Friday, June 24, 2016

Lupin Love

For lupin lovers...some photos from recent excursions.




Wednesday, June 22, 2016

A Change in Plans

South Shore Breaker - June 22, 2016 - A change in plans
We’ve all had those days that we thought would go a certain way, and then life chooses to throw us a curve ball and we end up having a completely different day than planned. We had one of those days just a short while ago. Weather forecasts were for all day rain, so we planned to get the things done around the house that tend to add up and not get done during the good weather season.

I glanced out the window after a morning of computer work, and there was blue sky and shining sun. I decided that it wasnt a day to stay inside after all, and proposed an unexpected trip further down the South Shore. Half an hour later, we had the dogs organized, camera equipment loaded and were headed down the road. Despite the weather forecast, sunny blue skies were our companion for the full two hour drive. A quick debate decided that it was time to visit West Pubnico, where we enjoyed a mid afternoon lunch at Dennis Point Café. Their special of the day was parmesan haddock, a light batter on the freshest fish you can find...after all, it comes from the wharf right across the street. We both ordered the special. I opted for the conscience easing side salad, and my husband chose the home cut fries. The only disappointment was that they had just sold their last piece of coconut cream pie. Its our mission to find the best coconut cream in Nova Scotia (we set lofty goals for ourselves), and the home made pie at Dennis Point is our favourite so far. We were told that the pies are made on Tuesdays and Thursdays, so we made a mental note to return on one of those days in the future.
fishing boats at Dennis Point Wharf
Aside from the food, its a pleasure to sit and listen to the local fishermen. Their conversations in both French and English gave us a sense of being away on vacation, even if we were just a short drive from home. We had a nice talk with a retired lobster fisherman, who told us that "back in the day" a good catch for the year was 10,000 pounds. He told us that now the average catch each season is 200,000 pounds per boat. I have no idea if these numbers are true or not, but it sounds impressive. The Dennis Point Wharf is home to over 100 vessels and is Atlantic Canadas busiest fishing port. Lobster season is over and the new season starts again at the end of November so the wharf was filled with boats and lots of photo opportunities. Not only the boats, but also the colourful buoys and nets are always a treat for someone with a camera.
buoys, ropes, and nets around the wharf are always interesting subjects to photograph
When we were leaving the restaurant, my husband mentioned to the waitress that we were on our way to Cape Sable Island to visit the beach at The Hawk. She asked if we ever went to Stoney Island Beach, and explained how to get there. This beach isnt marked on the tourism map, or in the Atlantic Canada Back Road Atlas. As far as we could tell, there were no road signs either. Its a constant amazement to me that a province driven by tourism doesnt promote its natural wonders more. The beach is long and sandy and very beautiful. 
Mindful of the nesting piping plovers, we kept the dogs away from the dunes. The beaches of Cape Sable Island are home to about 20% of Nova Scotias piping plovers. Because their numbers are so small, they are classified as endangered. We have seen them at The Hawk, but didnt see any on this outing. We did keep the dogs from the dunes, but we didnt manage to keep one of them away from a huge dead fish. Our dog Charlie spent some joy filled minutes rolling on the fish before we could lure him away.
pausing to reflect on the beauty of the surroundings on Stoney Point Beach
It took us over an hour to walk the full beach and back, with just us and our dogs alone on the beach. Several other beachcombers and walkers joined us on the beach towards the end of our walk. There arent too many places in the world that are as beautiful where you can feel absolutely alone enjoying the wonders of nature.

We ended our excursion by fortifying ourselves with ice cream before the drive back home. Im sure those calories will stay away from my hips after all that beach walking! Our day didnt turn out as we planned, but my oh my, what a day it was. Well have to make some difficult decisions when we travel to Cape Sable Island in the future...which beautiful beach walk to take? But thats a focus for another day.
beachcombers behind the dunes at Stoney Point Beach

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Morning Glory

published in the South Shore Breaker - June 15, 2016
In my mind, early mornings should involve lots of relaxation and coffee in bed. In reality, early mornings involve letting dogs outside, letting them back in, and feeding them. Feeding the cat, and cleaning the litter box. Making coffee and completing the sudoku in the morning paper. Sometimes early mornings involve jumping out of bed from a sound sleep to the sound of a dog barfing. Not exactly the relaxing moments of my dreams.

In a photographer
s life, early mornings are one of the best times for capturing images. The soft light brings life to subtle details, and often there is a gentle mist to help make dreamy landscapes and seascapes. The golden hour lasts about an hour after sunrise, but changes depending on where you live and the season.

But my theory is that the best time to take a photograph is when you actually have the time. My time with my camera doesn
t usually fall into the golden hour. I guess I could set my alarm clock and drag myself out of bed to look after the animals and get out of the house to a choice location before the golden hour hits. But lets face it, thats not me and its not my lifestyle. If you can’t get out during the golden hour, you can still capture beautiful moments at any time of day.

