Tag: autumn

Gatineau in November – Beautiful

We’re up in Ottawa visiting our daughter who is attending U of Ottawa and spent today in Gatineau doing two hikes with a nice café lunch between.

Gatineau Park is a real gem for anyone wanting to get outside in nature. The trails are extensive, well-marked and mapped, and take you up and down through beautiful forests. While hiking near Meech Lake, it was great to come across the Thomas “Carbide” Willson Laboratory ruins along with a river and waterfall that, due to the recent heavy rains in the region, was spilling over its banks and filling the whole gorge below. Of course, Willson’s nickname is the result of his invention of calcium carbide, a patent he later sold to Union Carbide.

Towards evening, we were up on the aptly-named Skyline Trail with great views south towards Ottawa. The two close-ups of downtown near sunset and at dusk were made with the Sony RX-10iii at 600mm (equivalent), ƒ4 and ISO 400. They were, believe it or not, hand-held at 1/60 and 1/10 of a second respectively. Now, the dusk photo was made sitting on a bench with my elbows braced on my knees, but still – 1/10th of a second using a 600mm (equivalent) lens – phenomenal image stabilization. Sure the photo’s a bit grainy, but it would print well in a large-format book – which is the kind of quality I’m looking for in a travel camera. Even the waterfall detail was hand-held at 1/10th of a second.

Yes, if I was truly serious about these photos, I would have made them on a tripod. But, hey, I was out with my family for some hiking – today, the photography was secondary.

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London Camera Club – Field & Screen

This past week I was in London, Ontario enjoying the hospitality and good will of the London Camera Club. This is a vibrant and welcoming club that successfully offers programs to a wide range of photographers from beginners to highly experienced shooters – a tall order, well-achieved. Have a look at their website for some truly excellent and creative photography.

On Thursday evening…

…I spoke about exploring “My Own Backyard”. Despite having travelled and lived in many exciting locations around the world, I always come back to the importance of each of us being “experts” in our own backyards. After all, we are surrounded by landscapes and nature here in southern Ontario and we have four seasons in which to make very different and unique photographs.

Photographed two weeks ago on my way in to work.

Quite literally, our backyards become our “playground” for trying new equipment, new techniques and new ways of seeing. One can dash out, take a few shots, with a new lens or trying focus-stacking for example, then head back in, upload and being working on images within minutes. Or, simply, spend a few hours exploring shapes and colours in the garden at various points through the year. But, your backyard can also be stretched, and should be, really, to local conservation areas, country roads and, if you prefer cityscapes in your city’s downtown. Every city now has a few dilapidated buildings waiting for an empathetic eye. Over the years, I’ve made some very memorable photographs on my drive to work and have been visiting the Arboretum at the University of Guelph for 30 years of photographic inspiration.


was devoted to a “Field and Screen” workshop: a few hours in the morning out at Westminster Ponds followed by a few more hours in the afternoon processing images from the morning. It was pleasing to see a number of photographers using tripods – cumbersome, but necessary, as we had a slightly dull, humid, misty morning with the constant threat of rain as well as some fall colours to accent our photographs. I was also encouraged by the comments from participants who had never explored close to home like this. So often, we get comfortable with the views and scenery around us and we stop seeing them for their uniqueness. We forget that although they are the “same old, same old” to us, they are new for others, especially when we apply our photographic eye to bringing out the details others have stopped seeing. This is the beauty of working close to home.

I’ve posted a gallery of photographs I made during the workshop. I’ve added a couple of Before/After screenshots to show the initial imported “from the camera” raw image versus the “finished” screen image. I’ve also included some “Detail” photographs; these are cropped portions of larger photographs which, in themselves are engaging views I would have liked to spend more time exploring.

Thanks to Matt Litwinchuk for organizing the evening presentation and Saturday’s workshop and to Bill Niessen for his technical troubleshooting duirng the afternoon Screen session.

If you have any questions about the shooting or processing – please ask! As well, comments are always welcome. If you want to keep in touch regarding workshops, just subscribe to my blog using the panel to the right.

Another Spectacular Autumn

We have had our share of beautiful weather this autumn here in southern Ontario although lately, it has “normalized”.  At the same time, Laura and I have been out hiking almost every weekend rain, shine or, in the case of last weekend, snow. I’m really working hard at capturing at least one truly worthwhile photograph from each outing. So far, so good, but I also know that won’t always be the case.

