Wells Gray Provincial Park. 

 

The morning news said to expect snow, overcast days and cold weather. So I decided I had better take a last visit Wells Gray Provincial Park with out the snow. I had been lazily putting off spending a day in that scenic park. Gosh, it’s only a two and a half hour drive to get there, and I am not that busy, so I couldn’t come up with an excuse not to throw my camera gear in the car and make the drive.

I first visited Wells Gray back in 1971. A friend and I had driven up the east coast of the US into Canada, traveled around Cape Breton, and then had a leisurely drove across Canada to Kamloops, British Columbia. Someone we met in Kamloops suggested Wells Gray Park.

I remember driving along the rough, rutted dirt road into the park and marvelling at the quiet wilderness encroaching from both sides. Until the road became blocked by many stern looking women carrying placards and standing by a big sign demanding that the road should be paved.  When we stopped someone thrust a petition through the window, while telling how the school bus had driven off the dangerous road we were on, and required our signatures. I am sure they saw the California plates on the front of our 60s Ford Econoline van, but they didn’t seem to care so we quickly signed their petition and were allowed to carry on.

I smiled remembering that as I drove on the pleasant road that had been freshly paved, yet again, and slowed down to look at the Black Horse Saloon and guest cabins that now sits where those women were. I guess they got their way!

The park was empty. There were no cars or tourist filled busses on the roadside. Gosh, I felt special.

I have my favourite stops for when I don’t feel like hiking. There is an old abandoned building on the way into the park that I have been photographing for years. I am always surprised to see it still standing.

My second stop is to climb under the bridge that crosses the Murtle River. Going under the bridge gives a better location to photograph the “Mushbowl” and the large smooth rock surface is filled with big, round, deep holes. It’s a fun place to wander.

Then I made a fast drive to Helmcken Falls. Not so much because I really was in a hurry to get there, but because I had finished three cups of coffee and really needed to get to an outhouse. I got there and rushed to the privy only to find that the door had been unceremoniously pried open and the toilet paper had been shredded off it’s wall hanger. My friend Jo had mentioned that I should watch for bears, but if she does ask me I’ll just tell her that I am sure a large squirrel ripped up the toilet paper and the door was off its hinges because someone else (with long fingernails) that also too much coffee must have been in a hurry.

Helmcken fall was, as usual, in the shadow, but there was a nice fog and the sky had some clouds. Not that bad for photography. I like to wander away from the viewing platform, down past the end of the security fence, and just past the sign that warns hikers that they can fall over the edge of the canyon. That’s best because there is no fence to block my view.

Then it’s only a short drive to my favourite place, Bailey’s Chute. As with the bridge, I climb down under the viewing platform.   My final spot is to park beside Shadow Lake. I like Shadow Lake because sometimes one can see a snow capped mountain to photograph in the distance.

Usually it’s hard to find and empty table at the end of Clearwater Lake to eat lunch at, but the park was empty.

My day couldn’t have been better. Although I have photographed that scenic park many times in the last forty plus years, I always enjoy the drive and the photography. And I am sure I have a good ten or maybe more years left in these old bones to be back photographing that park many, many more times.

 

 

Selecting a Tripod

 

Tripod & Hat        In his book, “Backcountry Journal, Reminiscences of a Wilderness Photographer”   Dave Bohn writes, “The trouble with photographers, and anyone else attempting anything creative, and in fact doing anything, is that they get addicted…(and)…I was addicted to the tripod as a necessity for the photography of large landscapes.”

I remembered (and liked) that quote from an article I wrote in October 2013 and thought I should post it again. I can’t say that I am addicted like Mr. Bohn, but I, too, really enjoy using a tripod when I shoot landscapes.

I reread my 2013 article on tripods and decided to repost some of my discussion after talking with a friend about tripods. He is planning on getting a new one as a gift for his wife, and we were discussing what might be the best for her.

