03 January, 2014

Project 52 week 52 - the final week

Well it has been interesting running this little project. I have certainly struggled with timeliness in posting both while traveling as well as while at home, so no excuses. It has still been a great exercise to try and keep me shooting and posting my images on a somewhat regular basis. Looking back, these 52 images tell a pretty good story of the year 2013. The final shot is from the last sunset I saw in Sooke before heading home just before New Years. Hopefully this next year brings many more fruitful photography experiences, more growth, learning, and some necessary equipment upgrades. My poor 50d has seen better days!!

Sunset from the Sooke Harbour.

Project 52 Week 51 - Sunset from the Ferry

On our way over to the island for the Christmas break, we caught the ferry from Horseshoe Bay over to Nanaimo,  now that we live in Squamish. The view back to West Vancouver and the Sea to Sky mountains capped in clouds was brilliant as the sun went down and turned the clouds purple. Bowen Island is in the foreground. Gives a real appreciate for the starting point of the coast mountains that you normally can't really see because you are driving along at the base of them.

The Coast Mountains are topped with clouds aglow at sunset.

28 December, 2013

Unnatural Beauty? - Project 52 Week 47

UPDATE: This is indeed natural oxidation in the swampy waterways of the Squamish valley. Having lived here for several years now I see this in the water relatively frequently in certain places.

A walk through the forest in the Valley floor led to us stumbling across these sections in the waterways that appeared to have fallen victim to the dumping of chemicals or petroleum. We contacted local authorities who suggested this may be natural oxidization which I found to be surprising, but I am not an expert so I wasn't sure how to feel about it. If it is natural, it is incredibly pretty, if it isn't, well, it still is quite beautiful, but at what cost? It's proximity to a The resemblance to a pool of oil on a wet driveway is what still leads me to believe it isn't natural.

Natural oxidation on creek water. Mimics the look of pertroleum based products that spill.

Snowfall to Sea Level - Project 52 Week 50

Our first snowfall of the 2013-14 winter right down to sea level. There has been snow gathering higher up in the valley sides, but this was our first real coating for this season. It started snowing the evening before and finally stopped at around lunch time the next day. Approx 4 inches fell and the entire town and surrounding area looked incredible. Just days before Christmas it was a welcome site!

Snow and golden sunlight makes for impressive scenes

Winter is here - Project 52 Week 49

Alpen glow on a clear winter evening is one of the most impressive things I think you can see. With freezing temperatures finally arriving it was bitterly cold getting this shot. Even though the cold had come, we had still seen little precipitation, leaving the ski resorts begging for a storm system or 3! This can be seen from downtown Squamish from a few different spots.

The last sun lights up the western faces of the mountains in Garibaldi Park.

Salmon Runs - Project 52 Week 48

With 2 record Salmon runs this Autumn, there are thousands of Salmon carcasses littering the waterways of the Squamish Valley. This of course brings Eagles, and we are seeing large numbers so far this season, hopefully this leads to a large count on January 5. Some of these fish were 2 feet in length, and as can be seen in the below image, had a mouth full of teeth!! The Bald Eagles continue to feed on the rotting carcasses weeks later.

A Salmon carcass decomposes along the Squamish River

Temperate Rainforest - Project 52 Week 46

Another hike in the forest led to discovering an amazing grotto of boulders, fallen trees, moss, fungi and mushrooms. The impressive greenery is found in a section of the woods with an opening in the canopy which lets just a little bit of extra light in to the forest floor. We explored around this spot for about half an hour, it was a lovely place to sit and take in. The moss on some features here was a couple of inches thick.

Tara on the base of a massive fallen tree in the Moss Grotto

Upper Shannon Falls - Project 52 Week 45

Tara and I took a hike up to the peak above Shannon Falls. We found snow line right at the top, and passed under the lines for the new Sea to Sky Gondola which opens up in May 2014. The view from above looking over Howe Sound and the winding road of the Sea to Sky Highway is very nice, especially when the light is playing with the clouds.

