So There IS Life Before Dawn. Who Knew?

I’m not a morning person. There is nothing better than a warm bed in the morning, and really, I do believe it’s medically unsafe to pursue any cognitive or physical activity until at least the second cup of coffee. Despite these truths, I somehow found myself getting up at 5:00am on 2 consecutive days, without safe caffeine levels, to go photograph foggy sunrises. Here is how that happened.

As I have mentioned before, when you let people know you have an interest in photography, you begin to discover all the other people who have the same interest. One of those people is one of my colleagues, who spied an amazing scene of fog and first light as she drove over the Pitt River Bridge on her way into work one morning. Of course that led to the plan of being on the bridge the next morning with our cameras for sunrise to see if we could capture the scene. So up at 5:00am I get to meet my colleague on the bridge. She brought me coffee, bless her. We assessed the views from the bridge, then set up our tripods closer to the east end of the bridge.

Nature did not disappoint. From our vantage point on the bridge, we watched the herons fish for their breakfast, the ducks do duck-like things, and a beaver swim along the bank, getting out of the water from time to time to harass the heron (yes, there was an altercation between the beaver and a heron!). That was all before sun up.

Just before sunrise there was a lot of activity on the river, between the herons, the ducks, and even a beaver that seemed to like to antagonize the herons! The rove of pilings adds to the pleasing lines in this low light shot.
Just before sunrise there was a lot of activity on the river, between the herons, the ducks, and even a beaver that seemed to like to antagonize the herons! The row of pilings adds to the pleasing lines in this low light shot.

As we got closer to sunrise, the light and the fog were constantly changing, giving us a chance to play with various settings. I had never really gotten creative with the white balance before, but after trying it out, I sort of liked the mood the purply tones set in this broader shot of the landscape:

The fog was continually lifting, shifting, and settling back in over the river. This was a moment it looked like it might be dispersing, but then it rolled back in.
The fog was continually lifting, shifting, and settling back in over the river. This was a moment it looked like it might be dispersing, but then it rolled back in.

After a few hours, the morning had to be cut short, as I had to get myself in to work. Later in the day I posted a shot from the morning’s session on Instagram, and was surprised to hear that at the time we were taking the shot above, the very talented Ian McDonald was lumbering around the riverbank you see in the right of the shot! He too had noticed the scene as he drove over the bridge, and being the committed photographer he is, he had his camera with him so he headed down to the riverbank. This realization led to the plan to return to the riverbank with Ian the next morning for a different perspective of the river at dawn.

I’m grateful that Ian reminded me to wear boots, I may not have pieced that logic together myself at 5:00am. There is a trail along the river, but to get down to the water you must work your way through some rather tall, wet grass and vines, and some boggy ground. There may even come a time when you want to stand in the water for a shot, waterproof boots were a very good idea! We weren’t the only folks down by the river at that time of day, there were a few folks walking their dogs, and a couple of guys hunting ducks.

Fortunately there is lots of room for everyone, and after Ian gave me a brief tutorial on how to get a little more out of my camera in low light, we set off to capture the scenes in our own ways.

To practice my low light settings, I asked Ian to carry on down the trail to a bench in the distance. It was good practice adjusting the shutter speed as he moved deeper into the fog.
To practice my low light settings, I asked Ian to carry on down the trail to a bench in the distance. It was good practice adjusting the shutter speed as he moved deeper into the fog.

As the sun rose, the fog behaved quite differently on this morning than it had the previous morning. There weren’t the same rays of sun catching the fog, and the light was quite different, creating whole new scenes to shoot.

Here is a whole new perspective on the pilings from the previous day's shots. The river was so still, after I waded in as far as my boots would allow and waited for my ripples to settle, I loved the peace and calm of his shot.
Here is a new perspective on the pilings from the previous day’s shots. The river was so still, after I waded in as far as my boots would allow and waited for the ripples to settle, I loved the peace and calm of this shot.

Another awesome feature of the riverbank was the vast expanse of dewy spiderwebs in the foliage beside the river. The sun catching on the dew drops was beautiful. I would SO much rather enjoy spiderwebs in that lovely setting, than the snares the spiders set up outside my door every night.  I have to leave my house waving my arms around like a startled ninja most mornings to get through the booby traps. Inversely, the webs on the riverbank caused a sense of calm and wonder, especially as the sun came up and the light caught them.

The light was great and the dew on the webs caught it nicely. I have always loved the symmetry and design of sider webs, they are quite beautiful.
The light was great and the dew on the webs caught it nicely. I have always loved the symmetry and design of sider webs, they are quite beautiful.

Once the sun was fully up and the dew was drying off the leaves and webs, it was time to head home. On our way back out along the trail we noticed the duck hunters were still giving it their best effort (from what we saw, the ducks were relatively safe!) on the riverbank.

These two fellows were visiting as much as hunting, and undoubtably enjoying the same peaceful reflections we were as the sun came out in full force for the day.
These two fellows were visiting as much as hunting, and undoubtably enjoying the same peaceful reflections we were as the sun came out in full force for the day.

I cannot say I’ve converted to being a morning person, getting up this morning was just as much of a production as usual. I did have to concede to my dad (the ultimate morning guy), however, that there is a certain charm to the pre-dawn hours on the days I’m brave enough to haul my sad self out of bed at that time. I’m also grateful to my colleague who first spied the potential from her drive across the bridge, that started the chain reaction of a couple of fun morning adventures!

