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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Field of Dreams

I have always been amazed by musicians and painters who create each new piece from a blank page or canvas. They begin with nothing more than what they visualize in their mind and can labour for weeks or months to perfect a piece.  As much as I may plan and attempt to create the photograph I imagined, sometimes is just doesn’t happen. All of the angles, light and composition won’t come together no matter what I try. Then there are those moments when the effort is not even there and the subject presents itself saying “Take my picture”- The time and place are perfect.

Last summer I was driving through a local industrial park and I spotted a small field of lupines between two large buildings. The patch was likely less than a 100 meters long but perfectly placed between the two driveways. I didn’t have my camera at first sight but I made a mental note of the place and went back a few days later with my wife and youngest daughter. We spent less than 30 minutes there but the conditions were absolutely ideal. Overcast skies, a bit of a mist and slight breeze. My daughter became so excited about the flowers that she borrowed my phone to take some of her own photographs.

ISO 100 1/60 f2.8

It’s funny how photography works sometimes. There can be days of planning and preparation, shooting image after image and I come home feeling empty-handed. Then there are those days that God does all the hard work and I get there just at the right time.

Wintertide

“Opportunities are like sunrises. If you wait too long, you miss them.

William Arthur Ward
For anyone who has followed my photography and blog for a while  you’ll know I love the beach, and in particular the Bay of Fundy. My family and I have spent many days during the summer at different beaches all around southern New Brunswick and parts of Nova Scotia. I especially enjoy visiting beaches at sunrise and sunset. The anticipation of the light, reflections, clouds and the potential image is an exciting moment for me that never seems to get old.

In recent years I’ve tried to make a more conscious effort to visit some of the local coastline in the winter to take advantage of the different light and perspective with the snow and ice. Last month I visited one of my favorite beaches in the morning and was fortunate that the tide was heading out. For years I have generally been drawn to one side of this beach more than the other.  This time I was intentional in my decision to visit the other side of the beach and inspect it closer than I have before.

As I walked the shoreline and photographed I was inspired by what I saw through the lens.  At the same time I was a bit disappointed, thinking about subjects I have potentially missed because I neglected to visit the other side of the beach so many times. I strolled along this part of the beach for about an hour. When I came home and edited my images I was really very happy to see that I was able to capture some new amazing images of God’s creation like the one below. Sometimes avoiding the easy or obvious subject can pay off.

The Bay of Fundy at Low Tide in Gardner Creek, New Brunswick

The Bay of Fundy at Low Tide in Gardner Creek, New Brunswick

 

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

St. Andrews By-The-Sea.

It’s a long weekend here in Canada. Victoria Day is tomorrow and a holiday for most, which means that it is the unofficial start of summer. My family tends to be spontaneous with vacation plans, so I’m not sure what our plans are for tomorrow or the rest of summer, but most likely at some point between tomorrow and Labour Day we will make a visit to St. Andrews.

St. Andrews by-the-sea

St. Andrews by-the-sea

Known as St. Andrews by the sea, it’s a small community sitting on the shores of the Passamaquoddy Bay which is an inlet of the Bay of Fundy. With a population of less than 2000 this small town offers an abundance of subjects to photograph. The shops on Water Street have local art, handcrafts and maritime souvenirs. The beaches can be clay, sand, small rocks or sandstone. Most of the beaches also have a wide variety of shore birds.

Sea Anemone

Sea Anemone – Huntsman Marine Aquarium

St. Andrews is located on a peninsula so you can shoot along the water throughout the entire day. My family camped last year and loved that I could shoot sunrise and sunset over the water all in one day and in the same area. Along with the coastline and shops some of the other sites I would recommend are;  Ministers Island, which you can only access by driving across the ocean floor during low tide, whale watching, Kingsbrae Garden and the Huntsman Aquarium.

Old weirs on the Passamaqoddy Bay

Old weirs on the Passamaquoddy Bay

For a small town that is only about a mile long and half mile wide there is plenty to see for just about any age. If you’ve never been to the Maritimes and are looking for an introduction, St. Andrews might be the place to start.

NY State Of Mind

I’m not usually a news watcher but this week I was compelled to watch. Like many of us, I followed the path of Hurricane Sandy and the devastation that was left behind, especially in New York and other parts of the northeastern United States. I’ve spent a fair amount of time since the storm reminiscing about my first visit to New York City in 2005. I can vividly recall strolling through some of the areas hardest hit. I suddenly felt like “my problems” were insignificant relative to those that had just suffered the damaged done by this horrendous storm.

