March Morning: Peggy's Cove

Early morning.  I struggle to lift the covers and remove myself from the warm and protective bed.  Both cats seem to know that I should get up, but they were more concerned with my feeding them.  As always, they chirp and meow as I scoop their food into the dish, bleary eyed and struggling to concentrate.

With them fed, I look at the clock. 5:00.  The cats munch away happily as I leave the kitchen and start to pull on my clothes, carefully laid out in my mind from the night before.  My camera gear was already physically laid out, packed for an early morning landscape excursion.  Batteries charged, lenses and accessories chosen and memory cards wiped.  I'm looking pretty ragged as I lock the apartment door, trying to make as little noise as possible. By this time, the cats have finished their breakfast and are starting their bath.  I'm away.

Tim Hortons is about the only place open at this ungodly hour.  It's already 5:30, and I don't know where the time has gone.  I pull up to the drive-thru and get a muffin and coffee, and the coffee's free.  I love Roll-up-the-Rim time, as I usually get a few freebies out of it.  

The road to Peggy's Cove is a twisted and breath-taking strip of pavement strewn down the countryside, with intermittent fishing villages and extraordinary scenery.  At 5:30am, however, it's very dark and I must be careful.  Wildlife can wander almost aimlessly onto the road without warning, and since the speed limit is 80 and I have no one behind me, I just take my time. 

It's 6:00am on the dot when I roll into the parking lot at the Peggy's Cove Lighthouse.  By now, I've eaten the muffin and finished most of my coffee. I'm feeling pretty awake when the cold air hits me.  I brought a flashlight, so carefully I find my way along the rocks to a good vantage point and set up the tripod and wide angle lens.  My first exposure of 30 seconds is too dark, looks like I'm going to use bulb mode and go for long exposures.  Then it gets challenging: I can't see my watch, it's so dark.  I use the flashlight to watch the second hand on my watch to get a 60 second exposure and it looks good.

The only issue is that for each photo I take, the camera has to chew on it for an equivalent time period to reduce the noise.  A 60 second exposure is a 120 second long frame.  I still have about half an hour before sunrise, so I keep shooting.

At about 6:45, I grab my gear and move about some more, making a frame here and there until I get to a vantage point to watch the sunrise.  I was hoping for some light puffy clouds in the sky for extra drama, but I'll settle for warm glowing light.

Once the sun is up, I can take some more photos of the beautiful shoreline and the lighthouse since there's no one around to get in my shot.  I work away, looking for interesting scenes, enjoying the crisp air and golden sunlight until about 8 am, when I call it a productive morning.  I get back to the car and gulp the last mouthful of the now ice-cold coffee and roll up the rim.  I won a free coffee!  Time to go home.  Time to get the sleep I missed out on.

As I drive back home, I can't help but think of how much photography is like fishing.  It's peaceful, calming, and you get better results if you get up and go early.  It's also based on dumb luck.  Sometimes you get a fantastic morning sunrise, and other times you'll only get overcast skies and boring light.  

That's the best part.  Not knowing. The risk makes it exciting in a special kind of way, and getting the shot can mean revisiting a location time and again.  I think, with scenes like Peggy's Cove being a 30 minute drive away, I can live with that.

Thanks for reading!  Cheers!

Kodak Portra 400 results and Mini Review

Since I've decided to start using film for more street photography, I've been going through several different types to try to pin down which emulsion I'm going to stick with.  In the last few weeks, I have been slowly working my way through a roll of Kodak Portra 400, a rather expensive film to get locally ($15 per roll at my local outlet after discount! Ouch!)  I get 36 exposures, which when film development is added in comes to about $0.80 a frame.  Is it worth it?

 I tried to shoot a wide variety of colours and subjects to see how the film behaved in the real world.  One thing I can safely say about this film so far is that it is slightly muted compared to the Ektar film I shot previously.  If all you're interested in is seeing the images, click the first one to bring up a slide show!  All these images were shot with a Canon Elan 7e and 50mm f/1.8 II lens. For the most part, all shots were overexposed by a stop or more.

