In the years that each of my children were born, I collected the special edition issue of LIFE Magazine – their Year in Pictures edition. (Yes, my children were born before the advent of the internet, so the act of saving print media now seems a little archaic.)
Being Canadian, and of British descent, I have often followed my family’s longstanding tradition of listening to The Queen’s annual Christmas message – the British Monarch’s version of the year in review and with an uplifting message for the year to come.
A number of photographers I follow have been posting recently showcasing their 10 best images of 2016. I’ve done a lot of work this past year honing my photography skills and the selection process seemed a bit daunting.
I do think it is a good thing to stop from time to time and take stock of where we’ve been – creatively and otherwise, and where we hope to go in the future. That was actually the assignment my Arcanum master, Jackie Ranken, suggested as my Sphere 1 Level 20 final project. I laboured long over this project and haven’t, up to now, publicized its existence outside of my Arcanum cohort. A major factor in my stock taking for this video was the recognition of the vulnerability inherent to the creative process. It takes courage to display the creative work you’ve laboured over and allow it to be opened up to potential criticism by your peers. The images in this video represent about 6 months of my photography journey in 2016 and the process of producing this video brought quite a bit of clarity to the direction I wish to pursue as I continue to apply myself to the pursuit of an ‘Artistic Licence’.
Special thanks to my husband, Bob, for supplying images of me ‘at work’ – including the featured image for this post. I always grouse when he turns his camera my direction, but I was glad to have some of his images for this video, and so pleased to have his company and support on many photo shoots throughout the year.
Follow this hyperlink if you’d like to know more about The Arcanum learning experience.
Silver-white winters that melt into spring… Well spring is quite a ways off, but that’s the thought – song really – that came to mind when I reviewed the contents of my camera’s memory card after a recent wander through the frost covered Alberta landscape.
In our travels, we stumbled upon this old abandoned car. Truthfully, I’m not sure where we found it – but we were NOT lost! Not that we’d admit anyway. 😉 I love how it appears to be travelling down a road of its own across this field.
And what Alberta landscape would be complete without a supply of round bales.
But what had really drawn us out on a drive this particular day was the search for beautiful frost covered trees that could be isolated against the grey-white skies. They make for a lovely minimalist photograph and are wonderful when rendered in black and white.
Oh, and one additional find… shhhhhh… I think we found where Frosty the Snowman lives. Teehee…
My Favourite Things – Rogers and Hammerstein – The Sound of Music, sung by Julie Andrews 1965
One of my favourite roses – Blushing Knockout – easy to grow, lovely to look at… uncomplicated. They are a tender rose, and in my area that means they have to be babied over the winter months and protected from the freeze/thaw cycles we can experience here. Sometimes I wonder if it’s worth the effort, but each spring when I uncover them and search for new growth on the barren branches, I realize that I would be sad to lose these lovelies to winter’s cold. A rejuvenating pruning and some fertilizer and water and away they go. Their pink blooms continue from the end of June until well into the fall.
These roses are also a pleasure to photograph. In this case, I waited for an overcast day and worked my way around the bush looking for pleasing angles and compositions with minimal background distractions. This was an opportunity to use my new 90mm macro lens. The combination of wide apertures, fast shutter speed and reasonably high ISO gave me what I was looking for – blurry backgrounds, no motion from either the breeze or my unsteady hand-held position and no real noise in the images. A few adjustments in Lightroom and I was satisfied. However, I couldn’t resist adding a painterly, watercolour filter to the image of the cluster of blossoms. I’m glad I took some time to enjoy the simple elegance of these pale pink beauties.
When I hope to take a sunset picture, there’s a few things I’m looking for in a location. I like to have a foreground element that can be either warmed up by the setting sun or perhaps shown in silhouette. Lakes or oceans or other bodies of water – perhaps even a puddle – make for great reflections of the sky as the sun sets. And clouds – a few, but maybe not too many – really seem to hold the light and take on a lovely glow.
