Tuesday, 13 April 2010

If I get knocked down...

...I just get back up again.

I have had a couple of occasions in recent months where I have felt a bit misunderstood. Or perhaps it is more that I have spotted, despite my best efforts to prevent it, that a conversation is spiralling out of control in a negative direction.

The first time it happened was during the Winter Olympics - I was pulled over by local law enforcement after leaving Iona Beach (the public park where I was taking my landscape photographs). Nothing disastrous happened and I did not get a ticket. However, when I spoke to the officer who pulled me over - I just felt like I was trying to communicate with someone in a foreign language. Even though we were both native English speakers. It was a really peculiar experience that left me feeling really uncomfortable. As a result, I am not in any special hurry to encounter another officer from that particular organisation again.

The second time that it happened was during a hospital appointment just over a week ago. I knew in advance that the hospital was going to confirm that I have thyroiditis because I'd been given the tip off by my family doctor. Naturally enough, I had poked around on the internet, spoke to one of my sisters to compare notes (she is being treated for the same thing) and felt quite relieved as thyroiditis would help to explain a number of different symptoms that I have been experiencing over the past year or so.

As my hospital appointment was with a surgeon (long, boring, unnecessary story), I assumed that they would tell me that I was no longer a surgical case, confirm my diagnosis and refer me onto an Endocrinologist for advice and monitoring or treatment.

Not so - it seems that while I do have thyroiditis and I will need treatment in the future, I do not need treatment yet. Apparently, it could be another 6-8 months before I will need treatment. Now, please don't get me wrong, this is excellent news - after all, who wants to be on medication?

However, if I am not to receive treatment yet and I believe that I have been experiencing symptoms consistent with thyroiditis for some time, what do I do to manage them? Will my symptoms stay as they are or will they get worse as my thyroid packs up? How do I go about being monitored, so that I receive treatment when I need it?

When I asked these questions, my consultation started to come off the rails a bit.

I was told to monitor via my family doctor - ok. I received some advice to diet and exercise - Atkins or Weight Watchers and Curves as 'group activities tend to increase the chances of success'.

Although obvious, the advice presumes that I have not been trying to manage my weight. While the lack of exercise is a fair cop, I started to take steps to curb my weight gain before last summer (under strict instructions from my husband not to crash diet or starve myself). There is the occasional slip but we have cut right back on carbs, fats, sugars, dairy and reduced portion sizes. We even banished alcohol to the weekends (only) after Christmas.

To my chagrin (and creating no small amount of panic in my head), my weight has simply continued to increase. In fact, I have gained about 48lbs since I came to Canada. I tried to explain this but it was as though an invisible, inpenetrable 'fat barrier' had sprung up between me and the surgeon in the consultation room - I got that look that suggested that if I had been trying for so hard and for so long? Then why was I sitting there bulging out of my oversized jeans?

After that, things took a further, strange turn for the worse. Contrary to what I had read and heard, the surgeon asserted that some of my symptoms were not indicative of a thyroid problem but instead, were indicative of depression and tried to give me a prescription for anti-depressants.

Frankly, I was a bit gob smacked - I rejected their assertion that I am depressed and I refused the prescription. I pointed out that there is absolutely no history of depression in my medical history.

Yes, I might be fed up about being so tired and forgetful. I might be concerned about my weight gain. I might be missing the UK (friends and family). I might not find life particularly fufilling without a job. I might not enjoy the endless grey and rain (Autumn - Spring). I might not be enjoying the experience of living in Canada 100% but to the point where I am actually, truly depressed about it?

No, I do not think so. There are lots of things here that buoy me up when these other things start to get me down. Amongst them - the Fella, my stepson, photography, the sporadic textile things that I do and the friends that I am starting to make here.

So, things here have been interesting. I sort of felt that I got knocked over by my hospital appointment and I have spent the last week starting to dust myself off and get back up again.

I went to see my family doctor yesterday to find out what monitoring might involve. I outlined what happened at the hospital and I have been referred to an Endocrinologist. At the very least, I hope to understand more about what is happening to me and obtain some answers to my questions. The extremely good news is that there was no mention of depression in the report that my family doctor received back from the hospital. So, if nothing else, the surgeon listened to me on that point.

