In the Family

Last time I was home my dad shared this little gem with me.


It’s my grandmother’s first camera. It’s a Brownie Junior Six-20, and it was introduced in 1934 (dad thinks Oma bought it not long after that) at a cost of $2.50.  It was really the first “portable” camera, and could be used for either portrait or landscape images, which was pretty cutting edge. Dad remembers seeing photos from it, and they were pretty good. There is a detailed instruction manual available online which was an interesting read. Even more interesting was the discovery that there are still a few companies who make film that can be modified to work in this camera. I sense some experiments in the near future!


“I Left My Sock in Montreal”

What do you do when you have a conference in Montreal the week following the May long weekend? Why, you travel early so you can spend the long weekend in belle Montreal, that’s what you do!

I feel like us west coasters have been a bit spoiled this spring with the fabulously warm weather, sunny skies, and beautiful blossoms. Imagine my delight when I discovered that we arrived in Montreal to fabulously warm weather, sunny skies, and beautiful blossoms!

It seems spring has sprung in Montreal, and it’s fantastique! We got to enjoy all the great aspects of spring twice this year, that’s going to be hard to top in years to come!

Spring in Montreal
There are churches and cathedrals everywhere. On our first walk from the hotel I figured I should get the “stone buildings and blossoms” shot out of my system.

We should take a minute to back up a week prior to the trip, when my camera developed an annoying dark spot on the sensor, and had to be shipped back to Nikon for service. Not cool. Fortunately a friend came to the rescue and loaned me a basic Fuji camera so that I would not be completely unarmed in Montreal (Thanks Ian!). The shot above was my first test of the Fuji, and it seemed to do a reasonable job with the bright day.

The bonus of the Fuji was it was light. This is important since over 4 days we walked about 60km around the city! In fact, we did so much walking, Thorsten thought he had blown out a sock, hence the theme “I left my sock in Montreal”.

For the first day we followed a suggested walking route around Old Montreal from the City Walks app. The first stop it recommended was the Montreal World Trade Centre.  The Trade Centre brings restored heritage buildings together under a rather striking glass atrium, and is the home to many artifacts, shops, and businesses.

Montreal World Trade Centre
The Amphitrite fountain & black granite reflecting pool are a main attraction when you enter the glass atrium. I loved the clarity of the reflection and the symmetry of the lamps.

As we wandered around the city, one of the things we were always on the lookout for were the fantastic murals that are everywhere, in residential areas, commercial areas, and everywhere in between. Many depict historical scenes, some are whimsical, others are downright weird, this one was sort of funny.

Rooster mural
“I crush your nissan, crush crush!”

On one of the days our walk took us up through the trails on Mont Royale. Despite it being a spectacular sunny day on a long weekend, the trails were remarkably clear of people. The main trail is more like a road, and is a serpentine up the Mont. The serpentines are dissected by a network of smaller trails through the trees, and that was the route we opted for.

Mont Royale1
This deserted stretch of trail was begging for a photo, so I asked Thorsten to do the honours. I think he has some untapped talent with a camera!

All in all, it was a great trip, and a very memorable May long weekend. We saw so many neighbourhoods, ate too much great food, took in the new Cirque show Luzia, and it was all over too fast! We definitely must go again, Montreal is a fantastic city!



Although it is only Wednesday, it feels like it has been a very long week already! That’s why last night I decided to go to Robert’s Bank in Ladner to watch the sunset and clear my head. I also hoped the dunlins (little shorebirds that often fly in a huge rhythmic flock at sunset) would put on a show for me. I have seen photos of the flocks of dunlins, and they are true art. I had a pretty good idea where they would be, so I set out with my camera and tripod.

One of the neat things about going to slightly out of the way places is how friendly the other folks you run into can be. There was a man with his tripod and camera set up, spending time appreciating a heron who was perched on a piling, he smiled, waved, and carried on. There were a few people out walking their dogs, they let their dogs stop for a visit, and chatted themselves for a few minutes. Everyone acknowledged each other’s presence, that’s not something that happens in my day to day travels, so it’s special when it does.

I found the spot where the 1000s of dunlins were gathered on a sandbar just off shore. They are hard to see, until a small portion of the flock disturbs, but they are easy to hear! They are pretty loud!

I set up my camera and waited. While I waited the almost full moon rose,

I don’t think this is quite a full moon, but it was nice to watch while I waited for sunset!

and the sun began to set.

Evening on the delta1
I think the sky is so interesting when there are light wispy clouds at sunset.

As the sun lowered in the sky the dunlins became very active. They grew louder, and as time passed, they did take to the air. Unfortunately, they took to the air in disorganized batches of a few hundred or so, not in the flying ballet I was hoping for! In small groups the majority of them flew away over about a 20 minute period. With one group, a heron joined the flight.

Evening on the delta
Not quite the display I was looking for, but a great representation of evening on the delta, nonetheless.

Once the majority of the dunlins were gone, I packed up my gear and started back down the trail. Even the walk back was nice, and although I didn’t get “the shot” of the dunlins, I did get a shot of these two lovebirds, so all was not lost!

Sunset trail
The sky really was on fire last night. Great reds and oranges. Combine that with the hazy mountains in the background, and it’s quite surreal.

