and individuals who are using their talents to take a photograph and get nothing in return. I thought I would pass along a list of organizations that have really impressed me. If you know of another concept or organization that I haven’t mentioned here please feel free to share back with me.

The Maple Leaf Mission is an organization based out of Edmonton Alberta whose mission is to provide portrait photography to families of individuals who are: facing a terminal illness, living with a debilitating illness yet demonstrates a life lived to the fullest, military families celebrating homecomings or deployment, soldiers returning injured from a tour. For more information on The Maple Leaf Mission visit http://themapleleafmission.ca/.

Help Portrait was started by celebrity photographer Jeremy Cowart. The concept is simple. Find families or groups who would like a portrait but can’t afford to have one taken. Single parents, underprivileged families, families affected by illness, army veterans, or just a neighbor. Go to http://help-portrait.com/ to learn more.

According to their website “Outside the Lens™ (OTL) is a San Diego-based youth media literacy program dedicated to celebrating the vision and voices of children around the world and across cultures. Students (K-12) tell their unique personal stories using photography, writing and other digital media forms while under the guidance of writers, poets, journalists, photographers, filmmakers, artists, and teachers.” I like this concept a lot. The idea of giving a young person a camera should help us see the world in a new perspective. Right now they are participating in a global photography project called Water in Focus which documents the use, waste, conservation and pollution of the world’s water supply. If you are interested in learning more about Outside the Lens visit them at http://www.outsidethelens.org/.

Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep is an organization that has really captured my attention for personal reasons. The mandate of NILMDTS is to help parents recover from the loss of a baby. This might seem like a morbid type of charity but for parents going through a very difficult situation it might be an important part of the healing process. For parents of stillborn babies, and babies that die shortly after birth a photograph might be the only thing they bring home from the hospital. Right now they have over 12000 volunteers in 40 different countries.

Photo Philanthropy is an organization that is all about social change. They connect photographers with non-profit organizations around the world. Projects may include environmental causes, social and economic situations in places like third world countries, or education on a variety of topics. If you are thinking about donating your talents to a cause this might be a good place to start.  You can connect with them at http://photophilanthropy.org/.

If you are interested in learning about more organizations to partner with you may want to look at the website http://shuttermission.org/ or do your own search on philanthropy and photography.

“From what we get, we can make a living;
what we give, however, makes a life.” –
Arthur Ashe