When I select a tripod I want one that extends above my head so I can use it on hills. I don’t like bending over to peer through my camera’s viewfinder. I also prefer tripod legs that can be extended out horizontally when the ground is uneven.

I don’t want a crank to raise the center column as that is just added weight, and becomes one more thing to get caught on things. I like a column lock that turns to lock and unlock so I can easily adjust it up or down.

An important feature on the tripod I select is a strong and easily available quick release on the tripod head. The tripod head is another subject completely and my advice is get one that has a reasonable size ball surface and that is lightweight.

A tripod shouldn’t be so heavy that it’s a bother to carry. Nevertheless, it must be sturdy and capable of supporting my camera without shaking. I am always amazed when a photographer uses a cheap, little tripod to hold their camera and lens that are worth well over the thousand dollars plus mark.

I am pragmatic in my approach to photography. Sometimes the conditions are fine for just pointing and shooting, but if I really care about the picture I know I will have better success getting a quality enlargement if I return to the car and get my tripod. That’s just good sense.

I know there are many modern photographers are of the belief that the difference between a blurry and a sharp enlargement is megapixels or vibration reduction features. I can’t disagree with that altogether, but I do think a good, stable tripod is just as important and in some cases more.

Using a good tripod that allows one to stand up straight, take time to analyze the scene, problem solve, compose, and contemplate is an excellent experience. In addition, it keeps the camera from moving.

I suggest buying from people that have used, or at least can discuss, the tripods they sell.  The department stores will allow you to bring it back if you aren’t satisfied, but I am sure they are not interested in paying for the damages to your camera and lens that crashed to the ground while using their bargain tripod.

In recent years more and more quality tripods have become available and are worth owning and using. All one needs to do is spend some time researching and checking reviews.

Photographers spend lots of effort selecting that DSLR and lenses for each purpose they want to use it for. My advice is to take the same amount of effort with that purchase a really good tripod.

 

 

Christmas Lights are Here Again         

Street Lights

PalmTree Decor

Tree of Hope

Xmas bear

SKating rink

Beach walk

December is upon us again and the visual presentation of bright, festive lights has begun. Yes, the Christmas holidays are coming. The bright colours, the gaudy decorations, the sentimental music, the silly TV programs, and, for me especially, the Christmas lights in the city.

This past week my wife and I had to journey for a late afternoon meeting to Kelowna, which is two hours south from our home, however, that winding country road can be treacherous on dark, snowy nights and so we decided to stay overnight in Kelowna.

For some that means dinner out and just waiting the night out in a motel, but for me it’s an opportunity to have fun experimenting and photographing the season’s sparkling lights. In anticipation I had packed my camera with a 24-70mm lens and, of course, my tripod.

My preference for evening photography is to select a location before it gets dark, and to begin shooting when the lights are first turned on, when there is still some light in the sky, yet dark enough for the lights to be bright. However, our meeting lasted until after dark and I had lost the light.

I have been fascinated by Christmas lights since before I picked up my first camera, and remember family outings this time of year when my parents would pack us up in the old 1954 Ford station wagon for after dark drives along the high roads above the Salt Lake City valley. We would drink chocolate milk and look down on the colourful city lights. At that time my father was in charge of the awkward, accordion-like Kodak camera, that I doubt ever used anything but black and white film.

In spite of the late hour we drove by the downtown Kelowna lakeshore past the Yacht Club. I was sure the city would have lights along the sidewalk and hoped that some of the boats might be lit up. I had also heard that a public skating rink was opening and I wanted to experiment with a slow shutterspeed.

During the time when ISO ratings were limited, photographers who shot after dark ended up exposing for only the lights, and the resulting photographs would show lots of colours, but didn’t say anything about the location, or environment. Nowadays most modern cameras have no trouble with ISO 800 or 1600, with some even 3200, and don’t show the random speckles, which indicate degraded image quality.