What’s Not to Love about Spring?

Today I awoke to a sunny Sunday. After a busy week, and just as busy weekend full of errands, socializing, and even some fantastic theatre last night, I was ready for a more peaceful approach to the day today.

I gathered my camera gear and some snacks and headed down to the George C. Reifel Bird Sanctuary. I have mentioned before, it’s best to get there early, when it’s just me, the birds, and a bunch of guys dressed in camouflage with extraordinarily large and expensive lenses. If you dawdle, the quiet paths fill with strollers, screaming kids, and hissing geese demanding free lunch, and some of the magic is lost. Not all, but some. You can still make your way out to the lagoons that are less “stroller friendly” and reclaim the quiet.

This morning was my first time there in about a month, and the difference was remarkable. Aside from the leaves and all the new growth, the geese were nesting, the birds were moulting, and everything was bustling around building nests.

Canada goose
The goose kept a close eye on me as I passed by it’s carefully chosen spot. I liked the lines with the thick reeds in the shot.

There are nesting geese everywhere, they don’t seem to be too choosy about where they set up shop. I can’t wait for all the fuzzy little goslings to emerge!

The swallows were working hard at building nests, some in the provided little nesting boxes that are all around the sanctuary, but also in all the typical places you would expect swallows to nest, under ledges and overhangs.

I really love the tree swallows, with their iridescent blue feathers. On a sunny day they are sort of striking, for such a little common bird.

This tree swallow took a break from fussing around a nesting box, to pose in the sun for me!

Not being a birder, I often have no idea what type of bird I’m looking at. That was the case with this fluffy little fellow, who on closer inspection looks like he is moulting. He was certainly all puffed up about something!

Moulting must be serious business, this guy looks a little stern, fluffy, but stern!

All in all, it was nice to get out and be reminded of the renewal that is going on all around us right now. I hope you can get out and have an appreciation moment of your own!

Rain or Shine,Outdoors is Fine

“I felt my lungs inflate with the onrush of scenery—air, mountains, trees, people. I thought, “This is what it is to be happy.”
― Sylvia Plath

One of the realities of being a “9-5er” is that there are many times when I have a small window of opportunity to get out with my camera, but the weather decides it should flex its muscle a little. Fortunately some creative travel companions, umbrellas (actually used to keep the rain off the camera, not just for the “artful umbrella” shot, and some beautiful westcoast locations often come together to allow me to still get out and play with the camera in lousy weather. That almost makes it MORE fun, as I have to think about what I want to take quite differently.

A few weekends ago one of my coworkers organized a spa weekend on Vancouver Island. My partner and I went over a day early to spend time with his son who lives there. That meant we had a free day to explore the mid island, unfortunately that was the very day there was intermittent heavy rain showers. We decided to stick with the plan and get outside anyway.

I’m so glad we did, we wandered around through the huge cedar trees in Cathedral Grove, we were amazed by the volume and force of the “Little” Qualicum Falls, and we checked out a Buddhist Temple. We also had a delicious dinner, that tasted all the better after a day of activity in the elements.

From a photography perspective, there were times when it was just raining too hard to take the camera out of the bag, but there were many other opportunities where the rain eased or stopped altogether for a spell, and everything was vibrant and glistening. I didn’t come away from the weekend with any particularly awesome shots, but had a lot of fun getting out and trying. There are a few photos from the weekend where I think the ideas were sound, but the photos didn’t quite get to what I had in mind.

Waterfall tree watermark
I had the idea of getting a shot of this delicate seedling with the rushing water of the Qualicum Falls in the background. In the moment I couldn’t decide how to achieve what I had in mind with depth of field. I also didn’t quite know what to do with the shutter speed. Speeding it up would add more detail to the water in the background, making the whole photo “busy”. Slowing it down would lose the sense of power from the turbulent water. In the end I didn’t quite capture any of it, but I sure had an enjoyable time trying!

I had a similar experience when I came across four seagulls nicely lined up in the shallow water as the tide rolled in. The water was rough, so it was busy and distracting in the background.

four seaguls watermark
This scene was more pleasing to the eye in a wider shot, but then the seagulls were a bit lost against the rough water. In hindsight, it may have been a more interesting shot to slow the shutter speed down to smooth out the water a bit. Maybe the seagulls will oblige me for a do-over at some point in the future!

 I have been working on taking photos that tell a story, in particular taking photos of people that portray a mood or a story without being overt. Fortunately I have a willing test subject in Thor, I’m grateful for that!

The clouds parted for a while on the Saturday morning on the Island, and we took a stroll through Rathtrevor Park in Parksville. I love Rathtrevor beach, particularly when the tide is out as the beach goes on for miles and there is so much shoreline activity. There is also a great trail that goes the length of the beach, and that was the route we took.About halfway down the trail, we came across an interesting hollow chunk of driftwood.

Thor contemplation watermark
I loved the detail and shadow of this hollow driftwood, but with the harshness of the light it didn’t make a good shot on its own. I took dozens of shots, I preferred a wider landscape frame, but for that I had to back away from the log and lost the impact of the hollow bit. My favourite shot ended up being this one shot from the level of the log, looking up at Thor. I liked the sense of “big sky” from this perspective.

