An excellent tool for a roadside photographer           

I live in a wooded rural location just short of an hour from the city of Kamloops in British Columbia, and it’s so easy to hop in my car to drive along the winding back roads. I suppose I could hike or climb, but truth be told I have the most fun as a roadside photographer.

For years, each spring, my wife and I looked forward to seeing geese hatchings at a near by pond. There are normally two, or sometimes three adults with six or eight goslings hiding in the long grass just across the reed filled pond. However, this spring there are at least eight adult geese and maybe twenty soft yellow goslings residing at the pond.

To photograph them we would stealthily slow the car down and ease to a prolonged stop. Coming to a sudden stop spooks the apprehensive geese causing them to dash away. Do geese “dash”?   Anyway the fearful gaggle of geese would quickly move from sight. And opening the car door to try photographing them is a waste of time.

Having decided on the time of day that gives me the best light, I first slowly drive by so as to determine where I want to stop for the best photos and I shoot from the car. The geese are usually far enough away that anything shorter than a 300mm lens isn’t close enough. Actually, 300mm isn’t really close enough.

In the past twenty plus years Linda and I used countless kinds of equipment to stabilize our lenses. And the best, in my opinion, is a beanbag. A beanbag fits nicely on the car’s windowsill and allows the photographer to nestle down and rest any size lens on it for shake free shooting.

This year I purchased, after months of research and selling off some of my other lenses, the latest Tamron 150-600mm lens. The lens weighs just over four pounds and although it does have vibration control, shooting from a seated position in a car isn’t the best for sharp, shake free photographs. So out comes the beanbag. However,  I quickly realized that big lens demanded a larger beanbag than the one I hastily stitched together years ago.

With a bit of online searching I found a company called Movophoto.com that makes a large and unique beanbag that fits like a saddle over the car window. With my limited sewing skills I could never have made such a perfect beanbag for that big lens. I ordered it, and when it finally arrived I filled it with rice, and although it’s heavy it resides in the car and stays put on the window, so the weight is a good thing. There are a lot of gadgets that I could spend my money on, but for now that beanbag is my favourite.

I slowed my car to a stop next to the pond, shut the engine off, positioned my camera on the large beanbag, and waited for the geese to resume their browsing along the grassy hill beside the pond. At 600mm I was able to frame pretty darn close. Then, when I wanted a different position, I’d just move the car a bit, and take more pictures. I photographed those geese (and some nearby turtles) for about thirty minutes.

Suddenly I heard loud honking from some unseen goose that must have been hiding in the tall pond reeds, and, like a crowd scene from a movie, they all turned at once and rushed into the pond.

I am sure there are experienced photographers that would have set up a blind and waited for hours to get the perfect shot. There is no doubt they will get my respect. But I know where those geese are and what time of day is the best to photograph them. And anyway my car is really comfortable and when I am done I just drive home. I guess I am just a roadside photographer.

Another roadside photographer, again.

Thompson Valley  abandoned in the rain  Wet goat 1  wet goats 2  Forgotten in the rain  Rusting in the rain  Roadside in spring  Forgotten car  cows waiting in the rain  A wet road to Kamloops

Sometimes I just like to go for a drive. Rain or shine, it is always nice to just go out and look around.

We had been lazing around all day. I had put up one of those portable, collapsible canopies on the front porch hoping the day would be nice enough for us to sit outside for lunch, but the rain and cooling wind moved in. So I thought, what the heck, let’s get in the car and drive up the dirt road towards the forest ringed Hyas Lake and if the rain lets up a bit there might be a photo or two waiting to be made.

We packed our cameras in the car and set off. The day had a heavy overcast, but no low hanging clouds and the rain was, hmm…intermittent. Ya, that’s a good word for when its nice and dry till one gets about fifty feet from the car, then the rain comes down. And I forgot my hat. But I didn’t forget to bring a small kitchen towel and I kept wiping the camera down to stop water from pooling I places that might leak into the camera’s electronics.

Overcast days always make things looks much more colourful than bright sunny days. Not the sky, of course, but the trees, shrubs and grass do have a deeper color and I always add just a bit of contrast in Photoshop to bring out the damp colourful tones.

The dirt road was surprisingly dry till we started up the turn-off to Hyas Lake. Then it quickly became a snow covered, muddy rutted mess and we turned around.

There are some old abandoned buildings along that road that are fun to photograph, although for years I have expected to see them gone. Old buildings have a habit of disappearing. Sometimes because of vandals, sometimes the landowners take ‘em down and sometime they just get tired of many years of standing.

I remember when I first moved to the Kamloops area. I spent months photographing crumbling wood and log buildings. The next year I engaged a local printer to make calendars for me that I easily sold that December. Within two or three years every one of the old abandoned buildings in that calendar was gone.

I am of the belief that the most successful pictures come about when one has a plan, but a slow drive is enjoyable whether one points a camera at something or not. I could say the plan was to look at the long valley, find out if those old building survived the winter, see how far we go before the road was impassable, and if the time was right make a picture or two.

