Saturday, November 12, 2011

Reflections

While up in the Yukon, I found myself taking all sorts of random reflection pictures, some more abstract that others..  I pulled out a neutral density filter for this shot to slow down the ripples in the lake.

The lakes were just starting the freeze over for the winter, shady areas had ice forming already.  I didn't wear my water proof hiking boots and I had to hike through a swap to get the below shot.  Not a pleasant experience getting my feet wet when the water is hovering just above freezing.  I think it was worth the "soaker" though.

After reviewing my photographs, it's funny how on some occasions certain things really catch your eye. There I was in a place with mountains everywhere, and my lens was pointed down every time I came across a lake, or other body of water. :)

Sunday, October 30, 2011

My Aurora Borealis Experience

Last weekend I was in Whitehorse Yukon exploring a small portion of the territory with the hope of capturing an aurora borealis display.  Thankfully nature didn't disappoint, three of the four nights I was there I was fortunate enough to see the lights (the other night it snowed - northern clouds aren't as exciting as northern lights..).  I've also created a new Yukon Gallery I'll probably be adding a little more to it in the next couple days (and posting about some of the other pictures).

As for location I was part of a photo workshop put on by Langara, which meant it was a "tour" experience (albeit a customized one for photography).  For a first experience it was fantastic, I got to see a number of the major sites and the company had a nice setup for aurora viewing.  With that said however, if I was to go up again after this last visit, I'd probably venture out on my own (or customize things with the tour operator to incorporate different sites) to try to find locations where I could have some more interesting things in the foreground of my pictures.

Of course the down side of that means that to get the "perfect" picture, I may have to camp in the middle of nowhere in ten below for a few weeks just to see the lights and attempt my picture.  So while I think that might be a great experience, my photographer's assistant doesn't take very well to me freezing her, so I'm not too sure how that would work in practice..

Personally, given lots of time I'd check the weather, as well as the "Aurora Forecast" and only venture out after dark if I know it looks promising.  If it's snowing, I think I'll skip staying up until 2:00 AM that evening..  As I've already alluded, northern clouds aren't any more exciting than the ones in Vancouver.  This time of year because of the sun position Whitehorse if the land of the "golden hours" - there is fantastic light for photography in the morning, I'd wake up at sunrise a few times as well if given the chance to take in some of that gorgeous light.

The UAF Geophysical Institute has a great aurora forecast site, and even an iPhone/iPad App.  (I see tonight would be a great night to be there..)

For the technical aspects of aurora photography, I'd wander over to Photographer Patrick Endres' Blog, he's got all sorts of great tips and checklists.  (Quick seemingly random tip - Remove your UV Filters!)  For myself personally, I was trying to limit my exposures to 30 seconds or less (generally shooting at 800 ISO, and F2.8).  I'm not a huge fan of aurora and star trails, so I was trying to keep the exposures down so the stars looked like.. well.. stars.

Another lesson learned for me was to ensure I'm not over exposing.  I'd strongly suggest bracketing your exposures using different ISOs.  In my own experience, looking at my LCD I was completely happy with the exposures, but in reality everything was over exposed once I reviewed my shots on my computer.  Had I not done that, for night two (or if I didn't review my shots) I don't think I would have been happy with the results.

Whitehorse itself is an amazing little place, not withstanding all the beauty of the Yukon itself.  If you have an opportunity I'd strongly suggest you visit - I'd like to go back again, most likely for a long road trip.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Experimenting with Long Explosures

Over the last couple of weeks I've been experimenting with daylight long exposure photography, and thought I'd document my trials and tribulations to date and the "how too" that I've experienced.  By long exposure I mean multiple minute exposures during the day, of course that usually presents some challenges with exposure...

Here is the first picture I've taken that I'm happy with, I continue to stock other locations that I think might work out, but I'm waiting for the right weather...  So far just test pictures, nothing worth posting yet, but they'll come eventually if all goes well.  This is from my Alberta Plains gallery.



Filters

To start you're going to need some neutral density filters.  I'd suggest the screw on variety unless you want to punish yourself by manually holding something in front of your lens...  Not really my idea of fun, but it might be yours.  :)  You should consider buying filters at your largest filter size and then use step down rings for your other lenses.  That way your purchases will work across your lens lineup if you're lucky enough to have a number of lenses.

As for the number of stops that you need, in my own experience, you probably want filters that are able to "soak up" between 13-16 stops.  On bright days 16 stops seems to be a good fit, on low light days you might be able to get away with 13.  Since the more pieces of glass, the worse the image quality, you want to do this in as few filters as possible.  So, in a perfect world you'll probably want a 10 stop, and 3 or (and?) 6 stop filters so you'll be able to stack two together.  I don't think at this stage anyone appears to be selling single filters over 10 stops.

