Going Up

Every year in September, the Atlantic Balloon Fiesta arrives in Sussex New Brunswick. Known as the Dairy Capital of the Maritimes, the small town of Sussex, with its population of approximately 4500 people, welcomes some 40,000 visitors for this event during the first weekend after Labour Day.

Launch times are twice daily. The first starts around 6:30 am and the second at 5:30 pm, with balloon glows happening at dusk (balloons are tethered to the ground for this launch). The Balloon Fiesta is a fabulous family event. The waking of kids at 5 am is a little iffy, but necessary to make sure that you arrive on time to see the pilots inflate and take off in their balloons. The launch times really provide perfect conditions for taking photographs because you are avoiding the harsh midday light.

If acrophobia is not a problem for you and you have a couple of hundred dollars to spare, riding on a balloon will give you a very unique perspective of the Balloon Fiesta, and the surrounding area.

A tripod and two lenses should be enough for equipment. A wide angle telephoto for pre-launch and a medium telephoto for balloons in flight will allow you to capture just about anything you see.

Even though the balloons and pilots from all over the world are the main attraction, there is a lot more to see and photograph. The car shows, craft and artisan shows along with the rides at the fair, make it an all day family (or photographic) event.

Time Well Spent.

What’s that saying about March? In like a lion, out like a lamb…. The lion carried over into parts of April I think. Life’s been a little hectic here lately, I’ve missed several weeks of blogging and reading my favourite blogs. Our kids have had my wife and I hopping. Gymnastics, hockey and fencing tournaments  put us on the road a lot the past month. The sports are now done for the summer and there a few more trophies on the mantle, so it’s all been time well spent with the family.

Here on the East Coast of Canada the snow is melting and what’s left is pretty dirty, the grass is brown and the potholes in the road are swallowing cars. The drive the grocery store is now an Olympic event; The Slalom pothole road race. Spring has sprung. With all of this going on I’ve stayed pretty close to home, but that’s been a good thing. I’ve found a few new areas to explore while I’ve revisited some familiar places.

I was out yesterday morning for a walk on the beach by my house and although it was misty and grey I came home really inspired because I found a new part of the coastline with a tremendous view of a two small islands that I’m anxious to revisit when the weather cooperates. Even though I haven’t been able to get away on a road trip for a while, the last few weeks have been good for me and my photography. It’s forced me to slow down, get creative and think outside the box. I feel re-energized with a new sense of excitement.

I’m looking forward to the rest of spring and summer and a few day trips in the coming months but for the next few weeks I’ll continue enjoy the sights close to home. Sometimes a stay-cation can be just as beneficial as a vacation.



Look But Don’t Forget to Listen

Listen to the voice in your head. I’ll admit it, I don’t always. However I did recently and it was a good thing. I was out a few weeks ago to watch and photograph the sunrise over The Bay of Fundy at a place called Cape Spencer on the edge of town.  Shortly after the sun broke the horizon, I finished shooting, then I packed up and started to leave. I looked back one last time to make sure I had everything and I saw one other possible spot to photograph. Initially I was going to ignore the idea and just head home but I thought, I’m here so I’ll take a look and see what happens.

It was a good day to listen to that voice in my head. The area of the cape I spotted was next to the water’s edge, and it was a steep climb down along some very sharp and very large rocks. I carefully made my way down and ventured onto the small islands of rock and continued to shoot as the sun climbed higher.

As I carefully manoeuvred around the rocks I noticed the interesting flare that developed in between and around the boulders. Unfortunately the break in the rocks was also in a place that I couldn’t position myself in front of because there was also a large gap in the rocks I was standing on and below the gap was the very cold bay. The live viewfinder is not something I use very often but it came in handy as I held the camera in my left hand while balancing everything and also trying to keep the horizon straight.

“I’ve found that luck is quite predictable. If you want more luck, take more chances. Be more active. Show up more often”. – Brian Tracy.

I like the above quote because it not only applies to a photographer but to life in general. I’ve heard it said quite often by photographer friends and even me that “I was lucky to get the shot”, when in fact there is generally a certain amount of preparation required, even if it’s just being there. Sometimes it’s that voice that puts us in the right place at the right time or just tells you to get ready.

I learned a valuable lesson that day. As much as photography is an art and there are principles to be followed there are also times we need listen to that voice inside prompting us to take a chance or to just show up. Since that day at Cape Spencer I’ve had more time to review my images and I’ve also had time to reflect on what else I learned that day. It got me thinking about that voice inside my head and how I should listen to it more often; with and without my camera. That voice may lead me to more unexpected photographs or it could also lead to more unexpected memories with my wife and kids, possibly a moment to even help a stranger. As we head into the Christmas season perhaps we all could take advantage of the opportunities given to us, just by listening to that voice a little more .

The Trip

Every year my family packs up our car with camping gear, luggage and all the necessary items for our annual camping trip. This year with sleeping bags, pillows, pots and pans at feet and on laps, we headed to what has become one of our one of our favorite destinations over the last few years. Passamaquoddy Bay is an inlet inside The Bay of Fundy and derives its name from the Passamaquoddy First Nation. It is the part of The Bay of Fundy where New Brunswick meets Maine and where the St. Croix River drains into. The Passamaquoddy is also where the Fundy Isles that I written about are located.