Here is a gallery of the best from the last two months. All are made with the Sony RX-10iii which has become my go-to camera as of late, particularly because of its ease of use while hiking. On the last few outings, I’ve taken with me the monopod leg of the MeFOTO tripod. This has been a fantastic addition, allowing me to make photos that would be otherwise impossible late in the afternoon. Yes, I could be hefting a tripod and my D800E kit, but really, these photos will stand up to the needs of cards, photo books and fine art prints. I’m loving this change. Anyone interested in a used D800E and lenses?  🙂

Okay – so I have been trying for an hour to load photos into a gallery as I’ve done countless times before, but I keep getting a WordPress HTTP error – very frustrating!! So I will direct you to my Flickr Photostream to see the most recent photos. Enjoy!

The Magic Hours

Autumn Dawn, HaiburtonIt’s late summer…As I prepare for another school year, my drive through the countryside each morning becomes pure magic.

If you’re in southern Ontario and you’ve been up and out of the city anytime before 8am these past few days, you may already have a notion of what I mean by “The Magic Hours”. It’s not only a southern Ontario phenomenon, though; as the lakes of northern Ontario and, I’m sure, the sloughs of the Prairies, exhibit the same beauty.

The early hours of morning, from an hour before sunrise to an hour afterwards, are already known to landscape photographers as the “Golden Hours”, but the “Magic Hours” are something more. They start in August when the warm, even hot, days contrast with the cool nights. Highs of 25 to 30°C or more during the day create an abundance of evaporation and humidity. So when the night “plunges” to 15°C or so, the humidity comes out as spectacular ground fog the next morning.

Ellis Creek, late SummerUnfortunately, that means getting up and out early – before sunrise. Hopefully, you already have a few ideas of where to go to capture some great landscapes. Think about the wide open farm fields with perhaps a hill or two; or a river valley, a creek bed or a pond. These are all great places to consider. The air is golden and, as the sun rises, it lights up the ground fog creating creating an ethereal landscape. The contrasts between the warmth of the sun and coolness of the shadows are high accentuated making it a magical moment.

It really is a mystical time of day. But it’s tends to be a rural phenomenon; urbanites will need to get out f the city. The Magic Hours are also ephemeral as the effect lasts only a few moments to perhaps an hour. With sunrise, the humidity of the ground fog dissipates into the air with the blue of the sky becoming milky again as the heat of the day sets in   Of course, if you need more time, you can always go out the next morning, and the next!

Autumn Photos

I’ve been remiss lately, not just in my photography, but in posting the few photos I’ve had a chance to make this fall. As you well know, autumn is perhaps my favourite season for photography. I love the warm hues of ochres and yellows and burnt umbers and browns. However, September and October are also the busiest times at school, although I’m not sure any time of years is less busy; perhaps it’s the ramp up after summer that makes the fall seem manic. That being said, I’ve also taken on more projects this year at school.

But enough excuses… here are some photos. There is a balance of images from our annual Gr 10 6-day residential field study at Bark Lake Leadership Centre and some from ’round ‘ere. Bark Lake was difficult this year as it rained for most of the week. I was looking forward to doing more astrophotography but the stars just couldn’t burn through the cloud! However, one brief, windy late afternoon walk along the Lakota Trail yielded a few beauties.

As I always maintain, if I can manage just one masterpiece photograph for each outing then I am pleased.

Pushing Yourself – Visually

This past Saturday morning I led my Landscape Photography class on a morning field session down in the hamilton Beach area. We started off right under the Skyway Bridge at the canal leading from Burlington Bay to Lake Ontario – not the prettiest place at the best of times and this was October 30th: grey skies with the temperature at about 3°C, and few leaves left on the few trees in the area which was mostly aged cement and steel.

“Why are we here?” was the first and often-repeated question.

I believe that if you want to stretch your vision, you must work in visually challenging places. Once you have the technique down, it is relatively easy to make great landscapes in beautiful places. But are they visually dynamic images? Perhaps, if you have learned to create visually dynamic images. That only happens when you have truly challenged yourself.

What do I mean by “visually dynamic images”. These are images that visually “pop”. Images that show a different perspective, a different way of seeing. Images that make use of visual elements in the landscape and portray them in a creative way.

You can do all this in pretty places, but often we don’t because we are not forced to. There are plenty of beautiful photos that you can take just by standing there. Visually dynamic images often require a different perspective, a perspective that we may not consider if we are busy capturing the obvious.

I try to get photographers to think in terms of good, better and best. In a beautiful place, you can take good to better photos without working very hard, but what about the best photos – they are the ones that require a new and different perspective.