Fast forward to this weekend, and the principle of keeping the camera handy for pleasant breaks in the weather, and accommodating companions came into play again. On our way home from Tsawwassen Ferry Terminal where we picked up Thor’s son for a visit, we took a short detour to one of my favourite sunset spots, Roberts Bank in Ladner. I had an idea in mind for a “father and son” shot, and was happy when the guys not only agreed to the detour, but also happily participated in my plan for the shot.

father son watermark
Although there was a beautiful sunset developing, I prefer this shot in black and white. The story wasn’t intended to be the sunset, it was the intent discussion the guys were having. In editing I softened the background so it wouldn’t distract from the main subjects.

I’m interested to note that every photo I have wanted to share with you here is black and white. I do love black and white, I think it is more poetic and emotional than colour. That said, I’ll end on a colour shot, the awesome sunset from Friday evening at Roberts Bank!

sunset march 18 RB watermark
I can’t get enough of the unevenness of the posts, and their awesome reflections on a calm evening at Roberts Bank. The pinks and yellow made the sky interesting, and the reflections so colourful. What a nice way to end a week!

I wonder what adventures this week will hold? The weather forecast says rain to the end of the week, sounds like the gloves have been thrown down!

Challenge accepted! 🙂

Local Escapes

“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?”
“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to.”
“I don’t much care where –”
“Then it doesn’t matter which way you go.”
― Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland


I don’t know if you have ever attended a travel expo, travel show, or similar event that simultaneously lights an intense desire to get out there and see the world, and also overwhelms you with choice, rendering it impossible to decide “where next?”.  After experiencing that creative tension for a few years in a row, the last time I attended a travel show, I went with two themes in mind; epic travels to far off places, and 4 day weekends close to home.

As time passes, I seem to do well attending to the “epic travels to far off places” list, but not as well on the “close to home” list.

Last weekend my partner Thorsten and I set about fixing that. We booked a B&B in Pemberton as a base, and set about exploring a few sites in the area. Our original plan was to visit the ghost town of Bradian, about an hour and a half north of Pemberton. That plan was thwarted, however, as we learned the road to the town is inaccessible in the winter months, and the alternate route is several hours longer through Lillooet. We decided we would instead just go and see what options revealed themselves to us.

We decided to stretch our legs on the drive up to Pemberton with a quick stop in Squamish to hike up to the first peek of the Stawamus Chief. It was a great day for it, sunshine and very few people.

For those of you have haven’t hiked the Chief, it’s about 40 minutes of up, and up, and up. The lower part of the trail follows a creek, complete with awesome little water falls.

Chief waterfall watermark
This photo exists only because I needed an excuse to stop and let my lungs catch back up with my legs.

Once at the top, the impressive slab of granite is a nice spot to sit and take in the views.

Chief texter
Nice views at the top, and I’m sure the Facebook update was nice, too. Maybe if this was your daily fitness route, the view would be secondary to your updates and texts, but for those of us that don’t see this every day, the phones stayed in the packs.

With a brief stop in Whistler for a walk around and a bite to eat, we went directly to our B&B in Pemberton. It was a beautiful home with nice hosts just a minute or so out of town.  We confirmed that the road to Bradian was closed, another guest had attempted it with a truck recently and advised there was no chance for my little SUV. With that knowledge, we mapped out a few other options for places to check out nearby.

The next morning we started by taking a drive as far up Pemberton Meadows road as we could manage in my little SUV. We got about 40 minutes out of town, enjoying views of the  Lillooet River as we went. Once we could go no further, we turned back and returned to town. That was when we discovered the best GF banana bread EVER at the Blackbird Bread Bakery. After enjoying the banana bread and a latte, we headed a few km down the road to Nairn Falls Provincial Park. It’s a short 1.5km walk to the falls, and they are worth the visit. The falls are one of those things that are difficult to capture on film, as the powerful rumble of the water and the mist in the air are as integral to the experience as the views.

From there we committed to a bit of a drive, with the T’sek Hot Springs as our destination. The drive takes you past Lillooet Lake, and along the Lillooet River. There are amazing views along the way.

Lillooet Lake
I liked the reflection of the driftwood on this view down Lillooet Lake. The lake was so calm.

I should clarify. The views are for the passenger, the driver needs jedi-like concentration to  drive the often narrow and windy gravel road, dodging other vehicles, graders, and the like. After 48km of excitement, we arrived at the hot springs. I left the camera in the car and made a beeline for the somewhat eclectic collection of tubs that held lovely hot spring water. It was a fantastic way to relax for the afternoon. After a nice long soak, we took a walk around the campground, sussed out a site where we would like to camp in the future, and then got back on the road so we wouldn’t be doing too much of the drive in the dark.

Having worked up a bit of an appetite through the day, we decided to check out the Mile One Eating House once back in Pemberton.  It didn’t disappoint. Possible the best steak we have ever eaten, and the elk meatloaf was pretty awesome too!

The next morning we started making our way back down the Sea to Sky toward Vancouver, with a stop in the Callaghan Valley  to do some snowshoeing. The Callaghan Valley trails are a legacy of the 2010 Winter Olympics. We strapped our snowshoes on and headed out on the trail to Finger Lakes. It was a great day for it, with the sun even peeking out every now and then.