Making some test shots I quickly found that the city lights were bright enough to allow me to use ISO 800. I also tried 1600, but I lost Christmas lights detail, and the buildings and walkways didn’t look like they were photographed after dark.

As usual Kelowna had lit up its tall “Tree of Hope”. I photographed that very tall electric tree last year and knew from experience that the best time to get pictures of it was early in the morning. When I left my hotel room at 6am the next morning I was greeted by a couple inches a fresh wet snow. Perfect. More light reflection.

I shot with my camera set to “aperture” priority. When I use aperture priority for this kind of photography I also employ the camera’s exposure compensation feature. If one just used the aperture priority mode the camera will, as it is programed to do, try to correct the lighting and that makes the sky too bright. This time I think I used -1.7 to darken the sky.

A drive this time of year through any town or city neighbourhood is an exciting visual presentation of bright, festive lights, and an opportunity for at least a few weeks, to have fun experimenting and photographing the season’s sparkling subjects.

Photographer’s 2015 New Years Resolutions

 

Auld-lang-sine

 

Marmot-b

 

 

It is time for me to write about New Year’s resolutions. The prospect of new opportunities is always exciting and jotting down a personal list of goals (resolutions) at the beginning of each year is a good idea if one wants personal growth.

This past month I have been asking people that come into my shop what their resolutions for the New Year would be. Here are a few from the many I heard that, in my opinion, are good solid resolutions.

Use a tripod more.

Turn off Auto mode.

Buy a new camera or lens.

Try shooting RAW.

Learn more about lighting.

Take more photos.

Learn about Composition and the Rule of Thirds

Learn to use Photoshop or Lightroom.

However, as good as those are I am adding seven that are a bit more inspirational (is philosophical a better word?) New Year Resolutions that I have put together (seven is a lucky number after all) this past year from all the long, coffee fueled discussions on ways to make improvements in the future with this exciting medium.

  1. Pay more attention to creative ideas. Without creativity a photographer doesn’t have a chance at moving forward. “This could be the year to begin evolving creatively”.
  1. There is too much focus on what is the best camera. When we spend too much time worrying and making everything about the camera we forget about the story. How about this year being more concerned with making images that tell a story”.
  1. Take risks photographically and move away from always trying to please. Make this the year to push-the-envelope beyond the comfort zone without being concerned with other’s opinions. Maybe this will be the year to put “me” in the photograph.
  1. Learn a New Technique. I think it’s as simple as experimenting, and definitely taking the time to “read up on some technique and then give it a try”. Photographers should always make the effort to learn new techniques, maybe by taking a class, or at least buying some books, or CDs, written or taught by experienced, educated photographers.
  1. Choosing new subjects to “get out of the rut of shooting the same thing over and over”. While practicing portraiture or landscapes is good, photographing the same thing the same way over and over can result in a lack of inventiveness and creativity. Sure it’s nice to stay in a comfortable rut, but as with Resolution #4, “Maybe this will be the year to put “me” in the photograph”.
  1. Make every shot count and stay away from the “spray and pray” shooting style. It should be about making each image a quality photograph, not massive picture snapping sessions hoping that a few to turn out.
  1. Become more ruthless with one’s photography and what is done in post-production; conditioning oneself to throw out the crap is the only way to keep improving.

Finally, I’ll wish everyone a great 2015, and end with a quote by award winning English author, Neil Gaiman. “I hope that in this year to come, you make mistakes. Because if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world. You’re doing things you’ve never done before, and more importantly, you’re doing something.”

Do you have any to add? I will be happy to read them.

My website is at www.enmanscamera.com. Thanks, John

 

Photographing the Lights of Christmas Holidays

Kelowna-Tree-2014

Kelowna tree 4

Kelowna-5

Kelowna tree 2

Kelowna-tree-3

Well, it has been a wonderful Christmas holiday and I have enjoyed everything about it; the bright colours, gaudy decorations, the sentimental music, silly TV programs, and I especially like the Christmas lights in the city.

