Tag Archives: outdoor photography

A Walk Close to Home

Toronto Walk Part 2-1Toronto is a large, diverse city and every so often I remind myself that not all photographic adventures require me to leave town. I pick a part of the city and go for a walk, often with no destination in mind but with a general idea of how I will meander around the area.

Toronto Walk Part 2-2I start with some basic research on what’s going on in the city at the time. In the summer there are generally local activities in a variety of neighborhoods I can visit. Also, I like to visit art galleries and photographic expositions at the same time. I find they provide creative energy and I appreciate the works of others. So I end up with a rough plan for the walk, but often veer off as something catches my eye.

Toronto Walk-2I travel relatively light. Usually my 24-120mm f4.0 with the 50mm f1.4 tucked away somewhere, though it is unusual for me to change lenses unless I want the extra speed with reduced light.

Toronto Walk-3On this particular trip, a rather long walk through town and along the lake, I started at the Ryerson Image Centre to see the most recent photographic exhibits. Outside is a large pool where I sat down with a coffee and captured the man using a spare chair on the table to shade his laptop. From here I walked to Nathan Philips Square at the City Hall, home to a weekend music festival and found some patrons sheltering themselves from the sun.

Toronto Walk Part 2-4I carried on to the waterfront and walked along the boardwalk eventually coming across people leaving the end of the Caribana Parade. Not quite tired, I headed back towards home and came across buskers in the distillery district.

When I get the itch to take photos, I remind myself there is a ton to photograph right outside the door.

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Photographic Challenges from a Kayak

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Despite the obvious perils, kayaking with a camera gives me an interesting close-to-the-water perspective and allows me to explore areas not easily reached otherwise. In the two shots here, I was able to nudge my kayak through very shallow waters in a boggy area of a lake.

You have to fiddle a bit to get the right position. It’s not like I can put the kayak in park and grab my camera. It keeps moving, slowly. I look at the camera to make some adjustments and when I look I find I have floated away, or twisted facing another direction and need to re-position myself. As I’m focusing and composing, I can be on a gentle “spin” and need to twist to compensate. At times, I use the paddle as a brace in the soft soil to help limit the motion. Each adjustment can send ripples through the water, preventing me from shooting until they subside and, of course, I am once again out of position. Patience helps.

KK-1I can’t “plant” my feet in a kayak; the motion of my body is transferred to the kayak, so faster shutter speeds are preferable. A polarizing filter is often helpful when the sun is out and I want to cut through the reflections on the water and the lily pads.

And of course, the very thought of changing lenses in a kayak sends shivers down my back. I’m still looking at alternatives to my D600, perhaps the Nikon AW1 waterproof camera with the zoom lens would be better for overnight adventures.

 

Kayaking

Toronto Walk-1

We hadn’t intended to buy kayaks. We threatened to do so for several years, wondering where to store them in our small downtown house or using them enough to justify no longer renting. It dawned on us that, living 10 minutes from Ashbridges Bay on Lake Ontario, our use would increase. So, at an outdoor show we had never intended to visit, we bought two kayaks to be picked up in May.

I started canoeing in my teens and did several 2-week wilderness “voyages” through lakes and down the Spanish River before returning to university at the end of summer. We camped on small islands and slept under our canoe or tarp. We saw all kinds of wildlife and at night the magnificence of the Aura Borealis and more stars than I have ever seen since.

A few other images flash through my mind. A flashlight bobbing in the water at night, marking the spot my now swimming friend had slid into the water cleaning the night’s dinner plates.  The smack of a canoe hitting a tree in the forest as another portaging paddler, canoe on his shoulders and pack on his back walked with determination,  blissfully unaware he had left the trail and marched into the woods. The laughter as florescent-colored ponchos lashed to paddles propelled us across the lake.

Kayak at Outdoor ShowAnd the rapids. Walking alongside, planning a route. The excitement, the spray and the elation of making it to the other side. Oh, and hanging from a rock in the middle of the Spanish River, holding a pack too heavy to lift out of the water waiting to be rescued by my companions, the current too swift to paddle against.

Then life got in the way and except for a vacation or visit to a friend’s cottage, I canoed very little. My wife enrolled us in a 2-day kayaking course and that was it – I was back and loved kayaks.