Callahagn Valley
Apparently there is a lake under there somewhere!

It was interesting how many huge fungi were growing on the trees, they really stood out with as they were glistening with the melting snow dripping off them.

Callahagn Valley fungus
One of the many large colourful fungus we saw on the trees.

As with most trips, no matter how much you enjoy yourself, once you start the trek home you get increasingly keen to get there.

The funny thing is, once you get home, thoughts turn to where to go next!  There are a still a number of “close to home” places to explore, I wonder which one we will chose next!



Sunny Revelations

“Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.” – George Bernard Shaw

There is nothing like travel to rejuvenate the soul. There are uplifting little notes, even when you are quite convinced your soul is fresh as a daisy at the outset.

I had the great fortune to start 2016 “on the road”. Well, in the air, but you get the idea. My year started with the opportunity to present some research some colleagues and I have been working on at a conference in Honolulu, Hawaii. It’s not everyday my work takes me somewhere sunny so it was a bit of a treat. Given the location, I decided to take a few vacation days and stay for a while past the end of the conference.

If you have never been to Hawaii, I would recommend adding it to your list of future destinations. There is something about the “Aloha” spirit that is light, friendly, and laid back. Everything from the forgiving approach to lost tourists making terrible decisions in rental cars, to cheerful business owners happily offering local tips and stories, makes a visitor feel welcome.

Waikiki enjoys a great sunrise as the sun peeks up from behind the Diamond Head Crater, and spectacular sunsets as the sun sinks in the west. One of the things I enjoyed about both the sunrises and the sunsets were the crowds that would gather to share them together. I didn’t really discover this until a few days into my trip, though, as I fell a little into “hermit-work-mode” and completely failed to get out and enjoy the tropical paradise before and after the conference hours each day. It wasn’t that I was unhappy or distressed in any way, it was just a special blend of laziness with a disappointing lack of appreciation for my surroundings. I think the work aspect of the trip messed with my location appreciation sensors!

Eventually it dawned on me that I’m responsible for creating my own experience and enjoyment, so after ditching the briefcase and grabbing the camera bag one evening, I headed down to the beach to see what I could find.

As I ventured past the pools and restaurants, the beach and a big breakwater came into view. That was when I saw the guy.


All around him was activity, surfers heading in and out of the water, vacationers finding view points for the imminent sunset, people walking, talking, sitting, soaking it all in. If this guy had just paused to check something quickly on his phone, I probably wouldn’t have noticed him at all. After all, I had just checked my phone to confirm the exact sunset and sunrise times for my location. He caught my eye because he stood motionless for a good 15 minutes, watching something on his phone, there on the breakwater, surrounded by the crashing surf in front of a colouring sky.  Granted, he could have been dictating the cure for cancer that had just suddenly come to him, or doing some other meaningful and important task on his phone, but as I watched him I saw my own behaviours from the past days and it was the kick in the ass I needed. This guy launched me into adventure mode, I’m grateful for that!

For the rest of my time in Hawaii I made sure I witnessed every sunset, and most sunrises. Each one was majestic and good for the soul.

Hawaii sunset 2
There is no shortage of places to experience sunsets on Oahu. The smell of the ocean, the sound of the waves rolling in, and the dramatic skies combine to make a special kind of magic.

On the first free day my colleague, her daughter, and I got up before dawn and ventured out to Pearl Harbor. If you get there before the gates open in the morning, they waive the entrance fee for the first 100 or so people. An adult admission is $65USD, so the savings for the 3 of us made it worth getting up early. If you are in Honolulu, I’d recommend visiting Pearl Harbor. As well as being a moving memorial to the lives lost on December 7, 1941, it is an interesting and well presented account of the events that led up to the attack, and the attack itself.

In addition to the USS Arizona Memorial, the battleship USS Missouri is, as my brother eloquently states, “an imposing piece of kit”.

The USS Missouri is an impressive sight. If you feel compelled you can purchase a tour to check her out. If you are more like me, a bit of a tightwad, and would rather just read up on her history, you can do that here.

My last 3 and a half days on O’ahu were vacation days. In addition to the early visit to Pearl Harbor, we also took a drive around the island. It was the first of 2, I also did the drive myself the next day. Driving around the island is another activity I would highly recommend. There are amazing viewpoints, interesting sites, nice parks, and neat little places to stop for food. One of the places I was particularly interested in visiting was Haleiwa on the north end of the island. Haleiwa is just adjacent to one of the most popular spots for viewing sea turtles. Apparently they come up out the water and hang out on the sand. I say “apparently” because despite 2 visits to Turtle Beach (you can see why I may have got my hopes up), there was nary a turtle to be seen. It turns out the surf was particularly high, and turtles are no more enthusiastic than humans to be pummelled into the reef and rocks so they had sought out calmer seas. Oh well, a good reason to return some other time, and the surf that chased off the turtles was sort of fun to watch as well.

Sunset wave
The surf pounding the rugged shoreline was not only an awe-inspiring sight, but was also a powerful sound track. I spent hours just sitting watching the waves crash in.