I am not going to hang my hat entirely on the referral though.

The lack of exercise is a fair point. So I am now walking 2-4km per day and I am waiting for a call back from a fitness trainer to confirm when they can fit me into their schedule at the local community centre (now confirmed for next Monday). As I have a medical condition that is very likely to be slowing down my metabolic rate, then I guess that exercise has to be an important part of trying to keep it going. I am hoping that the discipline of having a trainer for a while will help me get back into the exercise habit. I am also hoping that it will help me slow the scales down.

I am in the process of reviewing meal plans with the Fella to see if we can manage to go completely gluten and dairy free on top of the changes that we have already made. From what I have read and heard, this can help combat fatigue and tiredness. So, if anyone has any good information resources on this topic and/or any gluten-dairy free recipes that won't make the Fella feel that his culinary life has ended, then please let me know!

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

This is what it looks like...

...when someone tries to steal your car from outside your house during the night.




It's not very impressive looking, but then, it is not a very impressive or interesting crime. My car was parked about 12 metres from our bedroom, we did not hear a sound and the car alarm did not go off. I found the damage when I popped outside to grab my raincoat from the car's boot the next morning. I found the car unlocked, with the above damage and all its windows stuck partially open. I assume that the car was saved by its immobiliser or its electronic coded key system. We duly reported the incident to the police over the phone and our insurers towed the car away last night to be fixed.

While we were putting polythene over the open car windows, a police woman happened to pass by (canvassing the neighbourhood about an unrelated incident) and stopped to speak to us,

'Yeah', she said, 'my car has been broken into 3 times so far - once while it was parked in the car park at the police station. I have stopped changing the car door lock because it has cost me over $1000 in repairs so far. If I decide to sell the car, I'll deal with the lock.

I see that all of your windows are stuck part-way down. They take advantage of a programmed feature on this make of car that means that when they punch out the door lock, it causes the windows to go down and the alarm (or its motion sensor?) to become disabled. Then it's low risk for them to get into the car and try to drive it away...

...at least it didn't rain too much last night.

These people don't usually have cars of their own. It the Easter weekend and lots of people are away. They probably intended to take your car, use it for a couple of days to commit crime - like some break-ins nearby or something - and then dump it.

I would recommend a wheel lock as a visual deterrent and possibly an after-market alarm with a different coloured light to the factory fitted alarm - just something to make them hesitate and move on without damaging your car.'

This matter-of-fact information imparted, she said goodbye and continued on her way.

Inside my head, the good news - to me - was that the thief only seemed to be interested in the car (and a pair of sunglasses that I had left inside the arm rest). Nothing else was taken (although the glove box was rifled through) and the economy of effort/damage needed to get into the car and try to start it was quite impressive. Naively, I assumed this was because they wanted the car intact to sell on or strip down.

As I watched the police officer walk away, I realised that she was probably right. Their only interest in having my car in one piece was probably just so that it remained unremarkable and retained its ability to blend in. Oh, I guess that its decent load capacity and engine size probably made it attractive too.

For some reason, this made me realise how fond I have become of my faceless, comfortable, capacious car and how lucky I was that they did not manage to steal it. I am also happy that something of mine was not used in any sort of crime and then dumped. Or worse.

Apart from the obvious damage, which will be fixed, the only other indicator that some nasty, grimy stranger sat in my car and tried to steal it..?

Lots of cigarette ash scattered around the front seat areas, like this bit left on the passenger seat. I do not smoke. For some reason, this upsets me more than the door lock and ignition damage.


When the car comes back from the garage, perhaps I should install two signs on it, 'Don't bother - this car is fitted with a very effective immobiliser.' and 'Please refrain from smoking when attempting to steal this vehicle.'

Wednesday, 31 March 2010

People, Light, Fabric and Texture

I have completed my Advanced Studio Lighting class and I am delighted to say that I did well in my final critique. In the last two studio sessions, I found myself exploring the theme of people and fabric. (You can take the woman out of Textiles but you cannot take textiles out of the woman?!)