My challenge is photography. We are planning several overnight kayak backcountry paddling trips this summer and I have been looking at various camera alternatives. At the moment, I’m leaning towards a GoPro to create video and time-lapse photography and since it is waterproof and small, would suit me. I’m looking for a good still-shot alternative even though the GoPro does still photos, too.

I love my neighbourhood

 

Highfield Hooligans

Highfield Hooligans

I live in an interesting neighbourhood. It is a wonderful mix of people, cultures and transition. Babies and young children seem to be sprouting everywhere, bringing a sense of renewal. There is an odd mix of Indian retail stores closing down while houses are being renovated. I once did a search on our neighbourhood only to find it was the only one in the entire city of Toronto not to have a name. Nobody wanted to claim us.

Still, it is photographically rich. Not in the ruins-of-Rome sense, or rocky mountain vista, but that this is my neighbourhood. We eat and drink together, talk as we pass each other’s house, gossip and share whatever is topical. Yes, we run to each other’s house when we are missing that one ingredient we need for dinner. And just stay for dinner. I enjoy taking my camera to every event we hold together. Maybe the others are a little less enthusiastic, but they like the results. Most of the time.

Our house turns 100-years old this year. Yep, something is older than me. So, I am thinking about having a “street party” to celebrate. If I can tear myself away from cooking – my other great passion – it will be a photographic orgy. All I need is some better weather. It snowed this morning. Really, enough already.

The photograph above is of some neighbours who dress in late-1800’s style and call themselves the Highfield Hooligans. My wife and I will be joining their “gang” this summer.

I am going to have to find a retro camera that is digital.

Snow, beaches and the Doodle

Doodle Shoeing

We recently got a dumping of snow. The most in a number of years. Parts of the Greater Toronto Area got towards 40cm, though we here in the east part of town only received 20 to 25cm. Falling on a Thursday evening through Friday, it gave us an opportunity we hadn’t been able to explore all season – going snowshoeing without driving anywhere.

We layered up, grabbed the snowshoes out of the basement and made the short walk to a park that leads to the beaches. It felt funny snowshoeing on the beaches, but it was great. Molly the Doodle loves snow and sand equally, so she was in her element.

I’ve been playing around with HDR and managed to grab a quick burst of three photos. The latest software deals well with ghosting and small movement well and this photo seemed to come successfully.

Isolation

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I have a fondness for isolating an element in my photographs. The use of “white space” if you will, which in this case is literally the white of the snow. My interior work, working with people at events, uses mostly “black space” as a way of isolation. Two different approaches to the same end – directing the eye.

I came across this tree at the top of a small hill as I exited Mono Mills park on a hike. The weather had deteriorated over the course of a few hours decreasing visibility and as I neared the parking lot, I noticed how this lone tree stood out. With a little help from Photoshop, I increased the contrast (levels) and ensured the background was a stark white. I prefer this colour version to the black and white because of the strong green of the tree.

Mono Mills Snow Reeds

This second shot of grass in the snow is another way I have isolated the subject, in this case using more contrast against a white background. I cropped it to be wide and thin to give a panoramic effect and left it in colour as I prefer the brown tones to black and white, though it does provide a different visual. I general use the levels control after selecting based on colour to make adjustments, and is how I manage the “white space” in both photographs.

It seems to be a method of getting creative photographs in less than ideal conditions. In the bright mid-day light with snow all around, isolating a subject and letting the rest over expose still creates an interesting photograph.

 

A splash of colour

Mono Mills Barn

Winter, at least in snowy regions, can bring a monochrome look to the world, making a splash of colour stand out that much more. I was hiking through an area known as Mono Mills when I came across this barn with very colourful red doors. Couldn’t resist, despite the deep snow and the cold weather. Molly the Doodle, who loves the snow and to go hiking was thrilled with the little “off-trail” side trip to get a better angle.

Pictures like this remind me why I like walking with my camera, particularly in areas that are new to me. You never know what is around the next corner.

Snow Shoeing

Collingwood Golf Course

I’ll take my camera just about anywhere. Snowshoeing is a good example. I like to hike, so this is a natural extension when the snow is too deep to wade through, which it can be in Collingwood. It is a great place to snowshoe as there are a lot of trails and some of the golf courses allow cross-country skiing and snowshoeing – they even have marked trails, which is good as it is easy to loose your bearing in all the trees and white.