Howe Sound and Hway 99 from Upper Shannon Falls

30 October, 2013

Biking Self Portraits - Project 52 - Week 44

For quite some time I have been trying to force myself to go out and shoot some self portraits of me on my bike. I have been putting it off but with a possible permanent change in weather starting any day now for the next 6 months, I thought I should finally go out and do it. I had recently ridden a trail that looked like it could contain some ideal places to try and shoot. I took all my strobe gear and tripods, anticipating darkness under the canopy. The next challenge was triggering the shutter at the right moment. I didn't have a remote that was mounted anywhere on my bars, so had to go with using the 10 second timer, and using the trial and error method of trying to time my position for the moment of truth!! I experimented with different angles, flash guns, positions of light, light filters and different stunts, capturing a number of decent but not outstanding images. Again I find that I must shoot wide open and at a high iso to capture any ambient light, which leaves the images crawling with digital noise.  I did find that using a soft box over my Metz flash gave me the best light to work with so that was a good bit of learning. Next project will be obtaining a newer camera body (my 50d is a 2009 camera) that can shoot at higher ISO with having such detrimental effect on the images. Biggest mistake I made on the day: leaving live view on accidentally before pushing back up hill for another run past the shutter. I am not sure of the reason, but when you do that, the flash doesn't fire, and I just happened to have timed things perfectly, so it would have been the photo of the day otherwise!!

Autumn Colours - Project 52 - Week 43

The beautiful Autumn weather and incredible colours are combing with amazing low, golden sunlight, providing extended shooting hours and many subjects to fill your frame. I was up early and out until almost midday then back out at around three nearly every day this week shooting and scoping locations. It was really fun and a lovely experience being out amongst the beautiful colours, though I did find myself a little jealous of those in parts of the world where the colours are far superior to what we get in the Pacific North West. I liked the trees that lined the road up near Quest University which are not native to the area but give a fantastic taste of how impressive the colours can really be.

Impressive colours lining the streets of Garibaldi Highlands

Two Lions Binkert Trail Hike - Project 52 Week 42

For several years I have wanted to hike from Lions Bay along the sea to sky highway up to the Two Lions, which sit in behind Cypress Ski area and overlook the Capilano Valley and the city of Vancouver. The Autumn weather had been spectacular except a few rainy days some weeks back. I phoned up a buddy and he was all in. We parked the car and set off at first light. It is steep from the get go even though the first section is on open forestry roads. The trail gradually thins and becomes a technical hike up through rockfalls and rooty, loamy steep stands of huge cedar. When you hit the first ridge line you get a good look at the West Lion from the back, but there is still some way to go. Once up on the ridge, the view down to Vancouver, East to the endless Coast Mountains and West to Howe Sound are sensational. Though it was cool in the morning shade, the midday sun at the top was warm and cheerful. By the time we returned to the car mid afternoon our legs were finished and begging for a seat, which we gladly obliged. Great hike with incredible rewards, highly recommended!!

Thomas navigates the steep ascents through roots and rocks.

Pinkbike Photo of the year 2013 - Project 52 Week 41

The pinkbike.com photo of the year contest is approaching its deadline for nominations. Being that I had shot very little mountain biking at all this year, I didn't have anything worthy to submit for nomination. It's a tough competition that frequently features pro photographers and images taken on the sets of major mountain biking films in exotic locations across the globe. Still I like the inspiration it gives me to go out and shoot, and learn in the process. I was stoked to hear positive responses from a few buddies of mine about going out to ride and shoot and see what we could come up with. The first ride was with Garrett and Jakub on the North Shore's Cypress Mountain. 5th Horseman was the trail of choice, with its many large rock descents and cool features. I was re-acquainting myself with my wireless flash gear after some time of absence shooting with the equipment. We still grabbed some fun photos even though darkness in the trees forcing high iso upon my aging camera was hurting a bit. I also rode in Squamish with Keith and Adam, down Peanuts Wild Ride and then on to the big senders on Grin n Holler. The riders were nailing it, but I was not, again struggling with darkness under the heavy canopy, and also with finding unique or exciting angles to tell the story from. Finally I went to Whistler with James to ride on one of the last days in the Whistler Bike Park for the 2013 season. We rode most of the day scoping out trails and locations, then late in the day grabbed my pack and came down a few sections, setting up and shooting a couple of cool spots. For a short time, out from the trees under the lifts, the late fall sunlight and yellowish tones looked really cool in the background, and I managed to grab a pretty decent shot of James on the Canadian Open Downhill course. It won't even make it to the finals of the competition, but the point is I got out and shooting and managed to produce a reasonably exciting shot that looks pretty fun and portrays the action well.

James takes off on Canadian Open

02 October, 2013

Project 52 Week 40 - Shannon Falls long exposure with Hoya ND Grad filter

I went up to Shannon Falls to check out the flow after a lot of recent rain. The clouds had cleared and it was quite a sunny afternoon. As the sun made its way across the sky, it started to selectively light up a small portion of the falls, which was flowing pretty fast and sending up a lot of mist into the sunlight. I set up my camera on the tripod and framed up several compositions, shooting from different angles and focal lengths. When using the 9 stop ND filter I have for turning running water into silky veils of satin, you generally need to compose and focus before attaching it to the lens, as it stops so much light from entering the camera, that often its very difficult to see through, or for the lens to obtain accurate focus, if at all. The below shot was one of the close in captures of the upper falls area, with the mist showing the rays of sunlight through it.