Some mornings, I do head out a little later than what falls under the golden hour definition. I put some coffee into a travel mug, grab my camera, and head out in my car.  The inspiration doesn
t hit often, but I try to take advantage of it when it does. A couple of weeks ago, I headed to my old stomping ground and to "the country". Living in such a beautiful coastal community leads to many spectacular water scenes, but there is beauty in the country too.

My first stop was along the road beside a farmer
s field. A lone apple tree standing in a field caught my eye. I was mostly enthralled with the striped patterns that the spring plowing had made, and I can never resist taking photos of standalone trees. A couple of ducks flying by added an extra touch that I was very happy to capture. Oddly enough, just two days after I took the photo I found out through the grapevine that the field is being prepared for a planting of haskaps, a thriving industry on the South Shore.
a farmer's field on Lower Branch Road - rumour has it that it has been prepped for haskap planting
A little farther down the road, I found a marshy area where the grasses are just beginning to grow. I missed the early morning mist and glow, but it was spectacular nonetheless. Part of the joy of photography is not just the picture in itself, but in the experience of capturing the moment.
marsh on Veinot Road in New Canada
My marsh photo will bring back memories of spring peepers, a blackbird at the top of a dead tree in the marsh trilling its lovely song, a squirrel jumping just barely over my head as I ducked under a tree to get closer to the marsh, and a goose somewhere in the background constantly honking. The flies werent too bad, and concerns in the back of my mind about ticks had me tucking my pants into my socks. I didnt say everything was a good memory, but its all part of the experience. I will remember the joy of finding two beaver dams on the pond, and the disappointment of not seeing a beaver at work. I will remember being dive bombed by the goose who decided I was getting too close for comfort, and then turning to see a mother duck and ten ducklings swimming to safety behind some reeds. Moments to treasure, and they will all be brought back to me when I look at the photograph I created.
detail of marsh grasses and reflections of the early morning clouds
Back in the car again, I headed to a back road that I had been down several years before. The road was in much rougher shape, and much longer than I remembered. Slowly, slowly, I inched along trying not to mistreat my car too badly. I had photographed a clear cut in this area several years ago, and I was interested to see how the land looked now. I discovered that nature is more forgiving than me, and the land was starting to heal. Further down the road, a new clear cut had begun. Theres a line from a song by Bruce Cockburn, "if a tree falls in the forest does anybody hear?". My version runs, if a forest falls in a clear cut does anybody see? But this is a column about photography, not about politics and environmental concerns. My impromptu excursion ended on a melancholy note, but thankfully I got back to the paved road with my car none the worse for wear other than needing a wash job.

s my version of the morning golden hour photo shoot. Lets not forget the other golden hour at sunset, but thats a focus for another day. 

Monday, June 13, 2016

feeling waspish

I shared a story a while back about finding an insect wing while I was vacuuming. That turned into a photo session with the wing, and creating an image with an inspirational saying on it. Recently, I found the source of the wing. Well, not this guy...he obviously still has his wings. But I now know that the wing I found was from a wasp.
Our cat Myrtle spotted this guy for me. He was on the outside of our back door, and I decided he was worthy of pulling out my macro lens for some practice in close up photography.
I didn't bother him...I just took photos of him while he was on our back door. And he didn't bother never occurred to me that I might get stung! We got along fine, and he was a great model.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Candid vs. Posed

Published in the South Shore Breaker - June 8, 2016

We've probably all had that moment when we're doing something and a family member with a camera has said " that again" so they can get a photo. The spontaneous moment has come and gone, and we have to recreate the scene so the photographer can capture it with their camera.

Or there's the group photo moment when the photographer shouts out for everyone to gather together for one photo. I am guilty of this big time. I'm sure I drive my family crazy with this tradition. Well, not only my family, because I always insist on this when our photo club is on field trip outings as well. I offer up my apologies, but I am unrepentant and will continue to do this. Some traditions shouldn't be changed.

Aside from regular daily life things, we all have those big moments in our lives that need to be captured. Birthdays, weddings, new babies, anniversaries, family vacations, and at this time of year...graduations. There is a great debate in our house. Which is better? Posed portraits or spontaneous candid photos? My husband likes to fire off a series of photos of people just doing their thing. I like to pose people and have them look at the camera and smile. There is no right or wrong way to capture the big moment, but I am glad that our household covers both ways because the results are very different, and both are important for family memories.

Coke may own the tagline "it's the real thing", but candid photos are the real thing when it comes to recording how we actually live. They capture the moment and our homes as they really are. Clutter on the tables, food and drinks, the clothing we wear - all the small details that we would forget over time. Anyone who looks at old photo albums will know that half the fun is looking at the hair styles, fashions and decorating styles of times gone by. We see details that we forgot over time....a shirt, or a toy, or even a person that we wouldn't remember without the visual aid of a photograph. Looking at those old photos brings lots of laughter, and sometimes a wistful melancholy for the way things used to be.
John took his favourite "candid" type of photo while Sara was trying to set up the dogs for a portrait at Beach Meadows Beach
But I think we also need to have some "on purpose" photographs of our special times. Photos where people are looking at the camera, photos that show off our pretty smiles and shiny new clothes without distractions in the background. The trick is to capture those posed photos and still make it look natural. You can capture nice portraits even with a point and shoot style camera and without fancy equipment. Keep it simple. Keep your foregrounds and backgrounds uncluttered and work with natural light if you can. Focus on the eyes. Even if other parts of the photo are slightly blurred, a sharp eye will make the portrait. Most important of all, try to capture a genuine smile or emotion. A cheesy smile will not connect with the viewer.