Some of New York’s finest in action.

Perhaps it was too much television, but when I was younger I thought of New York as a dirty and scary city, full of crime and people who wouldn’t give you the time of day. During my visit it became very evident just how wrong I was. Leaving a city of around 80,000 in Canada and finding my way to a city of 8 million proved to be more difficult than I anticipated, but the NY showed me how great of a host it can be.

Staten Island Bridge from the Shore Parkway in Brooklyn

The night I arrived to NY city in 2005 it was dark, close to midnight and maybe sleep deprivation had set in which caused me to take a wrong exit. After an hour or so trying to find my way around I decided to ask a police officer for directions. When I drove up next to the officer and explained what I was looking for and asked where I was he exclaimed “You’re in Harlem”. My first thought was “this is not good”. I politely (and slightly fearful) asked for some help getting back in the right direction. After what seemed like a five-minute explanation from the officer, I quickly said, “I don’t think that is going to work”. Sensing my tiredness or perhaps anxiety he offered to let me follow him to the correct borough.

Once back on the right path to Brooklyn I thanked my new-found friend and attempted the rest of the journey on my own. Obviously still looking confused in Brooklyn, a car pulled up next to me and the driver rolled down his window. He ask if I where I was trying to get to. I gave the name of the hotel and he said he was an off duty police officer and to follow him. Thank you NYPD x 2.

Corner of West 42nd St and 8th Ave

The majority of the five days and nights was spent working in Brooklyn but my coworkers who lived in the area did show me around parts of Staten Island, Manhattan and NJ in addition to my brief stopover in Harlem (although I didn’t plan that). Each day I was surprised by the hospitality shown to me by the people of NY. Not the cold, rude people who are stereotyped on TV. For my trip back home I decided to take one more drive through Manhattan by myself along with what felt like 1000’s of yellow cabs. I’m not sure if I would attempt to drive around Manhattan today, but back then after five days in the city I felt like I was among friends.

I still have many friends in NY city and around the surrounding area and I’m very relieved to hear that life is starting to slowly return to normal.  New York has shown incredible resilience over the years especially since 2001, and I know it will overcome Sandy too. You will continue to be in my thoughts and prayers in the coming days.

Do What You Love.

I’m reading a book by Max Lucado called Cure for the Common Life: Living in Your Sweet Spot. In the book he talks about using your talents, doing the things you love for the right reasons. It’s not for the money or for the fame but because you love to. It’s taken some time but as I’ve gotten older I’ve realized, Max is right.

I follow a blog called Garden Walk Garden Talk and not because I’m an avid gardener. The writer of the blog has two passions; gardening and photography and uses both of these to create some incredible images. Her inspiration comes from her love of flowers and gardening and her talent in photography is what creates the works of art. I personally don’t know much about gardening, but I really enjoy her blog and images because she does them so well. She has a great blog with amazing images because she really knows her subject and she knows her subject so well because she is passionate about it.

Over the years I have photographed a variety of different subjects. I’ve enjoyed taking portraits and sports photos, I’ve had fun at balloon festivals and car rallies. I like to walk through cities that I visit enjoying the architecture and lights at night, but there is one subject more than all the others that I’m passionate about and continue to gravitate towards. That is nature.

I’ve read photography books and had friends say that you if you want to be successful you need to photograph this or shoot that but I’ve learned that it is not the case. Doing what you love is what makes you successful. Whether it’s photography, writing, painting or helping people, do what you love and you will be good at it.

Sunrise with Grace

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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.

Great Expectaions?

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“Twelve significant photographs in any one year is a good crop”. – Ansel Adams

When I first read this quote by Ansel Adams I’d have to admit, it was a bit of a “wow” moment for me. Ansel Adams who is likely one of the greatest and most influential photographers of all time, had a goal of 12 great images a year. Since reading this it has got me thinking and wondering if my expectations are too high, or perhaps not high enough, depending on how you look at it.

When I first took up photography 20 years ago I asked a friend who became a bit of a mentor to me what his standard was. He said that his goal was to record one great shot per roll of film. Just one keeper per 36 images. Right or wrong I liked this idea and have kept is as an unofficial standard for myself. Like all things in life, there will be good days and there will be bad days when it comes to photography.