Conditions seemed just about right the other night out at Elk Island National Park not far from Edmonton, AB. Having not been there very often in the past, it took us a while to find a really great spot, and by that time, the sun was pretty much beneath the horizon. But I’ve often heard it said among photographers that you shouldn’t be too quick to leave the scene and that after the sun goes down there’s still lots of wonderful light to capture.
The birds give these photos an added dimension, but meant that I had to make a compromise between a fast enough shutter speed to try to freeze their motion and still keep the ISO high enough so that digital noise wouldn’t be a problem. I wasn’t totally successful at stopping motion with the birds in flight, but the slight blur of their wings as they landed on the water was acceptable to my eye. They are not a static element in the frame and that’s just ok with me.
We really enjoyed our evening visit this park to see the sun setting over the lake and watch the birds and hear the frogs. It made for a very peaceful evening.
My apologies to the poet, but not all roses are red. This lovely pink beauty was one of many roses in bloom at the Inez Grant Parker Memorial Rose Garden in San Diego, California. Surprising to me is that this garden of 1600 roses is largely maintained by volunteers. They do a wonderful job of keeping the area pristine and the roses pruned and deadheaded. It’s a lovely space with terraced garden plots and decorative structures used to enhance the beauty of the roses.
Over the last couple of years of my photography exploration, I’ve had it driven home to me again and again that I need to understand, and work with, the behaviour and quality of light. The day we visited this garden the roses were in full bloom and it was a pleasure to walk among them. However, it was a difficult day to photograph the roses. The sun was bright and harsh and there were no clouds to diffuse its brilliance. I was wishing I had brought a diffuser and a reflector to control the lighting situation to better advantage. Instead, I chose to photography only those blooms that were in open shade – even if I had to create that shade myself. That eliminated the glaring highlights and harsh shadows that I might otherwise have captured. In post production, I used a dodge and burn layer to increase the highlights and shadows and bring back the contours of each petal. I also added a colour layer, sampling from the pinks in the rose and painted to improve the colour of the lower petals that were quite fade. As well, I used the spot removal tool to freshen up the tips of the petals that were showing some age. For an artsy touch, I added a texture layer that also had a vignetting effect around the edges and darkened down the background so as not to distract from the main event – the rose.
In photography, there are many who take a very documentary approach to their work – hopeful of a perfect, straight-out-of camera capture. However, I’ve come to understand that even those who are recognized as masters in the photography world manipulated their images in the dark room to create a more compelling version than their camera was able to capture. Why not then make good use of more of the tools available to photographers through post production?
And yet all the wishes and dreams that lay forfeit on the streets of the city of Las Vegas Nevada. Bright lights, big dreams, vain wishes… an incredible number of people are drawn here every year for a ‘good time’. But as I observe the faces of passersby and those mindlessly working the slot machines, there’s a dissatisfaction evident on most. You can’t buy happiness and Lady Luck smiles only on a very few.
I have to confess I don’t really enjoy Vegas. I’m not into throwing away my hard-earned money at the Casinos. I don’t enjoy crowds of people and battling my way down the streets and sidewalks. I’m not into the shopping or the shows and I don’t appreciate the noise. To my senses, it’s all just too much!! A city of excess.
But recently we spent two nights in Vegas and, determined to make the best of it, I set out to enjoy the lights.
There were a few moments of relative tranquility and graceful beauty amidst the chaos that is Vegas.
Looking for tranquility amidst the chaos of Las Vegas.
The local gardens, with their almost spent flowers and ready to harvest vegetables, are telling us that summer is quickly fading. But the cosmos are still blooming, trying valiantly to hold out just a little longer until the impending frosts.
Cosmos were one of the first flowers I was privileged to plant from seed in my Mother’s garden when I was a child.
I confess, I’ve taken them for granted over the years and have not planted them in my own gardens.