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Family Foto Fun

One of the best things about getting into photography is discovering all the other closet shutterbugs among your friends and family. For example, two of my cousins (on opposite sides of my family), are also very interested in photography. Carla, who’s work you can see here, has nurtured the interest for a while and has some mad skills, and Christine is starting out, much on the same pace as me. In fact, she has just bought the same camera, and the same camera bag (it’s awesome, so pretty easy to recommend to someone who is in the market for a new bag), and now thanks to spending a weekend together taking photos, many similar shots!

When the plan was first hatched for Christine to come down from her home in northern BC (central, really, but everything north of Hope is, well, north to us southern dwellers!) for a weekend of photography in my hood, I instantly flew into planning mode. I set a rather aggressive itinerary that would give us time in several of my favourite spots, but would account for weather, and an afternoon out to enjoy the Bard on the Beach performance of Shakespeare’s  Comedy of Errors (which was fantastic, if you missed it).

Saturday morning we were at the George C. Reifel Migratory Bird Sanctuary when the gates opened. I was introduced to the sanctuary by a friend I met through Instagram, and it has become one of my favorite places to go take photos. I like to get there first thing, before there are other patrons there with their bags of seed and the birds, particularly the geese, are storming the pathways looking for the easy seed.  If you get there early, you can get peaceful shots like this one, that Christine and I both captured, each with our own unique interpretation, as we rounded a corner on the trail and happened upon this scene:

We caught these geese before they were awake and on the hunt for the birdseed that is given out by visitors. The awesome lines created by the logs that are anchored in the pond for the birds, and the moody black and white, make this one of my favourite photos.
We caught these geese before they were awake and on the hunt for the birdseed that is given out by visitors. The awesome lines created by the logs that are anchored in the pond for the birds, and the moody black and white, make this one of my favourite photos.

We had a great morning at the Bird Sanctuary, then headed to Van Dusen Botanical Gardens for the afternoon. Although I said I created the itinerary from my favourite places, I must confess I hadn’t been to Van Dusen Gardens for several years, but in my mind it seemed like a place that SHOULD be a favourite for photography, so it made the list! We arrived there in early afternoon, and we hadn’t been there long when it started to rain. The rain was light, and we still had a great time exploring the trails, admiring the flowers, and playing with shutter speeds to capture the waterfall. I think my favourite shot from the afternoon is a water lily reflected in the pond.  You can see the raindrops on the lily pads, but the rain eased for a moment so the reflection is pure.

I know color selection is a rookie move, but I still was very pleased with this shot! The reflection is crisp, and the lily is delicate and lovely.
I know color selection is a rookie move, but I still was very pleased with this shot! The reflection is crisp, and the lily is delicate and lovely.

On Sunday morning we started the day in another of my favourite places, the Bloedel Conservatory in Vancouver. I love that place! There are so many tropical and exotic birds and plants. I can spend hours in there trying to capture the antics of the birds. One of my favourite, and one of the most elusive residents of the conservatory is the Guinea Turaco. He/she hangs out high in the canopy, with its back to the path, and is generally difficult to spot, much less to get a decent photograph. He must like Christine, however, because on this day he put on a little show for us, flying across the conservatory, then sitting in plain view of the path. Here is the little fellow, in all his glory…

The Guinea Turaco, I have never seen him come down from the canopy, though he must to eat. This is the most exposed I have ever seen him. I think he is the coolest looking bird in the place!
The Guinea Turaco, I have never seen him come down from the canopy, though he must to eat. This is the most exposed I have ever seen him. I think he is the coolest looking bird in the place!

After the conservatory we changed gears and headed to Bard on the Beach. If you have never gone to see a performance at Bard on the Beach, I highly recommend it.  We weren’t quite done with the photography, though, so after dinner we headed to Roberts Bank in Ladner for the sunset. In a stroke of luck, a one legged heron(we zoomed in and had a good look, he really does have only one leg), posed nicely for us on some pilings and gave us all sorts of opportunity for some creative shots. Here is my favourite from the evening:

The heron stayed put from more than an hour as we watched the sun go down, tested out shots as the light changed, and tried various angles. We are much obliged to the one legged heron!
The heron stayed put from more than an hour as we watched the sun go down, tested out shots as the light changed, and tried various angles. We are much obliged to the one legged heron!

In addition to the various photo adventures, we also had conversations about editing, and what to actually DO with our growing collections of photos. One of the discussions was around how to share them in tangible ways. We talked about printing them, displaying them and other ways of turning them into useful things to be shared, and not just having them sit forgotten on our hard drives. That talk sparked some more serious thought, and in the months since I have put together several designs of greeting cards (three of these photos were used for them), and am working on some calendars. Last night I hit “publish” on a little Etsy shop to sell the cards, and eventually the calendars when I am happy with them.  I have added a “Shop” tab to my main page on this blog, so if you are feeling bold, please check out the photos I chose for the first round of greeting cards!  Check back once in a while, as I have a few more ideas on deck.

It was so great to share an interest and a weekend of good experiences with Christine, although we talk frequently, we rarely get to spend time together. I anticipate there will be more photo adventures planned in the future. Maybe next time I should head “north” and see what else we can find!