A world of caution - I've seen people use the "cheap" variable ND filters and they've given them very poor results.  (I don't believe the very expensive filter from a certain manufacturer has this problem.)  There were odd light leakage problems, and some of the images almost appeared to have zebra stripes - I'm staying away from the "cheapies".

Tripod

You need a sturdy tripod.  It's my own personal belief that it's worth while to invest in a tripod (and ball head) while it may not be as exciting as a new camera or lens, buying something for a few hundred dollars should last you for years - you'll be able to rely on it when you need it.  Years ago I bought my first inexpensive tripod off of E-Bay, and I initially thought it was a great deal - every time I used it however a new part broke/fell off of it.  Getting it to stay in one spot (like a tripod should) also proved to be too difficult for it.  Don't make the same mistake I did..

Other Incidentals

You'll also need a timer/cable release so you'll be able to put your camera in bulb mode too take the long exposures.  If you're taking pictures in direct sunlight, it's also a good idea to put on something to block the light from entering the viewfinder, otherwise light may leak into your images.  (It's possible for this to happen from other seams in your camera or even lenses as well, but hopefully that won't happen to you.)  Some straps have the little plastic piece to do this, or you can improvise with something else (clothes, filter holder, etc).

The Pictures
  1. Find perfect day, perfect composition, and of course perfect light.  (Or wing it - we all have to start somewhere!)  Compose your future image, with no filters.  Put your lens on manual focus, and take a test shot, and ensure you're happy with what you just took.  (In focus, correct exposure, and so on.)
  2. Determine how many stops of light you'd like to put on (more on this later) your lens, and assemble your filters.  Plug in your timer/cable release to your camera.
  3. Once your happy, without changing anything else screw your filters onto your lens, ensuring not to touch your focus, or focal length.  Once the filters are on you aren't going to be able to see anything through your viewfinder.
  4. Now set your camera in bulb mode, and adjust your exposure (based upon your test picture) the required amount of stops that you just put on your lens.  You can make yourself a cheat sheet, or there are also a whole host of "exposure calculator" apps for the various smart phones out there. (I haven't been able to find one for Android that goes above 10 stops, if someone knows of one that does please let me know!)  After practice, you might be able to do the calculation in your head.  Worst case you can also count the stop changes as you change your exposure.
  5. Cover your camera's viewfinder if it's in the sun, and take your picture with your cable release/timer ensuring you expose your image the correct amount of time.
  6. Show the world your fantastic new images (of course), sell them, Profit?  Credit me?
Other Tips

I'm of course no expert at this, if you google for "long exposure photographers" you'll find a ton, there is also a large community of people who are clearly experts at this type of art on Google+.  That said, these are a couple more things I've learnt thus far:
  • Generally speaking, clouds and water tends to be blurred out after a minute or so. 
  • For clouds, the direction of the wind clearly impacts the types of "streaks" that appear in the clouds.  Longer exposures of clouds tend to loose impact a bit the longer you go.  Experiment with this yourself - I still am.
  • You want your camera on the lowest (native) ISO your camera supports.  (E.g. Canon - ISO 100, Nikon - ISO 200).  This also helps reduce your shutter speed.
  • Of course people walking in and out of your image will become "ghosts" the longer the exposure is.  If they stand in front of you wearing a florescent jacket, you'll probably see them however..
  • You'll probably find there is often a strange color cast on the images as a result of using the filters.  It happens, but of course many folks are also converting the images to black and white anyway.
  • Turn off IS (Canon) or VR (Nikon) on your lenses if you have it.  Some lenses actually say not to tripod mount them with it on, but even if you do it will probably cause problems with long exposure shots anyway.
Have fun! I'll post more pictures using this technique in the future as well.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Alberta Plains

A couple of weeks ago I had an impromptu trip out to Alberta and while it definitely wasn't a photography trip, I did of course bring my camera along and had a little bit of time to myself. I toyed with the idea of finally stepping foot in Saskatchewan (one of the only provinces I've never been in), but instead I headed off to find some interesting things to photograph...  I think this shot is my favorite:


You can check out my new Alberta Plains gallery if you're interested in seeing a few more from my trip.  I actually enjoyed traveling around rural Alberta more than I thought I would have, I'll probably go back for more.  Not too sure what my photographer's assistant would think about that though.  Are there any nice beaches too go to?  ;)  Maybe I'll even make it out to Saskatchewan next time!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

My First Publication

I must admit, I'm rather excited about this.. I've officially had my first photography publication, even better, my first cover!

Yippee!

The original picture is in my Death Valley Gallery.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Road Trip! (To Oregon)

I'm a couple weeks behind in posting this, but over the labour day long weekend my photographer's assistant and I headed south for an extended long weekend.  For my birthday I was given a photography workshop as a gift (more on that later), and the location was in Astoria, so we made a vacation out of it.



