West is best

Having recently visited Vancouver Island I thought it would be fun to feature a couple more shots in my Throwback Thursday series.

1. Sunset over Vancouver Island.

A typical summer view when taking a Friday evening ferry from Horseshoe Bay to Nanaimo on Vancouver Island. Who can resist a glorious colourful sunset? The journey is not as scenic as the Tsawwassen to Swartz Bay route, so it lends itself well to “big sky” and abstract photos.

You can’t get much simpler a composition that this: sun in the centre, horizon dividing the scene in two, contrasting textures (if not colour) in each half. Looking back at this photo, the vapour trail from the airliner annoys me, but I’m not (yet) into removing features I don’t like from images so it’ll have to stay put for now.

2. Carmanah lighthouse on the West Coast Trail, Vancouver Island.

Now this was a treat. Through a friend we managed to wrangle a stay at the lighthouse for a night which meant we had about 24 hours to enjoy the beaches of the west coast of the Island. And I distinctly remember stopping in my tracks when we emerged from the forest onto the driftwood logs and were confronted by a beautiful idyllic scene of a blue ocean lapping at a sandy beach. I had forgotten just about gorgeous the west-coast beaches were, and it definitely inspired us to spend more time way-out west. The icing on the proverbial cake was seeing a number of grey whales and finding some whale fossils.

That particular view of the beach is on Flickr:
West Coast Trail, 22 Aug 2015

But it’s not just that section of the West Coast Trail (WCT); many parts of the coast of Vancouver Island have sandy beaches. While we have still yet to tackle the WCT, we did manage to spend a few days at the northern tip of the Island in 2016. Much of our time on the Cape Scott Trail was spent lounging around or otherwise admiring the beautiful sandy beaches. Don’t believe me?

Nels Bight, 6 Aug 2016

And then there’s the Nootka Trail, where your first night is spent on this beach:
Nootka Trail, 25 Aug 2006
I even swam in the sea here!

Perhaps it should come as no surprise, then, that we jumped at the opportunity to ring in the New Year on the sandy beaches of Tofino, and I’m already looking forward to our next visit.

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Seascape

Salish Seascape, inspired by the photos of Warren Keelan. I’ve tried a few of these panning shots before but they really work best when there’s a nice colour contrast. Having said that, I didn’t really know how this was going to turn out until I processed it given that it was such a grey day.

When you’re on a ferry on open water on a grey day, there really isn’t much to photograph. And so I remembered that I’d tried out a panning shot from a ferry a couple of years ago and thought it would be fun to try another. For that particular photo, the panning was essentially performed by the motion of the ferry over a half-second or so.

While the exposure time for today’s shot was not especially long at 1/30 sec, I could obviously mimic a longer exposure by moving the camera instead. I tried a couple of photos, and found it more difficult than I expected to pan the camera horizontally without drifting up or down (or worse, up and down). In the end, the technique I adopted was to start panning, and then press the shutter release while continuing to pan which helped me to avoid any significant vertical drifting. That way I managed to get a few keepers.

All that remained was to read the file into DxO PhotoLab and tweak the exposure, contrast, and colour to get something I liked, then post to Flickr and Instagram (with a couple of additional tweaks). I like the effect, so I’m tempted to try some more in different weather and/or lighting conditions.

The full photograph is on Flickr:

Salish Sea, 28 Dec 2017

Dusky pink

It’s ferry Friday – here’s the Queen of Capilano on her way back to Horseshoe Bay from Bowen Island at dusk last weekend.

A clear evening, a view of the ferry, and a pink sky. All I had to do was keep the camera steady. I was hoping to be able to push the colour a bit more to make it a bit more dramatic but it didn’t really look right, so I kept my adjustments modest. More realistic, albeit at the expense of being a little less eye-catching.

On the whole I’ll take realism any day – I see too many photos on Instagram (and Flickr and Facebook) where the colours have been pushed to ridiculous levels in the hope of attracting more likes. (And that’s before we get into discussions of HDR.) At least I assume that’s the case – perhaps the posters genuinely like their photos to look that way? Maybe that is “realistic” to them? Who knows? I don’t see exactly the same as them and my screens are setup differently.

It occurred to me as I was writing this that eye-catching is probably the name of the game for many people on Instagram. Given the continuous scrolling through dozens of photos, it takes something to literally catch your eye as you go, something to make you stop scrolling and take a closer look, tap the heart, or even leave a comment. Sure, I enjoy seeing those “like” notifications as much as anyone, but at the end of the day, if only a few others like my photos, I’m fine with that.

I will admit, though, that I do get a little irked when I see mediocre photos being lauded as “excellent work”, but I also recognize that the number of likes and comments is pretty much directly related to the number of followers, and I’d have to work harder to gain more followers in order to increase my likability. I’m not so heavily into my own self-promotion to do that. And do I want followers who can’t tell a good photo from a bad one? What’s the value of their likes to me in that case, other than for massaging my ego?

So I will go on just posting photos I like, those that can jog a memory or two for me, and, yes, I hope that others may find them interesting.

Long blues

Long exposure at the blue hour.

I’ve always loved long exposure photographs. The first time I really remember being aware of the concept was when I saw a documentary about a photographer who used pinhole cameras to take hours-long exposures of popular city locations to reveal scenes devoid of people. I thought it was amazing. Since then I’ve seen other similar examples (plus I’ve seen how to mimic this in post-processing), but the most common subject for long-exposure photography is water; the ocean, a lake, a river, or waterfall. I don’t habitually carry a tripod around with me, which means I’m usually limited in my exposures to what I can take hand-held, and I’ve got quite good at holding a camera steady for up to 1/4 second.

But to get those glassy ocean shots needs much longer exposures and, therefore, a tripod (plus a neutral density filter – which I lack). My GorillaPod is proving to be too wobbly for the kinds of photos I’m after, so I made use of a number of logs on the beach to experiment with exposures of up to about 8 seconds. It took a few shots (owing to the fact that none of the logs were level), but I finally got one I liked. And somehow I felt it looked better when I kept the blue tint rather than using a more realistic colour balance. It’s not perfect, but it’s good enough.

Mountains at sea

A view of Golden Ears from the entrance to Active Pass on our ferry ride home.

I’m sure I’ve said this before, but I love being out on deck as the ferry goes through Active Pass. I’ve seen killer whales here several times, seals most times, eagles, and the occasional sea lion. On our outward journey on Friday, I saw a couple of deer feeding in one of the meadows on Mayne Island.

As usual, I was up at the bow, primed to get take a picture of the other ferry coming towards us, only to be reminded of the glorious view of Golden Ears framed between headlands on Galiano (left) and Mayne Islands. Since it caught me by surprise, I was a little late in taking the photo, and as a result, it’s not as well framed as I feel it could have been; I would like the headlands to be a little closer together. I’ll have to make sure I get it right next time! Maybe the light will be more favourable too?