Passamaquoddy Bay at Sunset

This years camping site was Saint Andrews which is located in Charlotte County, New Brunswick. Commonly referred to as St. Andrews by the Sea and with a population of about 1800 this small town is a major attraction for the county and a bustling tourist destination for both Canadians and Americans. With a wide variety of small boutiques and restaurants lined along the shores of the bay, St. Andrews is a busy spot in the summer months.

Seagull at Sunrise

One of my favorite things to do in St. Andrews is to drive or walk along the road that lines the edge of the town. It provides a magnificent view on all sides, and great opportunities for taking photographs from sunrise to sunset. The beaches are also a fun spot for the kids to get out and enjoy the sand and shorelines. With numerous types of shorebirds and other wildlife, it is a great place to help kids appreciate nature. In one day you can have opportunities to play with green crabs on the beach, see great blue herons, plovers, cormorants and seals all from shore.

One Leg Piping Plover on The Passamaquoddy

The highlight of this summer’s trip was whale watching. Passamaquoddy Bay has several species of whales with the most common being the Minke, Finback, and Humpback. Although the whales were a little shy, we did see a well-known minke named “slice”. He got this name because he doesn’t have a typical looking dorsal fin and has had the top of it sliced off somehow. Along with Slice the minke, we saw porpoises, several bald eagles, gannets, and harbor and grey seals.

Slice the Minke

Harbour and Grey Seals on the rocks

Our annual camping trip is one of the highlights of the year and is the unofficial end of summer. It has become a great time for us to get away from all the business of life and distractions of work, internet and TV. I’m finding the older I get that I don’t necessarily enjoy the “roughing it” part of the trip, but it is still nice to take off with my family and just enjoy each others company, along with all that God has made.

Sunrise with Grace


My daughter Grace and I started a new tradition earlier this year; getting up to watch the sunrise. I’ll admit, I’m not in my prime at 4:30 in the morning but if your daughter is into it and wants to hang out with her Dad, you go with it. So, one or two Saturdays a month we get up and head out looking for a place to watch the sunrise. Our first excursion was a bit of a flop due the fog along the coast. I also chose the wrong spot. The foghorn on a lighthouse is really loud when you get up close. They are really spooky in the dark too… but that is for a different post.

Last weekend we left the house at 5:30am and headed down the coast along The Bay of Fundy. We finally decided to stop at a small inlet called Haggertys Cove. If you are driving through and blink you are likely to miss it. Driving west on Route 1 from Saint John you arrive just before a popular provincial park called New River Beach. I wasn’t necessarily looking for this exact spot, it was more by chance. The sun was coming up and we needed a place to stop quick. It provided a beautiful view of the water and it turned out to be ideal.

Haggertys Cove

As the sun came above the horizon the shape of the surrounding coastline began to form and created a wonderful contrast against the bright orange sky. I spent most of my time trying to find the perfect angle to bring out the texture of the hills but balance it against the saturated skyline. I like the resulting abstract image with the cool blue water and silhouetted landscape.

As the daylight continued to increase the shorebirds came to life and several Great Blue Herons joined us. I didn’t have the option to get closer to shore because the coastline is eroding and to dangerous to maneuver down. Fortunately, I had my 400mm lens and was able to zoom in for another silhouetted image. Before we left that morning we saw four more Herons. It isn’t unusual to see them along the bay, but I don’t usually see that many in one spot.

The Great Blue Heron, times 2

Before heading home we took in the community of Maces Bay. This small village offers a very scenic coastline to drive. With the tide out a vast beach was exposed, along with the seaweed covered rocks. The low tide also allowed two people stroll the beach to harvest a seasonal crustacean of some sort I assume.

The tide is out! To show some scale there are 2 people in this photo. Hint – Middle right side of the photo.

I enjoy the one on one with my kids. It is a special time and important to get updates on what is going on in their lives. It is also fun to just get out and enjoy nature and perhaps mentor in some photography too. I’ll have to say though my favorite image from the day was the one I couldn’t take on our drive home. My daughter asleep in the seat next to me. I’ll admit something again…I was jealous. I’m not meant for mornings.

The Photograph That Was Never Taken

As photographers, we’ve all likely said it at one time in our life, “I wish I had my camera right now!” It may have been while we were just walking the dog, driving to the grocery store or work. Our lives are so busy with things to do, it just isn’t possible to capture every moment in time, as much as we may want to. Even as recent as this past Saturday I had one of these moments.

The weather is very spontaneous here in New Brunswick. I woke up to rain on Saturday but by 8:30am it had cleared enough for me to head to a local nature park for a hike. I was able to spend an hour or so taking photographs before it started to rain again; and when the sky opened up, it poured. Later, after the rain stopped, my wife and I went for a drive so I could get some framing done. As we left our neighbourhood I saw the fog and steam rolling off the street. It was certainly an “I wish I had my camera moment.”  I looked around and saw many opportunities to create dreamy images. With my wife in the car and my oldest still at home babysitting his younger sisters, I thought it was best to get where we needed to go and get back home before sibling rivalry took over. Opportunity missed.