This shot was on a golf course. It had started to snow, but wasn’t too cold that I couldn’t take my gloves off and take a few pictures. The lighting was good; nice and diffused, but the snow was “bright” and I had to make some exposure adjustments. I’ve processed this photograph in black and white as well, but prefer the muted colours against the white and bare trees. It prints well.

I think I will do a series of “winterish” photographs for a while, in keeping with the season – it is very, very cold and snowy today in Toronto.

Cleaning up the garbage

Garbage 1We have a garbage problem on our street. Specifically, the business at the end of our street has been using the location to collect garbage from a number of other “low rent/short term” rental properties and then eventually, have it picked up. But it is a real eyesore in addition to whatever health problems are potentially resident in the pile.

No amount of calls to the city seemed to make any difference despite the number of municipal bylaws that were being broken. It is an odd neighbourhood; one in transition where the retail stores seem to do whatever comes to mind. Last year two restaurants simply decided to build outdoor patios without any permits. You practically have to walk on the street to get past one of them.

Garbage 2So, back to the garbage. It takes a certain amount of persistence to finally connect with someone in authority at the municipality, at least with someone who cares. That’s where my IPhone comes into play. Each day I would walk Molly the Doodle past the garbage heap and take a photograph and instantly send it to the municipal bylaws officer. She would then make frequent visits to the location and started giving fines.

At one point, the location property manager claimed that the local residents were throwing their garbage into and around their bin. However, they have a clearly marked pickup truck that routinely brings garbage to the location and a photograph of this activity ended that conversation pretty quick.

Garbage 3So on a recent walk over the Christmas break, it dawned on me that I haven’t seen any garbage there for some time. It seems to have worked. The persistence and the photographs. The “instant” sending of a photo and the response by the authorities. I can’t thank the bylaws officer enough as without the response to my photos, nothing would have changed. We ended up working as a team.

I’m not sure that the problem won’t reappear at some time. Still, it seems to have worked. So, while the photographs are of garbage and exceptionally poor quality, they have made a statement all my early phone calls could not.

Now, about those illegal patios.

New Paltz, New York

It’s been a busy fall. Last weekend my good friend Heather Pollock (see the links to the right) and I photographed a wedding in New Paltz, about an hour outside of New York City. Sixteen hours of driving from Toronto and back in a three-day weekend didn’t leave much time to explore the area, but we had a little time on the Saturday morning before the wedding. I’ll get to the wedding in another post.

New Paltz isn’t too far from Woodstock and some say the hippies wandered here after the concert and never left. It certainly reflects the times with health food and tie-dye clothing competing equally. The town itself is quite old and has an historic area with houses dating in the late 1700’s. Huguenots, fleeing persecution in France founded the town and gave it the name of their refuge on the Rhine. There is an old section where you can see the original buildings. The area seems focused on outdoor activities and seems to have a wide range of excellent bike and hiking trails. A couple we met at our bead and breakfast had spent the entire day cycling. And yes, the were sore.

We found an interesting store that sold a wide variety of olive oils. I had been looking for something to replace the lemon olive oil I brought back from Sorrento, Italy and found a bottle here. I also found a rosemary infused olive oil. The owner introduced us to U.S. olive oil from California now winning international awards. A little bit more of a bite, but really good. Got some of that, too!

We continued our tour of the small town and found two book stores, strangely across the street from one another and off the main drag. My wife and I can spend hours looking through books and the helpful staff showed us some gifts for our nieces.

The reason we were here, the wedding, was being held at a local resort called the Mohonk Mountain House. At the top of a small mountain, it is a self contained resort with everything you need for that outdoor adventure (e.g., a world class spa). It’s a little pricey for my taste (though it includes practically everything) so we stayed at a local bed and breakfast called the Hungry Ghost, which I highly recommend should you find yourself in the area. When we arrived at Mohonk, we really didn’t have time to explore the area or the massive establishment, dating back to the 1880’s.

I would like to go back and spend some time in the area, especially in fall when the colours are so good. We were about two weeks late for the best colours I think. But a pink cadillac is still very pink all year round.