Shannon Falls rushes as the sun peaks over the rocks and trees

25 September, 2013

Project 52 - Week 39 - The first snow falls have arrived!

I made this little image using photoshop to show the comparisons between a recent image of the Garibaldi Massif above Squamish, and what I saw this morning when I went outside. After a few days of low cloud, rainfall and a noticeable drop in temperature, the clouds cleared over night to show us a changed mountain! Like a butterfly out of its cocoon, suddenly the beauty of this magnificent chunk of rock has increased exponentially! I wonder if it will stay or melt off again before gaining a permanent coating. I created this image by creating a new cnavas that was slightly more than twice the size of the 2 images long dimensions side by side. Then I placed them both on the canvas and aligned them with the edges and themselves. Finally I dropped in the text captions and saved it as a jpg.

Photoshop side by side image comparison

15 September, 2013

Project 52 Week 38 - Whistler Outdoor Photography Summit

I just discovered that a) this summit exists b) it's being held again in a couple of weeks and c) I could win a ticket to the 3 evening seminars that are a part of the program by going out and taking an "outdoors" image and posting it on their facebook page. Sadly the sunny weather of this week had just disappeared, so dull, overcast light was what I would be working with. I went up to smoke bluffs and looked for contrasty locations amongst the trees and crags, hoping for something that might give a good return. Even though the wind was really blowing and most climbers were leaving as I arrived, or had already left, I found a couple of guys that were still working at it. This was the shot I ended up submitting. It's nothing awesome, but it was the best I could muster given the timelines and weather.

A climber almost at the top - Smoke Bluffs, Squamish

Project 52 Week 37 - My Favourite Peak

I featured a photograph of this peak earlier this year, and here it is again. As I walk along the "breezeway" of our place we get a glimpse of Atwell Peak just through the trees. It's always one of the last features of the region to see sunlight even though we have been in shadows in the valley for an hour or more already. It has rapidly become one of my favourite peaks in the area and I look forward to photographing it from new angles over time.

Atwell Peak getting the last rays for the day and a small halo of cloud

Project 52 Week 36 - From the Deck

We went through all of the rigmarole of moving this week, it's always been something I have hated doing (I guess no one really enjoys it) and this was no exception. However the payoff was where we were moving too. Our Apartment has incredible views from the living room/bedroom/balcony of the Stawamus Chief, a huge granite formation that tower over the city of Squamish. On warm sunny mornings we would sit out and have breakfast, and in the afternoons we can enjoy a beverage and a book as the sun bathes the chief in late afternoon sun. I snapped this with my iPhone as I was testing the focus motor, which seems to be working again these days. The water in the channel is normally a nice bluey-green colour, however after a storm the day before the sediments had been churned up and it was a rather Asian river looking brown instead...

The Chief from our deck at home.
Not bad...

08 September, 2013

Project 52 Week 35 - The fog rolls on!

The coming and goings of the fog over the Sooke Basin continues to entice me to shoot. The trees on the other side of the Harbour drift in and out of view as the fog bank rolls up and over the hills beside the waters edge. It really is mesmerizing to sit and watch as it dances across the coast with an ever changing scene of mist and mood.

Fog envelops the boats and coastal tree line in Sooke, BC

03 September, 2013

Project 52 Week 34 - Redbull Joyride at Whistler

Every year the crankworx mountain bike festival brings hoards of mountain bikers and fans to the village of Whistler. It is a fantastic festival that celebrates the spirit of all things mountain biking. The Redbull Joyride slopestyle event has become one of the largest spectacles in the sport, behind only the Redbull Rampage down in Utah. This year the course had progressed to a new level still, and although the weather was threatening to trample the event, the rain cleared and the mountainside quickly filled to watch the most skilful guys on two wheels throw down some simply massive stunts. Brandon Semenuk managed to pull off the win with an excellent run. Martin Soderstrom may have stolen it from him on the last run of the day, but he crashed and broke his Tibia and Fibia on the final obstacle of the course, sending Brandon into the history books as one of only 3 riders to ever win the event twice.

I have shot this event several times, although never with a pass that gets you closer and with less distracting objects in the way. This year I just wandered around a few places and took a few images from the best angles I could find. I was pretty happy with this shot of Semenuk back flipping off the Kokanee cabin on his way to a score of 96 out of a possible 100.

Brandon Semenuk backflips off the cabin, landing some 18-20 feet below the take off point.