A drive this time of year through any town or city neighbourhood is an exciting visual presentation of festive bright lights and another opportunity for, at least a few weeks, to have fun experimenting and photographing the season’s sparkling subjects.

Photographers that want to make pictures of Christmas lights usually wait until dark and end up exposing for only the lights, and the resulting photographs show lots of colours, but don’t say anything about the location or environment; and a photograph in daylight doesn’t show the lights at all.

The photographer’s goal should be to balance an exposure for ambient light (existing environmental light) to and the electric lights. So to provide help and clarification to my readers here is my quick holiday how to for photographing their city or town’s Christmas lights.

As I suggested when I wrote about photographing the CP Holiday Train, begin by choosing the location well in advance, before it gets dark, and prepare to begin when the electric lights are first turned on, when there is still some light in the sky, yet dark enough for the lights to be bright.

Place the camera tightly on a tripod so it’s nice and steady because the exposures can be long. I like using a cable release, but if you don’t have one available, use the camera’s self-timer. The idea is to stop camera-shake.

Photographers can experiment by setting the white balance to “tungsten”. That setting will correctly balance the different lighting types; and as a bonus it will deepen the blue in the sky. I then control the final intensity with PhotoShop.

The composition should also include reflective subjects in the foreground like snow, sidewalks, cars and anything else that adds to the viewer’s attention.

Expose for the sky or buildings and make several test shots and keep checking the camera’s LCD. The lights will become more and more exciting as the sky light fades and as pictures are captured. There will be some length of time between your first images just before the sun sets and the last when everything gets very dark. I also do this in reverse, starting before the sun comes up in the morning.

Dress warm, so you aren’t uncomfortable and rush things. I expect the whole “shoot” should last less than 15 minutes if one is prepared. When the images on the camera’s LCD look too dark everything is finished and its time to rush home, excitedly transfer the images to the computer and have a warm drink.

Most importantly, the quality of light in a photo comes down to balancing the light; it creates the whole look of your photo and now is a good time, with all the added decorative illuminations, to learn about controlling the light around us. If your goal is a black and white image you will need an exposure that shows detail in all the subjects.

In summary, select the correct time of day just before everything is too dark or too light for a composition with sky, foreground, and bright lights. And be sure to leave enough time to experiment. Readers should be able to successfully photograph their own towns, or any favourite location.

I look forward to any comments. Thanks, John

My website is at www.enmanscamera.com

Photographing the CP Rail’s Holiday Train at Day’s End

 

Holiday Train 1

Holiday Train 3

Christmas Train 4

 

This past week I viewed a photograph made by a photographer at night that was not much more than a dark, featureless, long block with a string of brightly colored electric lights on its surface. The person that made that photograph commented that she was disappointed with what the result.

I suppose the photographer didn’t know there wasn’t much that could be done with a subject that has no light on it. She might have thought a high ISO would work, and like many others new to the medium of photography, didn’t understand that surfaces that don’t generate light, must have light reflecting off the surface it if we are to see or photograph it.

I thought about that frustrated photographer as I set up my tripod alongside my wife, Linda, and our friend, Nancy. We were preparing to photograph the Canadian Pacific Holiday Train that would be rolling along the railroad tracks that followed the wide South Thompson River a short distance from our home in Pritchard, British Columbia. We had read on the Internet about the train traveling through Chase and Kamloops on December 16 and had estimated the time it would come through Pritchard that is nestled between the two locations.

We positioned ourselves on the beach on the other side of the river so we could photograph the train passing on the opposite side and we would have a wide shot of the engine and all the brightly lit, Christmas box cars.

We arrived an hour in advance while there was still plenty of light and made test shots of a passing freight train. The schedule put the train in our location just at sunset, giving us plenty of light to define the train from its surroundings even with the declining light.

