Back at the end of July, Kerry Little, his son Michael and I spent some time backpacking in to Stormhaven for a couple of nights then camping at Cyprus Lake. Our goal: serious photography (for Michael is was downtime and reading). The result: Success.
I was looking forward to putting the 18-35mm zoom through its paces to see just what it would do under real shooting conditions. It did not disappoint. In fact, looking over my LR uploads from the trip, 93% of the photos I made were with that lens; 55% of all photos were at 18mm. I can’t say enough about having this focal length available to me. It is so creative and gives an even stronger sense of “being there”.
I was also looking forward to being in a place dark enough for some astrophotography. Originally, our plan was to be at Lake Superior Provincial Park and Pukaskwa National Park, but that fell through due to brake trouble. So, Bruce Peninsula, being a Dark Sky Preserve, was a great second option. Having an 18mm focal length was part of my motivation, but pushing the D800E to its limit with long exposures was also a goal. You see, I think it is important to push our equipment to the limit not just to learn what it is capable of, but also to break new ground in our own photography. I didn’t go as far as doing a few hundred exposures to get star trails (that’s for another time when I have access to my laptop for uploading full cards!), but I did enjoy the results from single exposures of 25 to 30sec at ISO3200. I read up on it ahead of time at Dave Morrow’s site – very helpful! Also, the iPad add Sky Guide was helpful.
Ideally, I would have done this from Stormhaven – a hike-in only site – due to its distance from the lights of Tobermory. Despite this old body, I made it in with a 30kg pack with energy to spare. Stormhaven is a great location; from the beach there is a clear view to the north with sunrise (and Cave Point) to the right and sunset to the left. Unfortunately, we had rain to deal with. After a clear start to our second day, it teemed rain the rest of the day until late in the afternoon. We were under the tarp for our brunch (we’re up at 5:30am before sunrise for photography, so it’s brunch at 10am or so) and in our tents for much of the day until the rain finally stopped at about 4:30pm. Cloud obscured the sky each night making astrophotography impossible. However, from the shore of Cyprus Lake, it turned out quite well.
My third goal for the trip was to spend some time doing long exposures of Georgian Bay. As it turned out, Kerry had an NDx3.0 (10 stop neutral density) filter which reduced exposures 1/30 all the way to 30 seconds (the rather unfortunate limit on a D800E without using the Bulb setting – I don’t wear a watch and my “on-board metronome” from my black and white darkroom days is a bit rusty! 🙂 I often used ISO50 to achieve this long exposure and sometimes used a polarizing filter as well, although the polarizer was primarily used to enrich the colours of foliage, rock and water by reducing glare. Success, again. I have since ordered a Hoya Pro ND500 (9-stop ND) as well as the Pro1 NDx0.8 (3 stops), more commonly used for slowing shutter speeds along rivers. I’ll write more about working with long exposures sometime soon.
After Stormhaven, we camped at Cyprus Lake. Car camping is always so depressing after wilderness camping. It’s loud and dusty with car traffic and the toilets are never as nice as they are in wilderness settings! That being said, the first evening I had a wonderful few hours of hiking and photography. Starting out from Tamarack campground, I had no expectations of what I would find, given how crowded the park was with partiers who only wanted to get to the Grotto. I hiked to the coast and began taking advantage of the beautiful evening light. I went from set-up to set-up completely losing track of time until I realized my shutter speeds were getting rather long (see The Trail – 13sec at ƒ16 – which I made at 9pm). It was one of those blocks of time I get about 3 times a year when practicalities go out the window in favour of pure creativity.
Here is a gallery of photographs to peruse from the trip. A few, and perhaps my favourites, are black-and-whites. As well, I put in colour versions of similar set-ups to some of the B&Ws for comparison purposes.
If you have any comments or questions about the photos, Bruce Peninsula or about photography in general, please I’d love to hear them – don’t hesitate to add a comment or email me directly. Enjoy!