I also spotted, from shore, a humpback whale playing in the surf, slapping his tail and generally putting on a show. That display inspired me to sign up for a whale watching tour that ended with a similar result to my visit to Turtle Beach. We saw several blows from humpbacks, but not the actual whales. I guess technically that means I saw a substantial amount of whale snot, but the whales themselves were a bit coy. Nonetheless, it’s always fun to get out on the water, so I enjoyed the morning.

On my last full day before heading home, I decided to hang back for the sunset. Every other evening I sought out an unobstructed view of the sinking sun. On the last evening I was more enchanted by all the other folks who were out for the same reason I was, to feel the magic.

Waikiki sunset
I enjoyed the way a small crowd would assemble in the early morning hours for sunrise, and here in the evening for the sunset. It was a light, friendly atmosphere, everyone there for the same reason. Connectedness among strangers.

It was exactly the experience I would have crafted in my mind if these things could be planned. It was in the same location that I first saw the fellow on his cell phone days before. I did take a few minutes to thank that guy in my mind for giving me the nudge I needed to get out and create a fulfilling experience for myself as the week played out.

I enjoyed my visit to O’ahu, and will definitely return one day. There are many places I want to return to to see another day, in another way, and so many places I didn’t get a chance to visit on the first pass. Until that day, I wonder where the next adventure will reveal itself?

1 Hobby, 3 Highs

“What you feed in yourself that grows.”
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Recently I was challenged to a “Post a nature photo a day for 7 days” challenge on social media. I sort of like those challenges, they are a good excuse to intentionally make time to get out with the camera. The week I was challenged was the last week of work before the Christmas break, and the week of the least hours of daylight in the year. I went to work in the dark, and came home in the dark.

I expected to feel disappointment when I couldn’t get out and take a new photo everyday, but instead experienced enjoyment going back through recent photos, editing a few that I had previously overlooked, then posting them and connecting with other photography enthusiasts through the challenge.

That experience, coupled with an 8 hour drive across the province that offered ample time for reflection, led me to the following conclusion:

There are 3 distinct phases of photography that each come with their own unique enjoyment and satisfaction – making an image, editing or refining an image, and sharing an image.

This thinking was further solidified after reading a short article shared by my talented friend Rick Ruppenthal.

Although the author of the article may be a bit questionable (Rick didn’t write it, he just shared it!), the article itself was sound enough as it talked about the need to love the process as well as the goal, in order to achieve success. I’m not sure I could define “success” in photography just yet, so it seems all the more important to love the process.

For me, the process is the 3 phases I outlined above.

The first phase, making the image is social and solitary, planned and spontaneous. I equally love the carefully planned expedition with friends,  and the times when I’m out wandering alone when I notice something again for the first time. I can not think of a “bad day” out with my camera, even the days when I didn’t get a shot that I felt was worth editing and sharing. I have participated in instameets, where dozens of people show up to a pre-determined location and all go on a photowalk. I have been out with a friend or family member for the day, sometimes deep in conversation but often off in our own worlds, just crossing paths occasionally to check in.

My brother and I have a tradition of going for a walk on Christmas day. This year it was a real winter wonderland, as well as valued time to catch up with my brother.





My family all have a connection to nature and to a lesser extent, photography. This year for Christmas my Mom got my Dad a new camera. Of course that meant we had to get outside and test it out at some of the more scenic locations near my parents’ home in the Kootenays!

My dad got a new camera for Christmas, so obviously we had to head out to some of the scenic spots near his Kootenay home to test it out. It was a nice way to spend the afternoon, both spending family time, and reconnecting with the area I spent some time as a youth.

I also make a point of going out alone at times to explore some of the treasures the Lower Mainland has tucked away in plain sight.

There is a park near my place where I enjoy going on the days when I only have a few hours free. The park runs along the bank of the river, so there is a range of things to see. It’s a great place to slow down for a few hours and appreciate the great outdoors, without having to make an expedition of it. The park is teeming with birds, which is also fun!

I enjoy all of those experiences equally. It is good for the soul to get outdoors and just notice and appreciate my surroundings. If a cool photo follows me home, all the better!

Once home, an new adventure awaits – seeing what’s on the card! Sometimes there is nothing noteworthy. Sometimes there are shots that I planned and schemed and have high hopes for, other times there is something that jumps out out on the screen that was less compelling in person. Regardless, it’s always fun to go through each shot and look at what worked or didn’t work, and contemplate what can be done with a bit of editing.

Usually I stick my memory card in my laptop as soon as I get home from a session with the camera. I like to see what’s there so I can think about possible edits. I really only know a few of the basic tools, I’m slowly learning more, but there is a lot you can do with a bit of cropping and playing with the balance and colour slightly. When I find a few hours, I pour myself a glass of wine, put on some music, and scrutinize in detail the latest batch of photos. Time flies by.

On our annual Christmas walk, my brother and I were trying o create little scenes that would be good photos for making Christmas cards next year. As I was trying to take shots of the red ornaments hanging on snowy branches, I couldn't figure out how to avoid our reflections. In the end, I decided to embrace the reflections, and play with the result with a bit of editing. I sort of like the softness of the result. It's a fun and festive selfie!
On our annual Christmas walk, my brother and I were trying to create little scenes that would be good photos for making Christmas cards next year. As I was trying to take shots of the red ornaments hanging on snowy branches, I couldn’t figure out how to avoid our reflections in the ornaments. In the end, I decided to embrace the reflections, and play with the image with editing. I sort of like the softness of the result. It’s a fun and festive selfie!

