The Province

The Province newspaper just published a great article by Jane Mundy on travel highlights of the Sunshine Coast, including the Sunshine Coast Trail, geocaching, and nature photography workshops.

Thank you to the Province and to Jane for helping us expose the beauty of the Sunshine Coast!

Please enjoy these other Sunshine Coast images.

Rushing creek found in the Mud Lake/Duck Lake trail system

The Sunshine Coast is blessed with ocean and freshwater lakes, including Haslam Lake in Powell River.

The Sunshine Coast is surrounded by coastal rainforest.

Quarry lake on Texada Island

Photo workshop participant awaits the perfect sunset moment. Palm Beach near Powell River.

Batteries not Required

Pre-emptive rant: So today’s blog isn’t necessarily about photography, it is more about life lessons caught on digital files 🙂

Advertising works! Sometimes though, in ways advertisers probably never expected, or hoped for. I saw a mildly amusing television commercial about giving the gift of computers and i-Phones to your family and friends so you can all have a “virtual Christmas” this year. Who needs to actually spend quality time together when modern technology allows us to creep each other through tiny, buffered windows all season long? Well the commercial got to me. No, I didn’t hit the local electronics retailer and dump a few thousand dollars on gadgets. Instead, I grabbed my camera and my four year old daughter and we headed up Duck Lake Road for some real winter family fun. With technology advancing so rapidly these days, my mission was to show my daughter how we used to have winter fun back when I was a kid. You know, the days when Atari and Pong were at the forefront of innovation.

The snow that was falling in the area was awesome!

Duck Lake after first snowfall of the season

Powell River got hammered with the white stuff, so hunting down a good play area for snowman building, angel-making and good old fashioned snowball throwing was rather easy. No ski resorts, no fancy sleds, no snowmobiles, and best of all, no handheld gadgets to distract us from daddy-daughter interaction. I just wanted to see how much fun she could generate with her own imagination. And the moment we stepped out of the car near Haslam Lake she put that imagination to work.

Sadie's slope

Snow shower

Whatchya looking at?

Her winter playground consisted of nothing more than a short slope, a partially frozen pool of water and a heap of fresh falling snow. We spent nearly an hour here having sliding contests, breaking the ice-pool with rocks and arming ourselves with snowballs, just in case a cougar decided to show his face. Good thinking huh?

We then continued down the road to where the Blue Trail meets the road. Nothing terribly special here in the way of roadside attractions, but the snow was intense here and Sadie just couldn’t wait to get back out into the thick of it. This time, our goal was to make a huge snowman that would wave at any like-minded adventurers that decided to pass on Facebook in favour of a more natural reality.

Once the three-tiered snow dude was built to our satisfaction, my daughter came to an unsettling realization. 

“Daddy, what are we going to use for his eyes, nose and mouth? Did you bring any carrots?” 

Um, no. Thinking quickly, we slipped into a trickling creek on the side of the road and I asked her to find the best pair of rock eyes she could find. His nose was nothing more than two broken twigs forming a triangle. His mouth was a piece of fern that we shaped into a smile. His arms? Deadfall.

Voila! My young apprentice-of-life is now armed with the necessary skills to pull off an impromptu snow being whenever called upon.

Look! Twins

Here comes our first passer-by! So we pose together like a couple of hams beside our new friend and wave as the vehicle’s occupants wave back with enthusiasm. They looked genuinely happy to see such a simple moment in a rather complex day and age. 

I could tell my daughter did not want the day to end just yet. Neither did I. So Sadie decided we needed to build another snowman on the other side of the road, one that could greet drivers coming from the opposite direction. Again, good thinking. 

Two snowmen later, I could see that the winter daylight was fading quickly. Plus Sadie’s hands were now wet and she could no longer ignore the discomfort, as much as she wanted to. So we hopped into the car and headed towards home. Normally when we drive, we listen to our favourite songs on the cd player. But this time, Sadie wanted nothing more than to open up her window and listen to the snow fly past, still trying to catch some in her mouth.

It’s like we just spent the entire afternoon, totally unplugged from the modern world, while completely plugged into the moment and each other’s company. 

That night, after many hugs and snuggles from my worn-out daughter I thought again about that commercial earlier that day. Those advertisers were absolutely right. I do need to go shopping ASAP…

…for a warmer, more waterproof pair of child’s winter gloves for the next time the snow flies on the Sunshine Coast.

See things differently

See things differently. This was our theme for the Fall Photography Workshop which happened over the past weekend. Technical and artistic knowledge aside, I really wanted to stress to my workshop participants the importance of seeing things differently. With so many images in the world and so little time to appreciate them all, as a budding photographer, this is how you best get your images noticed. Start seeing things that others might have missed. Look at your subject from a different angle. Climb a tree for a bird’s eye view. Hit the ground and compose upwards. Shoot that stunning mountain meadow through a pair of mirrored sunglasses. Challenge yourself to constantly see things differently. By doing so, you will become a better photographer, blowing your audience away with your fresh perspectives on subjects they have likely seen time and time again.