02 September, 2013

Project 52 Week 33 - Home again

After 3 months on the road, our trip had come to an end. We spent nearly 48 hours travelling from Bangkok back to Sooke on Vancouver Island by Tuk-Tuk, Taxi, Train, Plane, Bus, Ferry and Car. I slept for 15 hours the first night and the jet lag took nearly a week to wear off.

August in Sooke is an interesting month, the weather is generally fine, but fog comes quickly up the basin and then it disappears as quickly as it came. One evening when exploring up in Silverspray, the fog was just the right thickness that I could see the sun as a silver coin in the sky. The light in the area was exquisite and the photographs very interesting.

It was good to be back!

Silver Dollar through the fog

01 September, 2013

Project 52 Week 32 - The home stretch - Island time on Koh Phangnan

We did not intend to coincide our final stint in Thailand with a Full Moon. But it just happened that way. It made it tough for booking accommodation and travel, as well as inflating all the prices. We couldn't find anything reasonable on the smaller island of Koh Tao, so Koh Phangnan it was. It worked out well, as we stayed on some of the quieter beaches on the North Western corner of the Island, we had some great weather and some beautiful beaches. I was hoping for some great sunsets and sunrises but sadly not a lot came through for me. Some beautiful pastel colours would often appear without the great fiery clouds that really make a great tropical sunset.

Pretty hue with the dropping of the sun from Haad Salaad beach

Project 52 Week 31 - Pai of the jungle

The hair raising mini bus ride to Pai from Chiang Mai was interesting, and the hip little township of Pai was a lovely place. Lots of young backpackers and a pretty large ex-pat community, including families with small children. This place is already losing its innocence and will decimated by development in a matter of years. We rented scooters to explore the surrounding mountains after we had walked the streets, eating and drinking ourselves to the fullest. I stopped on the side of the road as one of the many sudden torrential downpours hit, capturing this image of the mountains just outside of town slowly being swallowed by the rain.

Rain or Shine? the weather is constantly changing as Monsoon Season kicks in.

Project 52 Week 30 - Chiang Mai Animal experiences.

After flying back from Hanoi to Bangkok, we then moved on to Chiang Mai in the North-West of Thailand. Along with a cooking class, we planned on visiting the Elephant Nature Park, and the Tiger Kingdom, to get up close with some of the worlds most captivating creatures. The ENP was a beautiful place were we got to meet, feed, observe, and bathe the elephants. They had a 3 month old infant elephant born there in April, she was a delight to watch, especially watching her taking lessons from her mother, and seeing the protective nature of her family.

The Tiger Kingdom was very different. I won't go into the ethical debate here, I made the call that I would probably never get an opportunity like this again so I had to do it. We bottle fed tiger cubs, belly rubbed huge adults, and I was roared at by a rather unimpressed mother tiger who had been separated from her cubs. Witnessing an adult pair play stalking each other was also very cool, and brought some of the best photo op's of the day.

Tara getting personal with one of the ENP Matriarchs. 

Moving blindingly fast, a quick splash and a leap followed by a pounce on her "prey". Grace in motion.

Project 52 Week 29 - The Hordes of Hanoi

We had some more dramas with getting train tickets when we returned to Hanoi. We planned on visiting the highland area of Sapa in North-Western Vietnam but the trains were so busy that we couldn't get tickets for almost 5 days. So we spent almost a week in the city of Hanoi exploring and hanging out. One evening we went for a walk around Hoan Kiem Lake, and I set up my tripod next to a monstrous intersection. There were thousands and thousands of riders constantly moving through the intersection as the lights cycled. When stopped they all stared and looked at the camera, then as the light when green, they would roar off in this cacophony of engine noise.

Green GO!!

24 August, 2013

Project 52 Week 28 - Lan Ha Lightning

Lan Ha bay can be accessed from Cat Ba Island and is a great alternative to the tourist trap of Ha Long Bay, offering the same experience in geographical wonder. We cruised the bay soaking in the sights of the towering Karst Limetone mountains and cliffs. Kayaking through secluded lagoons, under natural arches and swimming at tiny little beaches. We jumped off the boat into the temperate waters and ate fresh seafood lunches and dinners. We spent an evening on out a boat, anchored in the middle of a small area, calm and peaceful, except for the thunder storm that hit and flashed in fury with 50+ lightning strikes per hour. Into the darkness from dusk I shot, challenged by rain on the lens, being on a moving boat, low clouds and predominantly sheet lightning that wasn't touching down very often (it was mostly up in the clouds) it was a new experience in photographing lightning, but boy was it fun to be out there in such an amazing place taking it all in!

One of the few strikes that may have actually touched down. I love photographing lighting!!