Over the course of six days we visited Portland, Astoria, Cannon Beach, and Seattle.  I was the first time as an adult that I'd visited the Oregon coast, I highly recommend it.  (No sales tax, yippee!)  Given it's so close to home it seems a little stupid that I haven't visited before.  I created a new Oregon Gallery where you can check out some of the pictures that I took.  (I need to figure out where to stick that picture of the Seattle Skyline.)

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Allison Lake

My family and I went for our yearly camping trip this past weekend, I didn't bring out my camera much, but these baby ducks were way too cute to pass up...


Monday, July 25, 2011

Viva Las Vegas

When I ventured into Death Valley, I of course spent a couple days in Vegas as well.  July is my birthday month (yes, of course, I celebrate all month..) and the MGM resorts had a promo for a free room upgrade.  Bellagio here we come!





Maybe one of these days I'll be famous enough for all the Vegas hotels to invite me to dangle from their rooves (for free) to take pictures of the strip, but until that time I'll have to live with taking pictures from my upgraded room I guess.  :)

I have a couple more interesting pictures from Mandalay Bay as well, but I still have some post processing work to do on them.  Hopefully I'll get a chance to work on them soon so I can post them.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Death Valley Pt2

I visited Death Valley National Park for a few days, the weather wasn't hot enough the last time, and I decided I needed to experience 115 degree heat, and the rainy season.  I still don't really know what I was thinking going down there during such severe conditions, but I still had a great experience, and still managed to take a few more pictures that I love.





I've uploaded a number of new pictures to the Death Valley Gallery I created earlier in the year, you can check them all out there.

Some fun Death Valley Facts for summer travelers venturing into the valley:
  • I stayed in furnace creek, the hot water temperature taps should be renamed to "really warm" and "hot".  There is little difference between the two this time of year - don't expect any cold showers!
  • I woke up for sunrise and headed out to the dunes, it was the place I wanted to explore the most.  At 4:00AM it was still 90 degrees, by the time I left a few hours later it was nearly 115.  It's not much of a reprieve from the heat when overnight lows are still 90.  Also of note is that there were thunder storms, and there was some cloud cover nearly every day.  It could have been much much worse.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Happy Canada Day!

So it's a day late, but yesterday we celebrated Canada Day with the rest of Vancouver today by taking in some of the attractions down at Canada Place, and wapped up the night with the fireworks display in the bay.



It was really great to see everyone out celebrating, and I'm excited to watch some of the other fireworks displays this summer.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Vancouver Riots

Unfortunately this past week some crazed lunatics trashed down town Vancouver, and tarnished our fantastic cities image around the world.  Why?  Our local hockey team didn't win the Stanley Cup.  I don't have any pictures of the riot itself as I had no interest in taking part of what could have been a great party if it wasn't for the irresponsible behavior of a few that decided to use the loss as an excuse to run rampant through the streets..  Those people are not Vancouverites, and I hope all of them end up in jail.

That said, after the riots, the people of Vancouver have rallied around all the business that were vandalized and started showing the true spirit of our great city.  Today we walked around, and I captured some of my favorite messages that people have left over the last number of days.  Vancouver is a fantastic place, please don't think for an instant that what happened last Wednesday is a representative sample of what our city is really about, the below is!



Monday, June 13, 2011

Exploring the GVRD, and the Fraser Valley

We recently headed out to Belcarra Regional Park to check out a part of Metro Vancouver that I'd never visited before.  The Jug Island trail was actually really nice, a good mix of "un-groomed" trails with some easy sections made for a great excursion.  As a result of my explorations, I created a new gallery to store my photographs of this adventure and other parts of Greater Vancouver that I'll explore in the (hopefully near) future. 


Hopefully this summer I'll be able to get out to more of the local hiking spots.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

The Sunshine Coast

Last weekend I headed up the sunshine coast for a wedding, which of course meant I also lugged my various photographer accessories around for the weekend in a bag that never seems to get lighter..  We hiked around a couple different parks, and took in the local sights.  As a result, of course I had to create a new sunshine coast gallery within the Beautiful British Columbia section of my site.

My favorite picture of the trip is below, I've titled it "Sailing the 7 Seas.. of Trees.." of course, it could be considered a little abstract, but I love it!

Friday, May 13, 2011

Photographing Death Valley.. and Beyond

As you can see from my last couple posts, I was touring around Nevada, California, and Utah recently.  I've just finished uploading my Death Valley and Beyond Gallery, I think for the most part I'm done with more of my processing, but I also have some more to do.  Seemingly after this trip I could spend as much time going over my pictures as I did actually taking them...