But lately, I’ve seen them in a number of gardens and I’ve gained a new appreciation for their longevity and their graceful beauty. Perhaps it’s just me being nostalgic, but I think it should definitely be on my planting list next spring.
We had never been to the Grand Canyon before this year. It’s a trip I’ve anticipated for a very long time. I really don’t think pictures can do it justice. But here is my humble attempt to bring home some of the grandeur of our experience.
The Grand Canyon runs through eastern Utah, northern Arizona, western Colorado and through a corner of New Mexico – 277 miles of river snake through its depths. In places the canyon is 18 miles wide and a mile deep. I heard someone say that the canyon is 9 miles across from the South Rim, where we visited, to the North Rim shown in the panoramic photos above. Nine miles across and incredibly, staggeringly deep!
You need to know, at least I wish someone had told me, that you might not actually be able to see the Grand Canyon on any given day. Strange to think that something so massive, that stretches for miles in all directions, could actually be obscured. But that was our experience, initially, as we approached the viewpoint. Imagine our surprise when we found that the whole canyon was completely socked in with fog. And, it was snowing, and continued to snow, off and on for the duration of our visit. Our fellow tourists took it all in good humour and lots of laughter could be heard as we all realized our long awaited first glimpse of the canyon had been foiled.
But our disappointment didn’t last for long, eventually we saw the fog lift. And, literally, bit by bit the wonder of it all was revealed as the sun broke through the cloud cover and highlighted distinct areas below us. It was so novel to be above the clouds looking down on their cottony texture – just like being in an airplane. It struck me that you approach this vast depth on seeming flat land, and in the distance, the far rim, straight across, and ever so flat. The canyon appeared to me to be this giant, jagged rip in the earth’s surface, formed over billions of years, through what is known as the Colorado Plateau. This tear revealed layer upon layer of red shale, limestone, dark lava, sedimentary rock and sandstone. The colours of the rocks were so vibrant as the sunlight hit them. The canyon was so deep that it was hard not to feel disoriented. I don’t think my eyes ever fully adjusted to be able to judge the distance to the bottom. Photos can’t capture all it’s wonders, and my words can’t adequately describe the experience of being there. It was all just a little humbling to realize that we are such a tiny speck on this vast landscape. What a gift of wonder we’ve been given. One visit is not nearly enough – I hope we can return someday. Next time a little later on in the season – after the snow! What an incredibly beautiful and diverse world we are blessed to live in.
I think I would enjoy fall if only it was this colourful for longer and didn’t ultimately lead to winter. But even so, the ever changing seasons give us variety in our days and are always a feast for the eyes. I hope you enjoy my attempt to capture the season.
School has only just let out for summer, but if the stores can start to display their fall clothing lines, I think my post today can’t be too far off the mark. But this isn’t any ordinary school. It’s the one room school-house at the Ukrainian Cultural Heritage Village in Alberta, Canada. The museum seeks to recreate the lives of early settlers to the Alberta prairies, a large number of whom immigrated to Canada from the Ukraine in response to the offer of free land.
School Yard Gate
My Mother was a teacher in a one room school-house until the mid-1940’s and from her stories I picture her classroom much like the one portrayed at this museum. She kept her school bell and I often saw it around our farm when I was growing up. She used to ring it to call us up to the house for supper. And at the risk of being considered a museum piece myself, the school desk below is very similar to the ones that were still in use in the school I attended MANY years later. That’s more a commentary on school funding than my age!
Now while this post was my entry into the Monochrome Madness Challenge, I just couldn’t resist adding this colour picture of the school teacher we encountered. He runs a very strict classroom and some of the punishments he applies to errant students are being made to kneel on the floor on the grain he keeps in a jar on his desk, or to stand against the blackboard with your nose in a circle he has drawn just slightly above your standing height. I noticed the slates the students in this classroom used were about the size of an iPad, but you can be sure he would tolerate NO texting, so be warned! You had better be on your best behaviour if you visit his classroom!