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Last weekend I went out to Kakisa with Adam Hill in the hope of finding an Otter that had been seen in the area. We never found the Otter although Lady Evelyn Falls was covered in tracks from it. We weren’t disappointed though. We got some beautiful light over the falls and some incredible light in Kakisa itself. We were surprised to see the river under the falls completely frozen over, it rarely does on the Kakisa.
Adam carefully made his way round the ice to get closer to Lady Evelyn Falls so we could photograph it. It’s an incredible sight to see how the waterfall freezes. Everyone is different and each freezes differently every year. The dome on the right hand side of the falls is a sight to behold. You can see how big it is compared to Adam after several months of freezing spray although we didn’t get to close as you can hear the water rushing underneath the ice.
After half hour or so we started to loose the light. To reach the falls is a steep scramble down the valley side and the sun was now disappearing behind the tree tops. We decided to head up to Kakisa itself and have a look around the edge of the lake. We timed it perfectly. The setting sun was just above the horizon the the steam fog was lifting off the river and lake. It was some of the best light I have ever photographed in.
It’s funny how time goes. Looking back at this years photos there are some that I feel I took well over a year ago, yet I can’t believe another year has gone by already! And what a year it’s been. I managed to attend a workshop in Yellowknife where I got some of the only Aurora photographs of the year, had an incredible 3 days in the Nahanni National Park photographing Virginia Falls (already considering a return to explore more), spent 3 weeks travelling through the Rockies and got what I consider to be two of the best landscape photographs I have ever taken (again can’t wait to go back). 2013 also saw the birth of my daughter so it really couldn’t have gotten much better, although if the black bears could have been a little more photo friendly for me I wouldn’t have complained.
The support I have received this year has been incredible. I’m really starting to see my business grow and I owe that to everybody reading my blog posts and following me on the various social media platforms. I’m really happy how my photography has developed over the past year. I am seeing images I would have never seen before and it makes a big difference to my work. I still have so much learn and I hope you’ll keep following me as I do. There’s nothing like hundreds of pairs of eyes scrutinizing your work to motivate you to do better.
I can’t wait to see what next year brings. Thank you very much everybody!
I recently went for a nice walk between Alexandra Falls and Louise Falls near Hay River in the Northwest Territories. As a landscape photographer it can be a challenge to stay motivated in the NWT, especially when Hay River reaches highs of minus 30 and 5 hours of daylight. If I can’t travel anywhere this is my favourite place to go. Especially in Spring and Autumn when the falls change so much. In a couple of weeks they will be frozen solid and I can get up close and personal!
This image is comprised of 4 that I stitched together in Photoshop and people are always curious to know what it looked like straight out of the camera. Well below you can see all the images unprocessed. Few people realise just how much works goes on behind the camera before and after that button is pressed, just ask my wife how much of my “free time” is spent in front of the computer
First there is all that time spent in photoshop, not to mention the huge amount sucked up with the online side of business these days. Ansel Adams is one of the greatest landscape photographers ever and I doubt you could find a photographer that doesn’t know his work. He once said “there are two parts to every photograph, taking it and making it perform”. Well at least it was something along those lines anyway. Photographers can make their images dance more than ever before, Ansel just had a darkroom, there is nothing we can’t do with our work now. It’s becoming extremely difficult to make your work out perform the next guy but it’s a challenge I love.
I thought the better I got in photoshop the less time I would spend there but that hasn’t been the case. The performance changes so fast now I spend just as much time learning new techniques as perfecting the old. It’s a never ending cycle but also one I hope doesn’t stop. Imagine how boring it would be to stop learning new things.
OK, enough babbling and onto the images. Here you can see all four images used to create the final version. It is worth pointing out after cropping the panorama to look how I wanted it to I could probably have just used three.
Big difference eh! So what did I do? Well I started in Lightroom and knowing the falls was going to be the focal point of the image I worked on that. I made subtle adjustments to the exposure, vibrance, saturation and clarity and then did a little contrast work using the curves adjustment. Then I selected the other three images and synchronized the adjustments to all of them. Now it’s just a simple export into photoshop where it does its magic and stitches them into one image. Then I did some more work on selected parts of the image like the water and the rocks to bring out that colour as well as a little work on the sky to make the clouds bluer to match how they appeared when I was there. To be honest a relatively simple edit for me these days. Don’t worry if none of this makes sense. I am planning some more blogs and videos that will go into much more detail starting next year. Stay tuned and Merry Christmas!
Qunu will be one busy place today as one of the greatest men ever to live is put to rest. It’s incredible to think what Nelson Mandela has achieved in his lifetime and after spending a few months in South Africa it’s incredible to see how much is still to be done. Life has undoubtedly been improved for many since the end of apartheid yet many South African towns still have a side where the majority of the white population lives and one where most of the black population lives. The gulf between these sides is often enormous.
The National Planning Commission of South Africa still claims nearly half the population lives below the poverty line. An incredible amount considering the economic growth has continued to grow, unemployment is almost 25%, crime rates are high and much of the population still lacks access to infrastructure and basic services. It’s a daunting task and it’s easy to forget that it’s only been 20 years since the first truly democratic election in South Africa. I still find it hard to believe that it happened during my lifetime when it should have happened long before.
Qunu will have been busier today than it it ever has. Some 4500 people attended the first part of Mandela’s funeral, the ANC government admitted they had been planning today for 8 years. They did after all have to combine a full state funeral with the traditional funeral his family wanted. There has been a phenomenal out pouring of sadness and grief and at the same time the news channels have been showing streets full of dancing people. Not mourning his passing but celebrating his life. Nelson Mandela May be gone but his message must never end.