(Map courtesy Google of course)
My itinerary was as follows:
A - Started off in Las Vegas
B - Rhyolite, Nevada
C - Death Valley National Park, California
D - Lee Vining, California (Mono Lake)
E - Valley of Fire, Nevada
F - Zion National Park, Utah

My Photography Specific Tips:
Rhyolite, Nevada - Really interesting place to photograph, I was more intreged by some of the junk around the ruins over the ruins themselves, but I may still revisit those pictures.

Death Valley - I happened to stumble across some amazing light mid day at Zabriskie Point it was amazing, not a single shadow, and I think it really allowed for some unique photography.  Yes, that's right..  mid day.  I visited the dunes for sunrise, and sunset.  Personally I was more impressed with sunrise, it was truly amazing actually.  The light was great.  At sunset, it seemed like your hiking around in 38 degree heat for golden hour - and as it turns out you are.. I'm sure when I go back, I'll do the same, but whatever you do, don't miss sunrise!

Mono Lake -  The south Tufa seems to be the best place in the park, by most accounts it's the best place to photograph.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Mono Lake, California

Yesterday, and today I shot the Tufa towers at Mono Lake in California..  As you can see, I've been living in a monochromatic world the last couple days, these images are much more powerful as black and while over their color counterparts.  At the end of the day, I suspect my previously mentioned take on color vs black and white photography will forever change as a result of this trip!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Death Valley Teaser..

I'm currently roaming around Death Valley National Park in California at the moment starting off my Death Valley and Beyond Trip, thus far it's been a great trip, but I wish my photographer's assistant was with me!  I don't have much time, but here are some teaser images!


Sunday, April 17, 2011

Cherry Blossoms in Vancouver - Spring is here!

Today was a gorgeous day, and I went out on a cherry blossom hunt.  I'm still on the lookout for a location that has cherry blossom trees close to some sort of body of water - let me know if you know of any.  All of the white cherry blossoms are now in bloom, I'm sure the pink ones are just around the corner.


You can find these in my Around Vancouver gallery, if you haven't already, take a look!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

400mm's of Fun

I recently broke down and purchased a new lens that extends my reach out too 400mm on a 35mm camera.  I need to get out and experiment a little more with it, but I was pleasantly surprised with the reach it gave me.  I shot the below two pictures from Spanish Banks, and I managed to fill up the frame with my subject matters..  Thus far I'm quite impressed, I need to get out with it more!

Vancouver's North Shore Mountains

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Fog

I woke up one morning to discover that fog was slowly dissipating in down town Vancouver, and I managed to capture a couple interesting moments.  (I'm still working on a panoramic picture of false creek taken at the same time.)  I just finished processing the below picture into black and while, I decided it's more effective than it was in color.
It was amazing to see the sunlight and fog literally bounce off of the Woodwards building in Gastown.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

A Second look at some Old Photographs

Of course the weather here hasn't been great, although it was sunny last weekend I haven't really managed to get out at take any new pictures.  So, here I am listening to buckets of rain fall outside going over some photographs that I took a couple months ago.

I just went through some pictures that I took during the last snowfall in January, I'm fond of this one:
But I think this one is my favorite.  After many years of watching other people take pictures of it, and myself trying to find the perfect photograph of it, I think I've finally managed to take a picture of Vancouver's Steam Clock that I'm happy with!
 As you can tell it was a little cold, in fact there was a layer of ice on my tripod...  My photographer's assistant even came out with me and nearly froze half to death to take this picture.  BrrRrr...  I'm ready for spring!

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Vancouver Olympics, One Year Later..

Last weekend was the one year anniversary of the opening of the Vancouver Whistler 2010 Olympics.  The city had a ton of events around town (although it was also raining for a large portion of the events - not so much fun) to commemorate the event.  Remember Canada winning the men's gold medal hockey game?  Mayhem!

The one event I checked out was the Yaletown light show.  We went down for a great dinner, and of course I lugged my tripod and took a couple neat pictures.  Not sure if I'll actually post them anywhere but here though...

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Back From Maui

I came back from a nice well needed vacation in Maui last week.  One irony of seemingly all the Hawaiian islands is that there is so much to do you can wear yourself out sightseeing!

In my opinion, one of the most amazing experiences is snorkeling in Hawaii.  You can run into one of these:

Some time over the next couple of days I'll add my own photography Maui travel guide here somewhere.  The first time I went to Maui I came up with a list of places that I wanted to visit so I think I'll document it here.  (This time around I didn't even take that many pictures - shocking I know!)

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Whistler Blackcomb Vacation

A few days after Christmas, we headed up to Whistler for some well needed rest and relaxation.  I really needed to get a break, and it was fantastic to spend a couple days outside of the city.  We checked out the snow shoe trails around Lost Lake Park for a couple days, and as a result I now have a fancy new Whistler Blackcomb Gallery
It was neat change in scenery from the local mountains, and honestly it's something different to do in Whistler. (Clearly most are there skiing or boarding).