Once I have edited the image, my family has a shared dropbox folder. I usually put the image in there and get a bit of feedback. My mom has a good eye for discerning what is an ok picture, but I’m probably a little more invested in it for whatever reason than anyone else will be, and what others might find interesting. If I’m just planning on sharing the image digitally, that is less important, but if I’m hoping to make greeting cards or other items from an image, I like the feedback on whether it could be universally interesting, or if it should just stay in the family folder. For example, the photos I shared above should probably just stay in the family folder, but here they are, leaked to social media. The scandal!

An example of a photo that is more "universally interesting" could be this silhouetted shot of Thor and his some Leon on a recent evening snowshoe trip up Dog Mountain on the North Shore. I'm a total sucker for silhouettes, and I love the added impact of Leon's headlamp.
An example of a photo that is more “universally interesting” could be this silhouetted shot of Thor and his son Leon on a recent evening snowshoe trip up Dog Mountain on the North Shore. I’m a total sucker for silhouettes, and I love the added impact of Leon’s headlamp.

If the vote is for “universally interesting” I will contemplate using the image to make a greeting card, calendar etc. for the next round of craft fairs. I think of all the ways to share photos, I like the face to face opportunities the best. It is so much fun to have people come by, pick up the photos, talk about them, share their own stories, etc. In the coming year it is my intention to seek out more opportunities to share my photography in this way.

I also like sharing photos in online communities.  I have accounts on Instagram, Viewbug, and Fotoblur. I don’t post much on fotoblur for the lazy reason that there are size limitations on the photos I can upload, and I always have to make adjustments. I really like Viewbug, not only for the contests and challenges, but the community on there is pretty active. People give really meaningful and helpful feedback on photos I share. Instagram is good too, there is lots of interaction, but less actual tips and feedback. I can spend hours browsing all of these sites, seeing what other people are posting, looking for photos of specific locations I’m interested in, and looking at the work of local photographers.

As day to day life around us increases in complexity, I think it becomes even more important to feed the creative parts of ourselves, the parts that can become immersed in creating and have time stand still. I think it is in those times that we restore and recharge so we can navigate the other aspects of life in a more calm and balanced way. I’m so grateful I have not one, but three means of entering that space through photography.

Next time, some of my explorations from Oahu, Hawaii!

Weekend Explorations


“The only reason why we ask other people how their weekend was is so we can tell them about our own weekend.”
― Chuck Palahniuk

I think I’m slowly figuring out this “work/home balance” thing. I used to believe good work/home balance was spending equal amounts of time worrying and stressing about work at both work and home. As I’ve alluded to in previous posts, over the last few years I have made a conscious effort to have a clear line between the concerns and toils of work and the activities of living every other aspect of life. This means weekends have taken on new magical significance in the whole scheme of things.  They are full of possibility, some highly anticipated plans, some spontaneous adventures, and some downtime and relaxation.

I was reflecting on the last few weekends in November, and noticing how much time was spent on really enjoyable activities with great people. That led me to realize that as of late, that weekend wasn’t really all that unusual, and that’s pretty awesome!

So, what happens to make  a weekend so enjoyable? First, committing to being present in the weekend.  That means leaving office stuff at the office. Leaving the email alone helps with that, and I find that making myself a “to do” list on Friday before I leave the office for priorities I need to address on Monday helps get those issues off my mind over the weekend. I can’t notice and appreciate a fleeting break in the fog, or a beautiful reflection if I’m dwelling on reports and budgets.

I also need to give myself permission to sleep or just rest if that is what my body and mind needs. An activity that should be energizing and enjoyable can be a bit of a chore if I tackle it when I’m exhausted. I’d rather put off an activity and rest, than have a disappointing experience.

My last thought on this is to create a network of likeminded people, who draw energy and enjoyment from similar things. It’s relaxing and peaceful to head out alone with my camera, and it’s a lot of fun to get out with someone who is equally interested in photography.

So what specifically made those weekends in November memorable? Let me share some of the moments that made them special.

We started with a visit to the George C Reifel Bird Sanctuary to see the snow geese. In reality, that is more of an audible experience than a visual one. The geese are out on the water’s edge, and are best seen as they rise in a noisy flock whenever an eagle passes by. Nonetheless, I always do love a trip to the bird sanctuary, as there is always something crying out for a photo.

Thor Chicadee
I don’t think this chickadee was impressed that we were all show and no go when it came to seeds. I just love chickadees, they are so quick and busy.

On this particular day, we also wanted to catch the sunset at Iona Beach in Richmond. That requires a bit of hustle, since it seems to occur shortly after lunch this time of year (come on winter solstice and longer days!). There is a tree at Iona Beach that I have mentioned before, and I had an image in my mind of a silhouette of a man beside the tree at sunset. It took little, ok, no convincing to get Thor to play along, and I quite like the resulting photos!

Thor profile2
I’m a sucker for a silhouette, especially against a rich sky.