There have been several other occasions that I have wished I had my camera in my hands. Sometimes the moments are a spontaneous display of affection between all three of my children (rare!!) on a family outing or a once in a life time moment like taking a first step. Of course there are many photos that my wife and I have taken for family celebrations, our kid’s musicals, dramas and sporting events. These are the most important images that I have taken.

As a husband and father as well as a photographer there has to be a balance. Sometimes I have to make a choice when and where I take photographs that are just for me. Some of the photographs I haven’t taken have been by choice because there are some moments with my family that I won’t get to experience again. I’ll admit, sometimes I wish I had more time for my personal photography, but my kids are only young for a short period and the important moments in their lives only happen once. Redoes for these events aren’t an option.

Is there a photograph that you haven’t taken?

Salt Water Cure

The cure for anything is salt water: sweat, tears or the sea. – Isak Dinesen

I’m back from vacation. It was a short walk but the view was fantastic. Even though it was only a mental break from writing and I didn’t go anywhere, it was a much need time away to recharge and refocus on my photography. In looking for inspiration there is an abundance here in New Brunswick. I can look out my window and see the Bay of Fundy and open my front door and hear it. If it is too cold I can look through any of my windows and see the salt spray that has been left behind.

The Bay of Fundy in Action

It has been during walks along the coast when I have captured many of my favorite images. The Bay of Fundy has no shortage of  inspiration and subjects to photograph. There are many times when I visit the ocean that I attempt to record its power and awesomeness . Creating images of waves can be made on just about any visit, whether calm or stormy days. On a calm day I love to get close to the shoreline to show the motion and beauty of the water. The stormy days offer the beauty as well, but it is power that it really demonstrates.

Tides In

The shores along the bay provide creatures, color and the abstract of rocks and seaweed. Having a close focusing or macro lens will come in handy to photograph these subjects. Showcasing the details allows the viewer to really appreciate all that the ocean has to offer and also to show the fragility. The ocean is such a stark contrast of power and yet it is so fragile as it is impacted by the negligence and complacency of those who either don`t care or know any better.

Adam’s Rib

The ocean has been the subject of many of my images and it has also been the source of many memories. My children enjoy the beach and ocean as much as I do (but with less apprehension about getting messy). As a family we have spent countless hours walking the coastline while sharing stories, laughs and marveling at God`s creation. Water has this unique ability to capture our attention. Even with all the gadgets, TV shows and music to entertain them, my kids will still leave all those in a instant if I offer an invitation to join me for a walk on the beach.

Mud Pies

Besides photography, my other passion is the environment. Over the past 3 years I have participated in an international effort assisting in beach clean-ups.  The Ocean Conservancy (http://www.oceanconservancy.org) promotes the annual event along with a local organization called Atlantic Coastal Action Program (ACAP). The list of grossness that we have collected is too long to mention but I have picked up just about any type of trash you can imagine.  If you have never been involved in a local clean-up, I urge you to find one and participate. You will be left with a tremendous feeling of accomplishment and the added benefit of not having to photograph around trash the next time you visit the beach.

What Will Your Resolution Be?

Been down so long that is seems like up,
I took it now I’ve had enough
Of the life that I’ve been livin’
It feels so cold this far away
So Today I will make a change
I will make a change today
Purge my mind of mud and mire
Cast all my gods away
I am brand new today, I make my resolution

– OC Supertones

Like most people who make New Year’s resolutions, I usually fail to keep them the whole year.  I think there is  part of me that struggles with the idea of an annual commitment when I know that most of us are not likely to succeed in keeping them.  To be honest, I don’t really like the concept of a New Year’s resolution. Why do we wait for one day of the year to commit to doing something to improve our lives or the lives of others?  How much better would the world be if we treated everyday like New Year’s Day?

Now to some the idea of a new resolution everyday may seem flawed.  What is the point of only keeping a resolution one day?  Does it become obsolete the following day when we make a new one?  Can I have the same resolution 2 days in a row?  Is it possible to work on more than one resolution at once?  Wow, this is complicated… or is it?  What if we all decided each day to do something out of the ordinary? Buy a co-worker lunch, send a handwritten note of thanks, send home flowers for no reason, or maybe do something nice for a friend anonymously.

Do something for somebody everyday for which you do not get paid.    Author: Albert Schweitzer

What would happen if a group of people came together to work on a collective resolution?  What could a church, small group, community or a whole city accomplish? How much easier would it be to keep our resolution if we had someone to walk beside us and encourage us and we encourage them in return?

So what is my challenge?  There are many personal goals that are worthwhile and worthy of me pursuing.  For some people it is to quit smoking, eat healthier, or exercise more.  These are all important and I would encourage everyone to look at any lifestyle changes that are going to improve your health.  However, there is a longing inside of me to do something that is external and would mean more to those around me, maybe even in my own home.  This is the year that I hopefully take that giant step and move outside my comfort zone and follow through on my own resolution.

It's a New Day - Dear Island, NB

Like taking a photograph to help us remember a special moment or place, a resolution can be a way to help us remember to make the world better than we found it.