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 ( 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.

Reviving the Monoscape

We must remember that a photograph can hold just as much as we put into it, and no one has ever approached the full possibilities of the medium. – Ansel Adams

I discovered something, not only about my photography, but I think photography in general. I have unintentionally abandoned shooting images in black and white. I have a black and white mode on my camera and I had one on my previous DSLR, but I don’t recall ever using it.  I don’t remember the last time I used any of my Cokin colored filters. It was likely when I used black and white film. In reading the 5 most recent magazines on my desk I noticed that black and white images are become rare.

A monochrome image seemed so appropriate for this lonely tree next to a rural highway in Nova Scotia.

Prior to shooting digital, Ilford HP5 and FP4 rolls of film were easier to find in my refrigerator than ketchup. On occasion a roll of XP2 or SFX could be found in the butter compartment as well. Before converting to digital I also shot a few images with the now discontinued Agfa Scala-200 slide film, which was magnificent. In general, if you wanted to create a monochromatic image 15 years ago you had to plan before releasing the shutter (I have made B&W prints from color film but it’s not the same).

One of my most recent images that I decided to convert to B&W after shooting. I think it suits the mood better than a color image would

Digital has so many advantages over film, but at the same time I feel as a photographer it has made me more dependent on my PC than my camera. Part of the photographic process is planning, imagination and creativity. Deciding to take a photograph in black and white instead of color was a decision I had to make prior to hitting the button. Now it’s so easy to make a black and white image after the fact and I generally don’t think about it before I take the photograph.

My first experience with Agfa Scala B&W slide film was ironically at The Silver Falls in Saint John, New Brunswick.

As a nature photographer, waterfalls, trees and macro subject are perfect for black and white images.  I find this especially true when the scene is naturally monochromatic already. Flowing water or a solitary tree are subjects that I have traditionally sought out for making the centerpiece of an image.

One of my favorite monochrome images. The tide coming in on The Bay Of Fundy.

I’ve decided that before the month is over I’m bringing my Cokin filters back out and I’m going to rediscover the black and white mode on my camera. Years ago, there was a certain amount of anticipation in taking a roll or black and white film and waiting for it to return from the lab.  In some ways, I miss that. I also think that as photographers we all go through periods of creative droughts for one reason or another.  Isn’t ironic that in the era of digital and unlimited software choices, that something as old as photography itself might be the way to revive our creativity.  And it’s right in front of us in black and white.

It’s the Little Things that Matter

I once saw a “life lesson” posted on someone’s desk that said something to the effect of “If it won’t matter in 10 minutes or 10 years then don’t worry about it”.  It stuck with me and as I get older I try not to let the small stuff get to me.  Sometimes I’m successful and sometimes I’m not.  I find that getting older and being married with children the things that were important in my youth aren’t any longer.

Sometimes l do have to admit that I find the little things interesting when it comes to my photography.  I really enjoy looking for the obscure and small when I’m outside exploring and looking for a subject to create an image with.  There is something inside of me that is in awe and wonder of the small parts of creation just as much as the enormous.   For some people photographic appreciation comes from a scene of mountain peaks or vast oceans, but there is something about the macro I find compelling.  Why did God put so much detail in such a small creature or flower?  It makes me wonder how many images I have missed because I was thinking big instead of small.

Being child-like can help us discover the little things that matter

Maybe it is my children who have given me this appreciation.  They love to explore digging under rocks or looking in the ponds and lakes around our neighborhood looking for unusual wildlife or insects.  They have a natural curiosity that some of us have lost as we mature.  We get older and have a tendency to lose appreciation for the small stuff and become obsessed with the bigger things in life; bank accounts, bigger cars, homes and TV’s.  Why do we, myself included, have an obsession with big? Do we feel more important, more confident, more satisfied?

Goslings - Quispamsis, New Brunswick

A few years ago I was introduced to the story of “The Starfish” and the tale of how the small actions of one small person can make a big difference.  No, we can individually solve world hunger or climate change but we can all do something small to make a difference.  The lesson has stuck with me and helps me to remember that sometimes it is the little things that matter.

Starfish - Huntsman Aquarium - St. Andrews, New Brunswick