The next weekend presented just as many opportunities for memorable moments. A friend and I connected for a photowalk around Roberts Bank in Ladner. If you have ever been there, you will be familiar with the numerous broken pilings standing in the river. There are usually herons, cormorants, or other water or shoreline birds roosting on the pilings. On this day when we arrived there were dozens of cormorants on the pilings, and the most remarkable thing was the river was flat calm.  There is usually a ripple of some manner on the water breaking up the reflections.

cormorant 2
Cormorants taking a breaks from some rigorous grooming. I love the reflections in this, as they are unusual on that stretch of water, in my experience.

Moments later a small breeze blew up, and the calm was gone.

It doesn’t take long though, to move from one spellbinding scene to another in beautiful British Columbia! I have been on the hunt for a “Christmassy” shot to make some Christmas greeting cards. I think this little guy obliged!

bird berries
Although I love to take photos of birds, I’m no scholar of them. I believe this one is a… brown one. I do love how he/she is framed by the red berries though!

Later on the same walk, a horse and rider passed us, providing some great photo opportunities. One of my favourites was a shot from afar of the silhouetted horse and rider against all the great layers of the foreground and the land in the distance.

Horse landscape
I thought the horse and rider made a lovely silhouette against the layers in the foreground and background.

The weekend was rounded out by a hike with friends, old and new, in Deep Cove. Before starting up the trail, we took some time to enjoy the fog that had settled into the cove.

foggy pier Deep Cove
The morning fog was still nestled into Deep Cove. By the time we hiked the short trail to the lookout, it was a beautiful sunny day. It was another experience of feeling like I was just where I was supposed to be at that time.

By the time Sunday evening rolled around, I had connected with good friends, gotten outdoors, had a bit of exercise, and taken a few photos I liked. I vaguely recall doing a bit of housework as well, but when I chisel that down to a few chores between more exciting endeavours, it seems pretty manageable.

It is my goal to keep my weekends modelled after the ones described above. I know they won’t all be full of wandering around the lower mainland with friends and my camera, but I’m committed to being present in them, whatever the activities. Who’s with me?

Art Breaks

Every now and then, we need to turn off the logic centre of our brains and agree to do something that is so absurd and ill conceived, you really can’t explain it to a normal rational person. Those times are where the best stories come from.

I have just returned home from such an adventure.

I have learned in life that there is no need to go to all the trouble of creating a “bucket list”, so long as I have friends who are diligent with creating their own and I’m ok with random adventures that weren’t previously even on my radar.

It turns out going to Spain and cycling the Camino De Santiago pilgrim’s trail was a bucket list item for a friend of mine, and in a moment of weakness I agreed to go along and even helped coerce a few others into joining us. Now let’s be clear, I don’t even own a bike. The sum total of my cycling experience in the last 10 years was spending 2 days on a bike last year during a tour of China. In my defence, I DID ride the stationary bike in the work gym a few times in the weeks leading up to this silliness, but in hindsight I’d have to say that didn’t really achieve an optimal level of conditioning.

To add to the absurdness of the venture, as soon as one of my good friends from the UK discovered I was going to Spain, she talked me into signing up for a 10km run in the Palma Marathon. I’m also not a runner. Well, not unless someone is chasing me, or the coffee shop is closing.

After all of these great ideas have been accounted for, the itinerary looks like this:

  • 4 days in Palma, Mallorca, where we will run the race and do some sightseeing;
  • From Palma to Pamplona, where we will pick up rented bikes and start cycling for 10 days in the direction of Santiago de Compostella, from where our flight home is booked.

As bookends, there is a day in Barcelona on either side as that is were our international flights arrive and depart from.

When we all gathered in Palma there were seven of us in a rented apartment by the time siblings and all were accounted for. We had a nice time in Palma, the uphill-both-ways 10 km run in the heat not withstanding. We had great meals we prepared ourselves, delicious wine, and a nice little day trip to Soller and Port de Soller.

The following are a few photos from my wanderings on Mallorca:

Nothing says Europe more clearly than a narrow alley adorned with a scooter!
Nothing says Europe more clearly than a narrow alley adorned with a scooter!
One of the things I loved about Spain was the consistently awesome plants and planters in the windows! From the smallest towns we cycled through, to the largest cities, the windows were cheery, and usually had at least a plant, if not an elaborate plater with bright flowers spilling out.
One of the things I loved about Spain was the consistently awesome plants and planters in the windows! From the smallest towns we cycled through, to the largest cities, the windows were cheery, and usually had at least a plant, if not an elaborate planter with bright flowers spilling out.
Plants consistently seemed to grow out of nowhere - out of stone walls, in this case a plaster wall...Rugged little greens!
Plants consistently seemed to grow out of nowhere – out of stone walls, in this case a plaster wall…Rugged little greens!
In Port de Soller there were stacks and stacks of nets drying in the sun. I liked the colors and lines.
In Port de Soller there were stacks and stacks of nets drying in the sun. I liked the colors and lines.

From Palma we headed to Pamplona, via Barcelona. We had long enough in Barcelona for a quick walk to the Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya. It’s a pretty impressive building, with stairs and cascading fountains leading the eye up to the grand structure on the hill. We didn’t go in, as we didn’t have the time for that, but we enjoyed wandering the grounds and nearby parks.

