Plants: Wild Rose

The wild rose or prickly rose will be familiar to almost everyone who goes outside in Canada. They are the common source of pain when walking through undergrowth and the small thorns will get stuck in socks and pants for days after. But the flowers are a beautiful pink – especially brilliant when they are just buds and softening in color as they open up. When the flower is gone, a rose hip is produced. When it is ripe it turns bright red or orange. The skin of rose hips is edible and rich in vitamin C (although to me it doesn’t taste that good). It can be made into tea, jam or jelly. But don’t eat the seeds inside. They are not poisonous but have many little hairs that cause itching – if ingested the itching is usually felt on the way out.

Wild rose leaves provide a beautiful color palette in fall when they start to turn – from yellow across the spectrum through orange and red to dark purple and even a bluish green sometimes.

Plants: Wild Mint

I thought people might find it interesting to see some of the plants I regularly come across while hiking. This is wild mint. It is usually found in damp or swampy areas. Sometimes I smell it before I see it but it is especially potent when you pick a leaf and crunch it up under your nose. It is sometimes hard to see from a distance because it is usually shorter than the reeds or grass surrounding it. You can identify it by the smell, but to make sure it’s actually mint, check that it has a squarish stem and the leaves are on opposite sides of the stem. It makes a very nice tea!

Taken near Crimson Lake, AB
40mm, f2.8, 1/60 of a second

Surface Hoar Frost

Hexagonal Hoar Frost on Snow

At just the right temperature and humidity levels, frost will form in hexagonal towers. Here’s a more descriptive photo of what this looks like (click on the photo for a larger version). These towers were about 1cm tall.

Hoar frost is a beautiful phenomenon that can cause problems if you’re in the mountains in winter. The hoar frost forms on the snow, and when fresh snow falls on top of it, it forms a weak layer in the snowpack. This can make avalanches a lot more likely.

Taken in Yosemite National Park.

Composition Consistency

In a lot of ways these photos could not be more different. The top one was taken at Beaverhill Lake, which at this point is a big marshy field in the prairies. The bottom was taken near the Saskatchewan Glacier in the mountains. The top was taken in spring, the bottom one in fall. The top is macro, the bottom is a landscape.

But when I was developing the top one today, my mind immediately went to this bottom photo that I took four years ago. The tones of the images help to group them, but what really strikes me is the similarity of composition. Both are triangles with the base at the bottom of the photo. They both have interesting lines thrusting up at angles through the frame.

When I’m composing an image, I don’t often consciously think about what to call a composition or what photo it will be like. I’m usually trying to balance the elements in the frame once an interesting line catches my eye. After the fact, when I’m looking through my images though, I start to notice themes. In some ways I like this — consistency is good. But I also don’t want to overuse themes and become boring. It’s a constant struggle of evaluation, and I probably overthink it. But it’s something I’ve noticed and thought was kind of interesting.

Photos of Tidepools

An Ochre Sea Star and Anemones

When I was in BC I found tidepools pretty difficult to shoot. There’s such a variety of colors and textures that it’s easy for everything to look messy. The way I tend to deal with scenes like this is to get closer and crop out distracting elements until the subject is where I want it, and it stands out against whatever background I’ve chosen. Sometimes shallow depth of field can help too, although this was occasionally tricky to use because as soon as I wasn’t shooting straight down I had to deal with reflections on the surface of the water as well.



I’m not sure if it’s because I’ve been looking at photos for so long, but I tend to prefer abstracted photos. They often keep my attention longer.

They add another layer to the meaning of the photo. It’s no longer just the subject, but the subject being affected by or interacting with something. Abstracting can change a normal scene into lines and shapes and colors that interact in a way we wouldn’t normally expect. It takes an expected scene and turns it into a beautiful little mystery.

This is a ochre sea star and an anemone on Vancouver Island. The tide was coming in, and every once in a while a wave would make its way into this tidepool and disturb the water. It caught my eye, and I like the version with ripples a lot more than the one taken with placid water.

Colours to Brighten a Winter Day

150mm, f2.8, 1/640 of a second

There are so many different things to learn and ways to expand photography, art, and paths of thought. My photos tend to be visual and design oriented. I recently started creating some videos and that’s been pushing me to think about story or narrative. This is an area which I think could improve my photography as well.

I received “The Hero with a Thousand Faces” by Joseph Campbell as a Christmas gift, and have started reading it. It’s a really interesting mix of fairly dense academic writing, ridiculous un-academic assertions, and inspiring observations about human experience. I’m not very far in yet, and I’ll update with further observations, but it does prompt me to think differently about art. And I love that.