Looking up into the towering trees at Haslam Lake

Zooming into the eye of a bighorn sheep

Sir Donald through the sunglasses

Contrary to the Coast in Focus workshop earlier in the year, the weather that we experienced this past weekend was outstanding. Dramatic clouds, vibrant early fall colours and flat lighting only when we needed it – shooting the many waterfalls of Appleton Creek. This was the ideal workshop setting and I had the ideal group of participants.

I was instructing a very geared and excited group of individuals. After some “inside time”, covering topics ranging from camera basics, exposure, lighting techniques and the rules of composition we hit some of the most amazing locales where participants were able to put what they just learned into action.

And did they ever.

What I love most about these weekend warrior workshops is that I get to witness some very amazing transformations in my students in a very short period of time. During the first few field shoots, most participants tend to stick close by me, ask a ton of questions and timidly wait for subject matter to smack them in the face. But as the weekend goes on, their confidence levels increase dramatically as they take in knowledge and they become unstoppable image hunters in the field. This group was very much the same. By the time Sunday’s Appleton Creek waterfall shoot came around, my students were self-sufficient, waterfall shooting maniacs. I was excited to see them climbing waterfalls (safely of course), shooting low, shooting high, eagerly attacking the beautiful scenes from all angles. I actually had to pull them out of the field against their will so we could cover post-production techniques before the weekend ended. I love creating monsters.

My students, no…friends, are now well-armed with the knowledge and confidence to take their respective photo sectors by storm. I had an amazing time with each of them and wish them all the best in their future photographic endeavors.

Participant Carolee Penner's shot of Gorge Falls

My view of participant Candace Roadknight getting low and shooting the creek

The Importance of Balance in Imagery; Achieving Visual Zen

Balance. Such a pleasing word isn’t it. We live our lives in search of it, whether it be a work/life balance, or perhaps a well-balanced diet. Sometimes, we simply strive for balance when standing, depending on how many wobbly pops we’ve that night. Look up balance in the thesaurus and you can instantly see why we yearn for such a thing. Harmony, peace, stability, poise, composure, even steven (yup, it’s in there); these are all things we as humans tend to strive for. When balance is acheived, we tend to be at one with the world, far away from the vaccum-sucking power of chaos.

Ohmmmmmm.

Okay, I’m back. My point here is that there lies deep within our psyche, a yearning for…balance. We then could assume, that we seek the same controlled outcome within our imagery. One thing that myself and Kelly Funk stress within our Coast in Focus photography workshops, is the importance of a balanced composition. Time to bring in the visuals.

Haslam Lake in Powell River, BC

So, what does balance mean within the realm of photographic imaging? It means that the image is evenly weighted within its borders. Take the image of Haslam Lake here. Balance is achieved thanks to some pre-thought elements found within the environment. First of all, the clouds are a bit more vibrant and fluffy on the left side of the image. Offering a sense of counter-weight on the right side are those two rocks protruding from the lake shallows. Zenfullness (couldn’t find this on dictionary.com, but it sounded right) is present within the vertical split of the image (left vs right). Now, to achieve a similar state of  higher Zendom within the horizontal split (top vs bottom) I needed a foreground anchor balance. Something that even-stevens the weight of the upper half of the image in the clouds, mountains and blue sky. My solution was to make that rock on the lower left side of the image the anchor.

Voila! The image can now be hung safely on the walls of yoga studios everywhere without disturbing even the shakiest Downward Dog pose.

So what does an imbalanced image look like? When the image doesn’t successfully keep your eyes moving within it, and instead drives your attention to one side vs the other, the image is unstable and may self-destruct without ample warning. Not really, but hopefully you get my point. Imbalanced images tend to create uneasiness in the viewer, if you feel that, chances are balance is missing from the image. The easiest way to achieve imbalance, is with a crooked horizon line. Watch those very closely.

Straight horizon line

Crooked horizon line tipping the image

The yellow line was drawn in Photoshop to show how important a straight horizon line is to achieving visual balance. The second image with the crooked horizon line, tends to pull on your chakra, giving the image a heavy left side.

There are times when a crooked horizon line and imbalance offer pleasing results. These are not the norm and are usually the result of trial and error. Wedding and fashion photographers are usually very good at this and the results can render very dynamic and impactful imagery. As with anything, photographic rules should really be considered guidelines. Challenging them can truly be half the fun. Just know that most viewers are effected by balance and tend to appreciate images of the stable variety, over ones that tend to cause neck strain.

Cheers!

Dragon Boat team in Powell River for a calendar photo shoot