Of course, this isn't necessarily a bad thing!  What I'm liking so far with the Portra film is that it's got dimension; the textures pop, and the bokeh fades off to nothingness.  It's simultaneously detailed and soft.

Of course, the absolute best thing you can do with this film is find a window and start shooting some portraits.  This photo was taken during this shoot after Ellen and I decided the rain was getting annoying.  I opened up the shadows by overexposing by a full stop, and I could have pushed it even further without losing detail outside!  Digital still can't touch this kind of dynamic range!

After a few photo walks and a couple portrait sessions I finished off the roll. I'm pretty happy with the film, just not the price. I certainly enjoy the slightly desaturated colours and beautiful grain that make this a great portrait emulsion, so I think I'll put another few rolls through the camera yet!

Thanks for reading!  Cheers!

Wednesday 500px Showcase

I've been pretty quiet on 500px so far this week, after having only a few images to upload from Nocturne.  I have, however, spotted some very cool works in the short time I looked.

My theme this week is Dynamic Landscape, a term I just made up.   What I mean by "dynamic" is a sense of movement within the photo, or an otherwise normal landscape shot that contains a fleeting moment, like fireworks for example.

Each of the images below are photos I've found on 500px.  Please click the image to enjoy a full size view as the photographer intended.  If you're so inclined, click on the photographer's name to see more of their work.

First up is James McGregor's "Banff National Park",  a really superb landscape shot that I happened upon shortly before writing this blogpost.  The dynamic element in this shot is a train that seems to be almost flowing by in the frame.  The colour of the train absolutely sells it for me.  The stark red streak just jumps off the background!

Star trails are something I've never tried, although I haven't ever done an exposure of more than a minute or so.  This shot, with the flowing brook and moving stars has so much cool factor I can't even explain.  Complimentary purple and yellow colours add to the pull for me.

A quick google translate of the following image's title reveals "Star light trajectories 琉璃 Fri Longshan".   Seems like an appropriate name! The photo has a great colour palate and fantastic landscape elements, two things that really draw me into the shot.  The star trails add a very cool drama that an otherwise 'normal' landscape wouldn't have.  My one comment on this shot, however, is that it would be a much stronger composition with a little less foreground, and the horizon line a bit closer to the bottom third of the frame.

Today's final entry: Lightning!  I always look at a shot of lightning and think to myself "Did the photographer plan that, or was it a really great coincidence?"  If the photographer's anything like me, it was a happy accident (but I'll certainly say that I intended it, you have to keep people guessing).  If this shot was planned, it was done so very well.   An otherwise 'normal' shot, this photo has a couple of really cool elements like frame-within-a-frame (the doorway) and leading lines, but it's just a street.  Add the lightning and something changes.  The photo levels up to something that not everyone has in their portfolio.    

Thanks for reading!  Please share your comments with the photographers on their  500px sites!

Happy Labour Day! What a crazy weekend!

Photowalk in Lunenburg!

I had two major shoots this weekend: I booked a model to do Trade For Print work and I went on a photowalk in Lunenburg and met some great photographers!  

The blogpost about my model shoot will be for tomorrow ;)

Below are some of the images I made on the photowalk:

For the most part, the images throughout Lunenburg were taken in natural light.  I did some mild post production on a few to make them pop, and I added some HDR images to the pile since I was bracketing almost every shot.  

About Lunenburg: this is a beautiful town.  The rolling hills, the charming houses painted in remarkably vibrant colours, and the small town square plopped right in the middle make this a really great spot.   When you walk around the town early in the morning, before all the other tourists have arrived you can meet some of the locals, some vibrant, amazing people who take the time to stop and talk to you rather than avoiding eye contact.  

This town is also the birthplace of the Bluenose, a symbol of the maritimes and part of Canada's vibrant history.  Currently, the Bluenose II sits in drydock after extensive renovations to her hull and structure.  It is expected that the schooner will be back in the water before summer's end.

More tk...