The first of these two sessions was a Figurative Nude class.

100-101 Diptych

Ahem. For the general consumption purposes of my blog and Flickr, this image is probably the only one that is safe for me to share. It is a bit dark but it does illustrate the theme that I was starting to explore i.e. the way that fabric changes light, form and adds texture to what you see.

My second studio sesssion was with Erica. Now, I did warn Erica in advance that I planned to wrap her in fabric - just because I was a bit nervous that she might think me a complete weirdo. To my utter relief, she just burst out laughing and said, 'Toga Party!'

So, without further ado, here are some of my Erica 'Toga Party' portraits:

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For fun, I converted the top image into a negative image. I love how this appears to changes the very soft image into something hard and alien - almost like a x-ray of chiffon thrown over a marble statue:


So, once we had conquered Rome, I did my best to move us forwards through time to 17th Century Holland:

Through Fabric 001

I think that this might be my favourite image. The effect of the lighting and the fabric in this picture reminds me a little bit of Johannes Vemeer's 'Girl with a Pearl Earring'. The above picture is sort of intended to go with this next picture:

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The narrative idea behind these two pictures is a kind of 'before' and 'after'. Through a fabric screen: unaware of being observed and aware of being observed.

The next three images are a continuation of this theme but concentrating a little more on texture and form through fabric. Amongst a number of other things, Erica is a talented florist. So I included flowers in a few of her portraits as a reference to her skills:

Through Fabric 004

Through Fabric 003

Through Fabric 005

Please click here for the full slide show of Erica's photoshoot. I really enjoyed creating these pictures and I would love to explore this theme further. So I am hoping that this session did not creep Erica out too much and that she will agree to model for me again soon!

Friday, 26 March 2010

On Entitlement, Health and Luck

Although I am fairly well known for blethering on about the small stuff and using humour to dismantle the bigger things that are bothering me, I can become quite quiet and I can retreat into myself when something is genuinely not going well.

I am not sure why this is - I am not sure whether it is because on some level that I think that if I make myself quieter and smaller in some way, the unhappy or bad thing will roar past me without noticing that I am there.

Usually, it does too! After it has gone, I emerge from cover, dust myself off and carry on. After all - many things are just not as bad as they first appear. With time and thought, it is usually possible to navigate quietly around them or break them down into manageable chunks to chew, swallow or spit aside.

My circumstances over the past year or so have meant that there have been some stuff bothering me here that I have not been able to address because I have had no status in Canada. One of these things has been lack of access to health care.

Although I had a travel insurance policy followed by an expatriate medical insurance policy that was supposed to cover me until my Canadian health care benefits kicked in, they both turned out to be fairly useless for day-to-day matters or things that the insurance company was determined to argue might fall into the category of a pre-existing condition (which is pretty much everything, as I discovered when I phoned them). So, during my visits home, I visited my GP but I was not ever in the UK long enough to be referred for follow up treatment.

So, basically, I have just had to go without and put up with things not being quite right. All fairly minor stuff but it has still got me down a bit. As I am from the UK, I am just used to healthcare...well...just being there, as and when you need it.

The good news is that this situation changed for me on the 1st March - I now have entitlement to Canadian health care. As a result, I have been working on getting a number of things sorted out. I feel quite lucky to have found a family doctor that I like, who has accepted me as a patient and who, unexpectedly, set me off on a referral path that might help to explain some of the symptoms that I have been experiencing over the past year or so e.g. insomnia, tiredness, weight gain, feeling down, 'fuzzy headed' and being very forgetful. Fingers crossed, at least.

In addition, the cherry on the cake piece of good luck (which I think completes my immediate list of Canada 'settling in' tasks) is that I passed my driver's knowledge test* last Friday and I passed the road test* this morning. So I now have a Canadian Driving Licence!