We took a drive down to Beach Meadows a couple of weeks ago. It definitely wasn't a watershed moment in our lives, but it was a fantastic day and a glorious walk on the beach with our dogs. Moments to remember. I am the photographer in the family, which usually means that we have photos of everything and everyone but me. Sometimes I hand the camera to the better half of our family so I won't totally be forgotten in our yearly photo books. He takes many, many of his favoured candid style photos, but he also takes a few of my favourite...the posed portrait. We all know that a happy wife means a happy life!  

John humours me by taking my favourite type of photo...the posed portrait!
The two types of photo tell two different stories. Which style of family photo do you prefer to focus on?

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Colour vs Black&White

Our son from Toronto visited us last week. While he was here, he graciously co-operated in a couple of photo shoots. We made a trek to a local abandoned satellite station site...a place I have heard about for a number of years but have never gone to. I had directions from a member of my local photo club. She failed to mention that we had to walk about 1 kilometer to reach the site...good thing I had my walking shoes on!

I took quite a few photos, and have only processed some of them.  Of course, the whole point of graffiti is the beautiful colours...a great backdrop for photographs. 

However, I wanted some photos that had a lonely and moody feeling, so I lean toward the black and white.
same photo in black and white
I'm not sure my son was thrilled with the location...we picked 5 ticks off him...4 at the site, and 1 when we returned home. The pleasures of shooting on location!

Monday, May 30, 2016

Exploring meaning beyond the photo

Chronicle Herald - May 30, 2016
I'm very "In Focus" article made the leap this week from the weekly publication of The South Shore Breaker to the provincial daily paper - the Nova Scotian section of today's Chronicle Herald. I'm not sure whether it will be reprinted in the June 1st edition of the South Shore Breaker or not. Here is the article:

We all see thousands of images each and every day. Its hard to go anywhere without seeing someone taking a picture with their phone. Just think about all the ads you see on television, in print, and online. Now think about how many of those images you actually remember. Many of the photographs are technically perfect, yet are completely forgettable. How many of those photos actually tell a story?

I know a woman who is a wonderful story teller and she tells her stories with photographs. Her journey as a photographer started just a few short years ago. She returned from a trip to the Grand Canyon and didn
t have a single image she was happy with. Here photos were "Just a bunch of holes in the dirt", as she puts it. She signed up for an eight week photography course through the Parks and Recreation Department, and then joined the Bridgewater Photo Club. I was a member at the club when she joined, and I have seen her progress from a picture taker to become a story teller. Her name is Karen Parnell Herrick.

Sometimes it takes work for Karen to create her magic. She has to remind herself to move. Get closer, get up, get down. Every angle gives a different perspective and tells a different story. She is a stickler for details in life, and that shines through in her images. One of the images that sticks in my mind is called "Daily Devotion". These are the hands of a ninety three year old client of Karen
s. Karen is a hairstylist and has watched these hands change their appearance over the years. Arthritis has struck Winnie, but she never complains. One day, Karen spent a few hours at Winnies home taking many portraits of her and the embroidery that she is so proud of.

But Karen had an image in her mind, and she worked at creating it. She asked Winnie if she could photograph her hands. "Oh, these old things" Winnie replied, but she agreed. Karen
s favourite photo from the morning is of Winnies hands resting on a bible. The image gives Karen memories of a wonderful morning with the aroma of chicken soup simmering on the wood stove and fresh baked bread cooling on the sideboard. Laughter and good companionship. And even though the photograph is a simple pair of hands, the image tells me a story of a womans lifetime, a woman whose spirit is given comfort through her faith.
Daily Devotion by Karen Parnell Herrick
Another pair of hands tells a different story. These are hands of a working man. I see hard work. I see determination. I see strength, fortitude and resilience. All in a pair of hands.
Digits Detailed by Karen Parnell Herrick
Karens hand portraits bring words from a song co-written by Dave Gunning and George Canyon to my mind:
What shall I do with these hands of mine?
The world can use a hero of the human kind
Tell me, What shall I do with these hands of mine?
I wanna sing it from my heart
I wanna hear it in the wind

Til it blows around the earth and comes back again
And all that we can ask is for ours to be free
To use them when we want, for whatever the need.

s learning journey has led to her receiving the coveted "Photographer of the Year" Trophy at the Bridgewater Photo Club two years in a row. Her plan is to explore different genres of photography and she wants to become a better landscape and seascape photographer.

ve seen what she can do with a pair of hands. It boggles my mind to think about what shell do with her focus on the beautiful scenery of our South Shore!