Earlier this summer I spent three weeks driving through the Rockies with my family. It was an incredible trip and I am desperate to see it in winter and spend a few days backcountry camping with my camera. Still, it’s not bad in summer either. I think this is my favourite rockies photograph of the trip. We had spent the afternoon hiking up to Agnes Lake and enjoyed a nice cup of tea at the teahouse dropped onto the mountain side. I now strongly feel every cup of tea should come with a mountain view but I’m having some trouble working out the logistics of that one.
After refreshing with a good cuppa we decided to risk the rather black rain clouds heading our way and keep going up to Little Beehive lookout. If you ever make it to Lake Agnes it’s well worth the extra 20 minute climb to the lookout. Apparently not many people do though.
Turned out we did get a little wet but luckily most of the rain went around either side of the peak we were on and then the cloud broke up to throw some beautiful light out over the rockies just at the right time! I love being out in bad weather with my camera. As long as you can keep it dry and force yourself to stay out long enough your sure to get some interesting light. As a landscape photographer thats what I want. Find the light first and then work on a composition to capture it.
As the rain moved across us the sun caught the drops at just the right angle for a beautiful rainbow across the valley floor. This image is actually the view from Little Beehive. The other was shot on my way backdown to meet up with the path for my return to Lake Louise. There is a little tiny hut on the top of the hill where the yellow trees end but I have no idea what it’s for. The little strip of water is Lake Agnes with the teahouse being behind the hill on the right.
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Last weekend I was sitting inside around 4 30 in the afternoon thinking it was about time to walk the dog. Question was to take the camera or not? I couldn’t really tell what the light was doing from my house but I could see the snow on the rooftops basking in a warm orange glow. Worth getting the camera out.
Of course it always takes longer than you think to get ready in a Northern winter so by the time I got out there the sun was setting, it was a quick dash down to the river to search for a shot.
I knew I wanted the town in the distance with that intense orange sunset. I needed an object in the foreground to help create the sense of distance to the town you feel when actually standing there. I tried a few exposures using a log similar to the one in this image but it wasn’t strong enough. It needed more and then I saw the those beautiful red rose hips that are all around Hay River. Perfect.
It also gave me the perfect opportunity to attempt a technique I’ve been wanting to try for ages. I wanted to combine focus stacking and HDR. It actually turned out to be simpler than I thought and only required two images although next time I think I can improve it by using more. I focused on the berries and exposed for them and then one for the buildings and exposed for the sky. Then I just had to blend them together in photoshop which ended up having about 8 layers of various edits to get the final look.
Below you can see the two images I used to create the final Sunset over Hay River.
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Next Thursday a group of Hay River photographers are getting together and putting on an art show. The finest photographers in town all have 3 images each on display as well as offering plenty of free and delicious cupcakes! It’s the second time we’ve done this and last year was a fantastic success which saw far more people at the show than any of us expected. Lets hope it’s the same again this year.
We will be holding the event in She Cakes the Cake, a little cafe on the other side of the tracks here in town. If you’ve never been it’s worth coming over just to experience the cafe. It’s by far the best in town with great coffee, tea and amazing treats (which are free by the way on Thursday!)
So if you have a fews moments on the 14th please stop by, look at some beautiful art, hang out with a good coffee and some great friends on a cold winters night.
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PS did I mention the free cupcakes?
Already getting late in the day we arrived at our intended campground only to find it was full. The day light was fading so we grabbed the tourist guide to see what else was around. Out of season out of luck. Well not quite but the only other campground in Yoho that was still open was another 20 minutes down the road. Not a problem except it was walk in only. Not something we had planned on when traveling with a 5 month old baby. Still, with no other options we started driving up the mountain pass which slowly became narrower and winder as we went.
By the time we got to the entrance it was almost dark and we stumbled into the campground looking for a site that was free. After making countless trips to the car and back we were set up and finally starting to cook a very late dinner. Tucked up in my sleeping bag all I could here was the crashing of Takakkaw Falls as the water cascaded off the top of one of the tallest waterfalls in Canada. I had got a brief glimpse of the falls on the drive in before it got dark but couldn’t wait till sunrise to see what I had to work with.
Turned out to be rain. For most of the day as well but the falls were an incredible site. After spending the day else where in Yoho I was back at the campground late afternoon and had just enough time between showers to try a couple of shots. The first photograph is looking the opposite way from Takakkaw. I was standing in the river bed looking towards the glacier. I had tried a few shots of the falls reflecting in some of the puddles that littered the bed but nothing was really working.
I noticed the dead logs further along and took a few shots at different angles and heights but I just couldn’t get what I was feeling into a photograph. I needed a sense of scale. Something to show how impressive Takakkaw is. I needed a body. And as I was alone in a dry river bed it would have to be me.
I already knew the camera couldn’t exposure the dark falls and the cloud in one photograph. It would have to be two blended together, no big deal. I was also aware of the green trees and shrubbery surrounding me and my green t-shirt (perhaps not the best choice of clothing. Something I am discovering as very important as a landscape photographer). If this shot was going to work I would have to set the timer, run to place myself so my t-shirt was on the rock face behind to stand out and then do it all over again until it looked right. This turned out to be one of those occasions where I felt like I had exactly what I wanted and still felt that way after seeing the shots on my computer screen.
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