We set our cameras at ISO3200. That allowed my wife to set her camera at 1/250th second with her f4 lens, and with my f2.8 lens I could use1/400th second. Even at that we were both under exposing our images, however, in my experience, a stop or two under exposure when making exposures in the last light of the day usually works pretty well.

I prefer shooting just at sundown when there is still that cool, blue light illuminating the sky. It is easy to select out and brighten up the subject without affecting other elements in the landscape, whether making the final image in a traditional film darkroom, or using a program like PhotoShop.

I wrote that we were using tripods. Tripods are the best way to keep one’s camera still, but with our tests on the freight train that we photographed in advance of the Holiday Train we found that quickly releasing the camera from the tripod as it passed, handholding and panning worked best.

I like to preplan, so we had gone down to the river a week early and selected our observation site. In addition, on the day of the train we arrived an hour early, and that gave us time to test, to move about and experiment with our location a bit, so that when the train rolled by we were ready.

There was a strong, cold wind blowing down river directly at us. But we parked our car at the edge of the riverbank just above us with a good view to see the approaching train. After we had set up our tripods and camera, we sat in the car bundled up in blankets and drinking hot chocolate until the moment arrived. Suddenly exclaiming, “There it is!” we ran laughing and hopping down the sandy riverbank for three exciting, adrenaline filled minutes of photography.

My favorite times for scenics, and for the Holiday Train that was my center of interest for this scenic, is the hour just after sunrise and the hour just before sunset. I am sure one can find great light any time of the day and night, but these two hours are the most predictable when it comes to workable light.

Please don’t hesitate to comment. Thanks, John

My website is at www.enmanscamera.com

Water as a Photographer’s Subject.

Arrow lake crossing

Ocean ready

Gig Harbor waterfront

Valley stream

Under the falls

Framed in Green

Water sculpture

What it is about water that has such a magnetic effect on photographers who wander ocean shores, the watersides of lakes and ponds, and river and stream edges in spite of slippery footing, and the occasional splash of water as they search of the perfect mood?

Whether crashing waves or clear reflections, water always adds interest to one’s images, and including a view of a flowing stream in a mountain landscape adds a great feeling of movement and mood.

The other night was one of those times that sleep would not come. I was tired, but thoughts just kept poking into my head and no matter what I tried, sleep evaded me.

I got up, turned on the computer, and manipulated a few images beyond recognition. That’s my usual recipe for putting myself back to sleep. However, this time that wasn’t working and after the fourth of fifth image I was bored, but not sleepy. So I decided I would start going through the list of photographer-bloggers I am connected to on WordPress. There are very few things I enjoy more than looking at other photographers’ work and the diverse circle of bloggers I regularly interact with are, if anything, entertaining and inspiring.

Street scenes, landscapes, cityscapes, wildlife, archaeology, and so many other genres, I read and viewed so many excellent photographs.

As happens to many of us when wandering the seemingly endless galaxy of the internet, I started searching “photographing water”, not so much for information, but to find the Google page that I knew would be filled with creative images of water.

There were photographs of water dropping into water, droplets on plants, or glass, and all sorts of surfaces, and wonderful images of waterfalls, streams, seashores, lakes and much, much more. I viewed page after page of excellent images, read lots of how-to advice and pondered many experienced photographers’ personal thoughts on pretty much everything related to photographing water.

Fall is coming fast here in British Columbia and with that the colours of the landscape will change. This is probably my favorite time to mount my camera on a tripod and wander to the waterside and start creating pictures.

I am really looking forward to doing lots of scenic/landscape photography in the upcoming months, and water will be playing a major part in what we will be photographing, I will be visiting nearby waterfalls and streams. There is the South Thompson River that flows along the valley I live in, and my wife and I are hopeful of a driving trip on the Washington/Oregon coast in October.

Regarding water, I found this quote by American novelist , “All water has a perfect memory and is forever trying to get back to where it was.”

 

As always I look forward to reader’s opinions. Thanks, John

My website is at www.enmanscamera.com