*Notes: you can only drive on your foreign licence in BC for 90 days after you become a Permanent Resident. After that you have to cease driving until you have obtained your Canadian driving licence. As BC has no reciprocal agreement in place with the UK to do a straight swap of driving licences, I had to pass a knowledge test and a road test in order to obtain my Canadian driving licence. Today was my 90th day in BC...which was cutting it all a bit fine.

This was not entirely my fault as you cannot apply for a Canadian driving licence, do the knowledge test or do the road test until you have your Permanent Resident card. My PR card only arrived in the post recently, which made everything all very, very last minute.

Things have been a bit stressful here so I am really looking forwards to a relaxed weekend!

Thursday, 4 March 2010

Portrait Lighting and Model Shoot

Two posts in one day, whatever next?! Well, I am sort of stuck at home on 'Fella Watch' today as he isn't well. He's been ill since Monday - thankfully, he seems a bit better today (his temperature has come down) and I am delighted that he is asleep on the sofa at the moment and not, um - how to put this gently - shut in the bathroom, making noises like a dying animal.

Was that too much information? Okay, well to distract you from the mental image of my husband dealing manfully with the explosive output from his gastric system, here is my output from the portrait lighting demo that we did in class recently:

5 x Basic Portrait Lighting Set Ups 0

This is just a very quick guide to some basic studio portrait lighting - Broad, Glamour, Rembrandt, Split and Narrow.

The next images are from the high and low key photo shoot that we did to explore the above lighting for ourselves. We also got to play with some other portrait light set-ups as well.

The brief that we were given for our shoot was to come up with an overall, emotionally evocative triptych plus provide a small selection of other portraits. Just to demonstrate that we had explored a range of different lighting set-ups during the session. In addition, we were asked to convert all of our images to black and white so that we could review the three-dimensional rendering of our subjects with the lighting that we set up.

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This is my emotionally evocative tripdych - my theme and brief to my model was 'Dreamy on a Weekend Morning'.

2 x High Key Lighting Set Ups 8 Bit

These are two of my other high key lighting examples. I do not particularly like either of them but I truly dislike the one on the right. I took it to crit on purpose - the pose reminds me of a school photo and I did not get the effect that I was looking for with the ring flash - yuck!

_DSC0374 flat 8 bit

These are my low key examples. The image on the right is a narrow - rim lighting shot simply to fulfil the exercise brief. The other two are closer to what I had in mind for the shoot. I was told beforehand that my model is both an actor and in a band. So for the left and centre images, I researched actor publicity shots, theatre lighting and pulled together some classic gestures/poses from some Shakespeare plays to come up with some ideas for my shoot. I was feeling quite smug and prepared when I got to the studio...

...unfortunately, when I met my model, it turned out that he actually does tv comedy type things, rather than classic theatre type things! Opps - poor chap. At one point I asked him to pose with a melon so that he could emulate some of those classic poses from Hamlet. Later, I had him posing with flowers.

He dealt with both props valiantly though and was cheerful throughout (even if I did catch him knocking on the melon to see if anyone was there and putting it up to his ear to hear if it was talking back to him) - happy to share the outtakes if you would like to see them!

Life Update & Advanced Studio Lighting

I realise that I have been a bit quiet lately. Oddly enough (for a person out of work) I have been quite busy recently. In addition to the Landscape Photography course, I have been doing an Advanced Studio Lighting course, taking some pictures for a friend plus trying to sort out all sorts of new Landed Immigrant (Permanent Resident) admin. E.g.

In UK:
  • Inland Revenue/Tax
In Canada:
  • Customs;
  • Medical Cover;
  • Social Insurance Number;
  • Permanent Resident Card;
  • Driving Licence;
  • liaising with the company importing my belongings for me and trying to get the house/my studio space ready for everything to arrive;
  • tarting up my CV, trying to find out which local recruiters deal with the sort of jobs that I do, worrying about job hunting in a new country and fretting about the fact that I have got so fat that none of my old work/interview outfits fit me; and
  • shoving my head into the sand about looking for a job, even though my savings are just about dwindled to nothing, and attempting to diet (note: attempting but apparently not succeeding) my way back into some of my clothes so that I don't have to go to interviews looking like an over-bloated blimp.

