Tag Archives: travel 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.



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.

Spanish Steps

Flower Seller

Arriving in Rome on a Saturday, my wife and I hiked from our hotel by the train station to the Spanish Steps with the intention of winding our way back towards one of our favorite restaurants. I had two lenses with me on the trip – a 24-120mm f4.0 and a 50mm f1.4. I bring the 50mm for these walks where the available light is low.

We arrived at the top of the steps around dusk to a bustle of activity and an amazing view of blue from the sky and gold from the street lights. Knowing we were pushing ourselves on the first day, this burst of energy revitalized us for the rest of the evening.

Ubiquitous to our trips to Italy are the street sellers with everything from glowing toys they toss in the air to flowers offered while eating in a restaurant. I found this flower seller taking a break from what must be a hard way to make a living. He looked tired, and the night was still young.


Wet Night in Orvieto

After exhausting ourselves walking around Rome, we rented a car and drove to the hill top town of Orvieto, arriving late in the afternoon. Settling in to our hotel, the drizzle started and my three travel companions decided it was time for a nap, while I choose to wander with my camera.

I was excited about the rain. At dusk it brings out reflections and colors, not to mention colorful umbrellas. The streets were busy (for a small town) despite the rain. I learned while hiking to turn around occasionally as I might be missing a good view too focused on what was before me. I turned around to see a wonderful contrast between the gold of the street lights and the blue cast of the darkening sky with the clock tower framed by the narrow road.

I waited patiently for my “foreground” to appear. I took a number of shots, but this was my favorite.

So many changes

Rome Square

I’ve been making changes. I was working with Adobe CS4 for over four years and wanted to upgrade to CS6 for a while but first needed to upgrade my equally old IMac. Apple released some new IMacs in November of 2012 so I decided to make the move in January and now sport a new, much faster computer with the latest version of Photoshop.

Not enough change. I decided to use Lightroom instead of Bridge to give me better management over my growing library of photographs. So I am now learning a new interface and workflow in addition to all the new features in CS6.

Not enough change. I added NIK software’s products. Since I teach at a local college, I am able to get academic discounts for both hardware (minimal) and software (about half price), so I’ve invested in some tools while the price is right. The NIK software tools integrate nicely into Photoshop and Lightroom; I haven’t tried them with Aperture as yet. I still use Aperture as a final “library” as it is integrated with all my other tools (two IPhones, two IPads, AppleTV, ICloud, etc.).

Which brings me to the photograph above. It is a photo I took on my trip to Italy last year. I’m going through all my photographs looking for low-light samples for a book I am writing on the subject and came across this one. I decided to experiement with some of my new software and this was the result. I love the original version taken at dusk on a long walk through Rome, but I also like the look of this more artistic style. In some ways, it reminds me more of how I remember the square than the original.

Perhaps it’s just the way my mind works.

I would love to hear any comments you have around extensive manipulation or editing of photographs. I am a huge fan of “art” in its many forms and look at any “picture” as the artist’s expression, whether it be “realistic” or “interpretive.”

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.

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.

Rondeau Park Thanksgiving


Each year our family gathers at a campsite to celebrate the Thanksgiving weekend. A celebration started by my brother-in-law who “hosts” the event, the twenty-odd family and close friends all gather at Rondeau Park on Lake Erie to enjoy the outdoors.

In Canada, we celebrate Thanksgiving over a month earlier than our neighbours to the south, so mid-October can be iffy when it comes to the weather. The last couple of years we have had warmth and sunshine. Unfortunately, this year we had rain on the Friday, followed by cold days (and even colder nights). While we managed sleeping in the tent with a space heater (got to love those electrical camp sites), we generally had a fire started early afternoon to warm up.

We cheated a little on the way up. After a gruelling 5 1/2 hour drive (normally 3 hours) in the rain and traffic, we decided to borrow a spare room at my in-laws cabin just outside the park (not everyone likes sleeping in a tent) and avoid the all too predictable fight that would come from putting up a tent in the dark and the rain.

Rondeau Park is essentially a peninsula extending into Lake Erie, but mostly parallel to the shore. It is a haven for birds and the inevitable duck hunters who’s guns you can hear go off very early in the morning. There are a number of trails in the 8km park including one along the marsh (shore) side. The lake side is primarily beaches with a number of private residences that pre-date the park. Many of the older houses have the dates they were built. The oldest I saw was 1907, not too far from the garage photo below.

Despite the cold, I did my usual wandering with Molly the Doodle and took in some pretty descent sunsets. Nope, never made it up for the sunrises across the Lake this year, but the bed was just too warm and the air just too cold.

Another tradition at the campsite is an early Hallowe’en. All the kids at the camp site get dressed up on the Saturday and go from campsite to campsite collecting goodies. The campsites are often decorated more than many houses are back home. One camper created a haunted maze for the kids to go through. I guess it keeps everyone warm. It’s a lot of fun as the adults join in the casual walk around the colourfully-lit sites with the kids.

Most of the shots I took this year were with the 24-120mm f4.0 lens. I brought my 50mm f1.4 for some night shots but only took a couple with it. Last year I experimented with daylight flash as there was a strong, direct sun blasting everything and felt it worked pretty well. I didn’t bring it this year and with mostly overcast days, the lighting was pretty good and even. I mostly used ISO 400 to give a little boost on those kids that just won’t stop moving.



Gary’s Day

My wife created a special day for me over the Labour Day weekend. She built a series of activities as we cruised Toronto on our bikes on what turned out to be a perfect day for cycling. Her criteria for this special day? Cycling, food, art and photography – all things I love. Bless her heart.

After a wonderful brunch at Mildred’s Temple Kitchen (fantastic blueberry pancakes) we toured a small gallery featuring photographs from the turn of the century. To us more mature photographers, that would be 1900, not 2000. It was fascinating to see these old prints up close.

Then I got to do the picture taking. We walked our bikes along an back alley famous for it’s graffiti. It runs just south and parallel to Queen Street between Bathurst and Spadina and has some wonderful “art.” The bright sun made some photos challenging, but I managed. Some of this street art extends three stories high on a single theme. Certainly a different perspective of the city. Even some of the  garbage cans were painted.

All the photos were taken with my 24-120mm f4.0, my “official” walking around lens. When I’m cycling, I have a saddle bag that acts as a camera bag, and will sometimes stick a second small camera bag inside to hold a couple of extra lenses. That is what I did on this trip, as I wasn’t sure where we would be going. However, I didn’t use them. The small bag makes it easy to take valuables when you lock up the bike.

After a stop at Starbuck’s for a refresher, we wandered the University of Toronto’s downtown campus admiring the architecture, ending our excursion on philosopher’s walk. It was an enjoyable day without a timetable. I would recommend exploring your town or city by bike and enjoy what’s right around you.