Absence of a Crowd

Tropical Beach at Night

It’s strange to me how much the presence or absence of people changes my experience of a place. In the daytime this beach is bustling with activity, which many people seem to enjoy so much. For me, it’s too much going on. I feel like I have to keep track of it all and I can’t, and that gets stressful. With a dedicated effort of willpower I can start to ignore everything that’s going on. But walking out here at night it is entirely deserted. Then the quiet lapping of the water on the sand and the twinkle of the stars are able to fill the void left by all the people.

Taken in Cuba
24mm, f1.4, 15 seconds

Mossy Stream

I got back from my first ever trip to the east coast a few days ago! I already want to go back, but catching up on real life is important too. I’m not finished going through the photos yet, but this one stood out to me. I’ve always loved the fairy-tale richness of mosses, mushrooms, and small streams. They’re the backdrop for a thousand story lines, and at the same time a peaceful place where nothing needs to happen.

Mossy stream early in the morning in Fundy National Park.
f11, 6 seconds

And the Work Begins

I just got back from hiking around the BC coast for a couple weeks and I’m just starting to go through the images. Since I haven’t shared anything for a while I thought I’d put something up before I’m even done looking at everything. This is from Skookumchuck Narrows on the Sunshine Coast where the tide creates pretty wild rapids once or twice a day. I seem to keep coming back to pictures of flowing water. There’s something about the constant movement within a pattern and the play of light across and through the water that gets me every time.

Anyway, tons of editing to be done, and tons of other work as well. I’ll try to keep some new photos flowing up here though…


I often get wrapped up in a composition. I get so focused on the lines in my subject that the surroundings fade away. Sometimes this focus helps, but sometimes I ignore the fact that including some of the surroundings will give the viewer a context for the main subject. This is still a very tightly cropped image (taken at 300mm), but I’ve included the shore in the background, and I think it makes the photo. It tells the viewer the time of year (fall), the place (rocky river), and the fall colors compliment the blue-green water. The violence of the water is still obviously the main subject and the part that is in focus, but now the eye is often pulled between the water and the shore.

This photo was taken while lying down near the Clearwater River, BC. 300mm, f18, 1/15 of a second.

There Will Come Soft Rains

It seems like all my favorite photos lately are taken during storms or on rainy days. Looking back through my photos from this spring, none of the photos from sunny hikes grab me, and I gravitate towards softer, rainier photos. I think water adds a dramatic element to photos (as well as stories – yes, I’m a Ray Bradbury fan) — it sets a mood.

The first photo was taken near Beaverhill Lake on a blustery day with my Sigma 150mm Macro at 1/125 of a second and f5.0. The second was at Chickakoo Lake – 1/800 of a second at f2.8.

Abstract Geometric Nature Photography

Finally starting to make my way through photos from the last few trips. This is from Abraham Lake, which has been extensively photographed by many Alberta landscape photographers. It’s easy to come up with the standard compositions here, but it’s also easy to come up with new stuff. There’s just so much variety in the ice, water and rocks. These are methane bubbles from decomposing organic matter. The bubbles form in the ice as the water freezes layer by layer.

In a shot like this, composition is everything. It has to balance the visual weight of light and dark. The three smaller bubbles on the left have to balance with the two larger bubbles on the right. The negative space and positive space both have to be interesting — here the textures in the ice and bubbles add visual interest. And because it’s nature and you can never control it completely, there will always be random elements to deal with. In this picture, the shadow of something deeper lies near the top of the frame. I like the visual reminder that in photography, art is created between the artist and the subject: you never have complete control.

Inside an Ice Cave

There are some places on this earth that seem a little surreal. Ice caves are one of those places. And in these strange and beautiful places, I find it really hard to take photos. I’m often overwhelmed with the experience, and focusing on composition becomes impossible. Everywhere I look there is something new. I have to slow down, let the surroundings soak into me, and then I can start to express my response to a place.

Although I would have loved to spend more time here (it’s kind of scary with the falling rocks and ice), I’m pretty happy with how the photos turned out. The lines of the photo lead into a dangerous unknown.

Abstract Water Photography Explorations

These photos were taken at the same place, facing the same direction, within 1 minute of each other. The difference is part of what fascinates me about water. Small changes in the viewing angle completely change the photo. The top photo is almost purely reflected light, while the bottom is a mix of reflected (which bounces off the water) and refracted (which goes through the water) light. Add to that the constant variability of the wind creating different wave patterns, flowing water creating more stable ripples or even falls, and you have a subject that never gets old. I find flat water like this a little bit harder to find compositions in. Waves from wind are transient enough that you don’t know exactly what you’re going to capture — you have a general idea, but the specifics are up to chance. Flowing water is much easier to compose, and you often get more interesting lines. Often these lines and ripples are stable enough that you can see exactly what you’re going to get. But to get refraction in flowing water, it has to be flowing pretty gently — this works best with quite small amounts of water. Otherwise you get whitewater (full of air bubbles), which is great in a completely different way.

These photos don’t have leading lines to add depth or direct they eye (which generally I prefer), but they do illustrate some of the possibilities.