The Museu Nacional d'Art de Catalunya is a beautiful structure and well worth a visit. The fountains alone kept me well entertained for some time!
The Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya is a beautiful structure and well worth a visit. The fountains alone kept me well entertained for some time!

From Barcelona we took a train to Pamplona, where we discovered the rented bikes had in fact been delivered to the hotel. No way to weasel out of the cycling now! The following morning we loaded up the bikes and set out in cold, but dry weather. It took us some time exploring the streets of Pamplona to locate an albergue that would issue us a Pilgrim’s Credential, the “passport” that would gain us access to the albergues, or hostels along the Camino de Santiago pilgrim’s path. It was afternoon before we officially hit the road, and came to the sobering conclusion that Spain is rather mountainous.

It quickly became apparent to me that it was a very good idea to take my big camera, rather than a more compact point and shoot, for two reasons; first, I had plausible grounds for whining that I had to carry extra weight on the hills, therefore I was slower; and secondly, it was expected that I would take frequent “art breaks” to take photos.

Here is how a typical day would go over the 10 days we cycled: Up at 6:30 or 7:00, as the albergues required you to leave by 8:00am. Sometimes there was breakfast at the albergue, other times we would find something in the village or town before we hit the trail. We would usually stop for a coffee mid-morning, and then a late lunch, at which time we would decide how many more km we had in us and pick a destination for the night. Once we arrived in the town were we would stay, we would get registered in an albergue, have the most awesome shower of our lives, then have dinner. Go to bed, repeat!

For perspective, here is a screen shot of the route we followed. We used the awesome app that gave us offline access to routing and pinning features as we travelled.
For perspective, here is a screen shot of the route we followed. We used the awesome app,, that gave us offline access to routing and pinning features as we travelled. We covered approximately 400km between Pamplona and Leon.

The weather wasn’t always very cooperative, we saw rain and high winds a fair bit so there were days the camera didn’t come out of the pannier, but I did manage to get a few shots that give a bit of an idea of some of the sights we saw. I will confess, on the very steep bits there was nothing but our own misery to photograph, so the photos may seem more airy and flat than I have portrayed in this narrative!

This was such a typical sight. The spire of the church would be the firs thing to come into view, then the rest of the town, draped around the hill. A welcome sight, when that was where we planned to sleep for the night!
This was a typical sight. The spire of the church would be the first thing to come into view, then the rest of the town draped around the hill. A welcome sight, when that was where we planned to sleep for the night!
Many towns were accessed by either a bridge into town, or a bridge out of town. Some of the bridges were quite picturesque, particularly on a nice sunny day!
Many towns were accessed by either a bridge into town, or a bridge out of town. Some of the bridges were quite picturesque, particularly on a nice sunny day!
We spotted this awesome example of engineering just outside Burgos. Apparently it is a structure from an Arab trade route, and has quite an extensive footprint of caves and tunnels in the hillside.
We spotted this awesome example of engineering just outside Burgos. Apparently it is a structure from an Arab trade route, and has quite an extensive footprint of caves and tunnels in the hillside. The photo isn’t as clear as I would like, since it was a rainy day, but the structure is so interesting, I’m willing to work through the photo quality issue!
So confusing, what speed IS it? 130? 150? 155?
So confusing, what speed IS it? 130? 150? 155?
We finally got to the flat bit (250km between Burgos and Leon), only to realize that when all the windmills are pointing in the direction you are headed, the winds may not be in your favour! In between the vast expanses of fields, very organized forests have been planted. I understand they are there as a windbreak and to minimize erosion.
We finally got to the flat bit (250km between Burgos and Leon), only to realize that when all the windmills are pointing in the direction you are headed, the winds may not be in your favour! In between the vast expanses of fields, very organized forests have been planted. I understand they are there as a windbreak and to minimize erosion.
I may have taken an unseemly number of photos of doors and windows, this particular one had a gentleman in the shot as well!
I may have taken an unseemly number of photos of doors and windows, this particular one had a gentleman in the shot as well! These doors make up one of the entrances to the cathedral in Leon.

We finally arrived in Leon, 250km short of Santiago de Compostella. We left our bikes there for the rental company to pick up, and took the train to Santiago in order to make our flight.

I think most of us wish to go back to Leon, and walk the remainder of the trail in the future. Cycling is not really the best way to do the trail, and not only because I’m not a fan of cycling! The trail is not intended for cycling, it is made for walkers, particularly the steep sections. Taking a bike on the trail is slow going, and the alternative is taking the highway, which isn’t really in the spirit of the pilgrimage. I had embarked on this trip with the idea that I would have a great deal of time for contemplation and clarity of thought. Instead I was mostly trying to not die, navigating on-ramps and off-ramps, steep hills, and sharp switchbacks. There is also the social aspect that is missed when you don’t walk. Many of the walkers meet others, walk together, see the same people over and over and form bonds. Cycling the route puts you out of sync with others, and you do not make the same connections and bonds as the walkers do.

All that said, it was an adventure, and I saw parts of Spain I would have not seen otherwise, so it’s going in the books as another adventure, and I can confidently inform you that I have not run out to purchase a bike upon my return home!