As it was I photographed a view of the snow capped Martin Mountain above my home, some goats playing on a mound of wet hay, a couple of rusting vehicles, some soaked cows in a field and another valley view. Not the most exciting day of photography I have ever had, but good enough for a lazy, rainy day I supposed.

Roadside photography is opportunistic and enjoyable, we talk, stop and look at things, make a few pictures. As we drove along the wet dirt road I thought of the many photographers I have known or read about that just pointed that camera and anything for the pure fun of it.

And I think many readers will agree with famous French photographer Jacques-Henri Lartigue when he said, “It’s marvelous, marvelous! Nothing will ever be as much fun. I’m going to photograph everything, everything?”

As always, I look forward to any comments. Thanks, John

My website is at www.enmanscamera.com

 

 

 

Photography in Wells Gray Park

Helmkin Falls  LLW_6435a BailysShoot(1)  Clearwater falls  Homestead WellsGrey shed WellsGrey Infrared                                                                                                       The very first time I visited Wells Grey Park was back in the early 1970’s. The road wasn’t the wide, smooth, asphalt-surfaced thoroughfare, with lots of easy viewing pullouts that it is now. At that time it was a rough, winding, sort-of maintained, dirt passage with narrow, metal bridges reminiscent of those quickly constructed by military engineers during the Second World War.

I had been traveling across Canada east to west and was told by a fellow traveler that there was a mountain park somewhere in British Columbia that was great for hiking. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wells Gray Provincial Park.  I had no information at that time about the park, and all I could get out of the few people I asked about the park was that there is a big waterfall there, and I could camp there. So with a map I had purchased at a gas station along the way that first lead me first to the small town of Clearwater, after which I turned at a sign that said Wells Gray Provincial Park.

The first thing I recall about that trip along the dusty route into the park was a blockade across the road. There may have been ten or more women, and although friendly, they had a look that said, “We are serious and you better do as we ask”. We stopped, and were presented with a petition, and asked to sign, to the government to have the road paved.  I guess it worked, because by the time I moved to Kamloops five years later, and started to frequent Wells Gray Park, there was the well-maintained road that park visitors now enjoy.

Our rural home in Pritchard is a two-hour drive from the park. Just after breakfast on Sunday morning, when my wife, Linda, suggested we go to Wells Gray for lunch, I got the cooler out, made some sandwiches, and packed our cameras and tripods in the car.

My excursions into Wells Gray these days are pretty much as a roadside photographer.

I could dig out my back pack and tent and head off on one of the well-used trails up into the lush alpine meadows of the Cariboo Mountains, or I could borrow my son’s comfortable travel trailer and stay at one of the excellent campsites along the fast moving Clearwater river or at Clearwater lake itself.  However, there are lots of places to stop and photograph the park that don’t include the need for hiking attire, and anyway, as I wrote, Wells Gray is perfect for roadside photography.

There is so much to photograph; waterfalls, majestic river views, mountain vistas, old homesteads and, of course, lake panoramas. There is lots of wildlife there, but the park has so many visitors that other than a few birds and chipmunks, most forest inhabitants prefer to hide from view, although I have, on occasion, seen a bear or two, and one snowy winter I saw moose after moose walking along the road.

On Sunday’s lazy excursion we first stopped at a dilapidated, old building with amazing longevity, that I have photographed many times over the years. Each time I visit I expect it to be gone, but it just rests in a grassy meadow alongside the road waiting for another photographer to make a picture. This time I wondered if there was an angle, or season, that I haven’t pointed a camera at that once proud home. I have made pictures of it using every type of film and camera format, as well as infrared. I also expect I am one of those rare visitors that has never ventured inside that old house in the past 30 years. I guess I like to keep some mystery.

Our next stop was for lunch at the Helmcken Falls picnic area. As we sat talking and eating lunch I could overhear people at the nearby tables and along the guardrail speaking different languages. Wells Gray gets tourists from all over the world and I will say that it is a rare park visit that I don’t meet people from other countries.

Linda and I didn’t join the happy picture takers on the viewing platform. It is a nice place to sit, or stand, and enjoy that impressive waterfall, but for me it’s the wrong angle for a good shot. After lunch we picked up our cameras and tripods walked through the windfalls to my favorite spot, although this year there were so many downed trees that it was harder to get to our favourite spot along the canyon edge, Neither of us could use a very wide focal length without including a foreground of dead trees, however we persevered and finally left the Falls after a good half hour of photography, satisfied with what we were able to photograph.  All in all it was a very good day.

Wells Gray Provincial Park is a great place to wander about with a camera and worth the short drive from Kamloops. A summer photo excursion is fun, but my favorite time is the fall and readers can be sure this roadside photographer will be there again in a few short months.

Don’t hesitate to comment – I always appreciate comments. Thanks, John

My website is at www.enmanscamera.com