Going to a location that is visually challenging to begin with forces you to go beyond the obvious because the obvious is not very photogenic. Consider it a “sketching” outing: you may not come away with a photo contest winner, but what you are doing is exercising your brain, forcing it to see beyond the obvious. I tell my students that this is the practice that allows you to hone your visual skills so that when you get to that grand location, your images will be well beyond the snapshots everyone else is taking.

While I generally prefer to photograph alone, in this case it helps to go in a group so that you can feed off the different ideas and perspectives that others think of.

So, find a nearby location that is not visually stimulating and see what you come up with. Try going back more than once at different times of day and throughout the seasons.After a couple of years of this I will bet that you have more than few images worthy of showing.

Autumn is alive with colour


Autumn Colours – Red

Just because the leaves have dropped and the trees are bare, doesn’t mean the colour is finished. We’ve been out in the

garden over the past few days using the electric mower we found on https://www.lawnmowery.com/best-lawn-mowers/electric/ to clean a few things out and plant some recently acquired plants. i couldn’t help but grab my camera and make some images. The sun broke through for a little adding some additional texture, but it was the subtle ochres and oranges and hints of scarlet that made the day – sun or not.


I found that the key to stronger images was getting close-up to eliminate the distractions of bare skeleton-like twigs. I looked for textures and shapes in the leaves I photographed as well as colours unique to autumn. In my search for perfection i was constantly distracted by the rot that

Autumn Colours – Gold



started – small holes and disturbing wilting – definitely outside of my comfort zone. So i stopped looking for perfection (that didn’t take long) and began to ignore the ravages of death.  Once I got over it, I found strangely liberated and began actively seeking examples of how nature recomposes itself. I’m not sure I succeeded as well as I hoped, but I have come away with new confidence in showing a different side of

nature. As well, I have a number of sketches that have helped me learn to see differently.

But that’s part of the reason I spend time photographing – to discover new things about nature and to discover new ways of seeing. I need to challenge myself more in different situations and with different expectations.

Leaves on Rhubarb

Get Out and Photograph!

For too many days this autumn I have had commitments which have kept me indoors. I’ve caught “glimpses” of

autumn  through the lens while conducting workshops and when out for family hikes, but I’ve not had the chance to move slowly and think about the images I’ve made. I’m that kind of photographer – slow and purposeful, working on a tripod, waiting for the light and the wind. I need to spend time with my subject familiarizing myself with its nuances, changing my composition inching closer, slightly to one side and a little lower. American photographer Fred Picker looks for the place where the subject “is looking back at me”.

I’ve come to learn exactly what he means. The composition needs to feel right. I need time to photograph without distractions and this morning is just that time.

As I got out of the car, I suddenly realized how quiet it was here. I could hear the morning rush of the city over to the west, but here at Starkey Hill,  I could hear the birds sing and the wind rush through the now brown goldenrod. The grey sky seemed to be keeping the sound in .

Autumn is now weeks old, and the best of the colour long-past, but that’s not what I’m here for. I’m want to celebrate the subtle ochres, yellows and browns that grace the latter part of autumn. The wind won’t help things, though. I like small apertures and long exposures. Shooting at ISO200 will help. This is a recent change up from the base ISO of 100. On the E-30, dynamic range is about 2/3s of a stop greater at ISO 200. I want to take advantage of that. I’ve also reduced the contrast to allow the histogram to show me every detail.

It’s so easy to ignore colour after the peak yellows, oranges and reds of the maples and birch throughout Ontario. There is still plenty of colour in herbaceous plants and wildflowers that fill the fields, There is even the odd purple aster to provide contrast to palette of warmth that is everywhere. The goldenrods first catch my attention. The warmth of the various browns contrasts nicely with the cold grey of the leafless shrubs in the background.

As I hike along, stopping to set up and make a few photographs, the path transitions from field into pine plantation. Finally I crest the moraine and look down into a sea of golden yellow. Of course, the maples have all dropped, but the beech trees are now broadcasting their autumn glory. Soon the sun starts peaking through the morning cloud and the forest becomes a fireworks show of colour. The subtle colour I came out today to photograph have erupted. What a treat.

After a few more images, I realize that it is about noon. At this time of year, here at this latitude, the sun is low enough that one can photograph all day and still have great light. But other commitments beckon. These three hours have been the most artistically productive three hours in months. It’s a rare day for outdoor and nature photographers to have all the elements woking together in one;s favour. Of course, that being said, if I get out more often, then I just might be surprised at what I can make of the ambient conditions on any given day.