Ansel used several different formats for his photography, anything from 35mm, panorama, medium format to an 8×10 view camera. He certainly didn’t have the benefit or digital where you can shoot 400 images and hope one or two were keepers or edit and fix an image after the fact. I’m assuming there would have been a lot more thought put into the process; hence it may have been less about quantity and more about quality.

Sunset and Fishing Weirs – Campobello Island, New Brunswick

On a recent trip to Deer Island and Campobello I shot over 2oo images in one day and in reviewing so far I have found 2 that I would say are my “keepers” or “significant”. Not sure how I feel over all about all of the images as of yet but the two I’ve worked with so far I am very pleased with. Coincidentally they were taken in the same place about 30 minutes before we left. Sometimes is pays to take just one more shot.

Sunset and Seagull – Campobello Island, New Brunswick

On occasion I feel like I’m my own worst critic with expectations that are too great, and other times I feel as though I like an image more because I have an emotional attachment and not necessarily because it is great technically or aesthetically.  If Ansel wanted 12 significant shots per year, are my standards off? I’d be curious to know what yours are, or if you even think about it. Take a minute and let me know. I would appreciate your comments and feedback.

Night-Light

The majority of my photography is of nature, but when I’m looking for a change or visiting a new city, I really do enjoy taking photographs in the evenings and of the city lights. I’ve been lucky to be able to travel a little and even though it is not always to the big city I still always try to take advantage of the opportunity.

Even a small place like my hometown of Saint John or the surrounding villages can still provide some opportunities to capture a great image at night. Saint John isn’t very big by some standards, but the city center is very well lit at night and can create some nice reflections off the harbor such as this one of The Saint John Harbor Bridge framing the downtown area.

Along with looking for reflections on bodies of water I usually look for the chance to get a bird’s eye view for a different perspective of a city at night. Experimenting with longer exposures of 15 – 30 seconds allows me to record light-trails from the cars on city roads which adds a little life to night scenes like this one of my hometown.

The world-famous Reversing Falls in Saint John attracts many tourists during the day but the view at night is just as impressive. This image of the falls and bridge was recorded with a small aperture to create the star effect with the lights and a long exposure to create milky looking water.

Even a small place in the middle of the Bay of Fundy like Deer Island can create a beautiful night-scape. Technically this is a morning-scape of these fishermen getting ready for work at 5am. Sometimes it pays to have insomnia.

One of my favorite nighttime shots is from a trip to New York in 2005. While traveling home from Brooklyn I stopped for a few shots in Manhattan and the N.Y.F.D. were gracious enough to help me out. Fortunately I had packed my tripod and cable release on this trip and the sirens allowed me enough time to set up the shot.

Although the travel arrangements don’t always allow for a full size tripod, a Gorilla Pod is the next best thing. This shot of South Beach Miami was taken by wrapping a Gorilla Pod around a fence railing and using a 2 second timer to record the image.

Sometimes when I travel photography isn’t the main purpose but my camera gear is still part of my luggage, so getting creative helps with night shots. A little Image Stabilization and the metal gate that locked me out of this Chicago yacht club was used for support and helped me capture this image of the illuminated boardwalk that separated these boats.

When it comes to taking picture of cities at night, there is likely no place like Las Vegas. Xcalibur is just one small part of what seems like an unlimited amount of neon in “Sin City”.

I’m likely in the minority but a week of the Vegas culture was long enough. I did enjoy the evenings and early morning photo shoots, and there was no shortage of night-scape subjects. Once again a railing and Image Stabilization saved me for this early morning shot of The Strip in Las Vegas.

Back closer to home still offers opportunities for some fantastic night shots. One of my favorite locations in Nova Scotia is Mahone Bay, but on your way there why not stop in Halifax. For something different how about a monochromatic Halifax at night

Even the small town of Mahone Bay Nova Scotia with a population of 900 has possibilities. The south shore of Nova Scotia is one of my favorite places to take photographs and the 3 churches of Mahone Bay are often the centerpiece for me.

Growing up I remember being afraid of the dark and I always needed a light on in the hall or my room. I’m older now and not so afraid of the dark, but I’ll admit it, I still like a little nightlight.