On that cheerful note, I will leave you with the still life images from my Advanced Studio Lighting Course that I presented during our image critique recently. The inspiration for these was sort of afternoon teatime treats with associated lighting:

Hot Light Pick

Strobe Pick

Above Exercise: lighting comparision between strobe and constant hot lights

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Above: the two still life images that I preferred (both strobe lighting).

Now that I have uploaded these images to Flickr and linked to them from my blog, I am interested to note that all of the colours in these images look a bit grungy and washed out. How odd. I wonder if this is because I have changed a Photoshop image profile from sRGB (web) to RGB (print) recently?

In terms of composition and lighting, my idea and the shots are not quite there yet. However, I have the lights and props at my studio and I'm hoping to have another go at setting this up and getting the images that I want!

Tuesday, 2 March 2010

1st Wedding Anniversary

Happy Anniversary, Lovely.


I can hardly believe that it has been a year already. It's been a big year (or so) of change and adjustment for us both. Do you know what? I think that we are doing okay. I guess that it helps that you happen to be one of the kindest, most lovely men on earth. Yep, you:


I am really looking forwards to the next year with you.


Ps, posted a day late because our anniversary weekend included a quick trip over to Salt Spring Island. We arrived home late last night. I am delighted to say that Salt Spring Island delivered my first ever viewing of a sheep on Canadian soil:


I spotted quite a few Suffolk sheep (with new lambs - hurray!) on the island, plus this breed. I am not sure which it is. I am sorting of hoping that it is a White faced Welsh Mountain sheep.

Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Landscape Final Project – Iona Island


The first time that I visited Iona Island was last June. The Fella thought that I might enjoy a romantic evening stroll by the ocean - I did not realise, until I got to the island, that this stroll was a 9km hike along a sewage pipe, next to a treatment plant, underneath the jumbo aeroplanes landing at Vancouver's International Airport. At that point, I wrote the island off as any kind of serious destination!

View Larger Map

However, on the 21st January this year, we had mixed sunshine and clouds. I was driving home and I could see this big, beautiful sky but no way to photograph it without the interference of the surrounding urban landscape. At that point, I remembered Iona Island. I raced over there to get shots of the clouds in the sky. Also, while I was there, I spent some time watching people come and go, walking their dogs and exercising along the sewage pipe. Human sewage aside, it was really refreshing to be outside with lots of unfettered sky to enjoy. In fact, although it is very close to Vancouver and the airport, Iona Island still feels like quite a wild place - I even saw a short eared owl out hunting for prey.

I started to see why people enjoy visiting the park, even though I confess that I am still struggling with the sewage aspect of it. My final landscape project was the result of a number of different trips that I took to Iona Island in order to photograph the sky, the log booms, the beach and the people who visit the park.

Project Objectives

These are the objectives that I set myself:

  • Capture a series of images of a single place, at the same time of day but in different weather conditions;
  • Capture images of people interacting with the landscape/park;
  • Capture images of human interference with nature/the landscape;
  • Shoot lots of sky (my view of it is a bit restricted at home by the urban landscape);
  • Practice simplicity in my landscape compositions; and
  • Utilise some of the creative techniques discussed in class:
    • Creative filters (neutral density; graduated; polariser);
    • Long and short exposures;
    • HDR.

Project Results

My images were taken on different days. However, I timed my trips to the park so that they took place at approximately the same time, each visit. I did this to keep light consistent (so my images would work as a set) and also to see how weather affects the colour and mood of the landscape on different days.

Log Booms, Iona Island

Intro Sheet

The log booms are an impressive sight, even though they are simply evidence of the local logging industry.

DSC_0037 - 8 x 12

I like the fact that at Iona Island, it is possible to look North and it appears that there is nothing much in that direction, except trees, until the mountains. It is as though the city of Vancouver does not exist.

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I was also happy to capture images that illustrates the magic trick that the weather plays on us regularly here in Vancouver. Sometimes, the mountains dominate the horizon. Then, when it rains, they vanish completely behind clouds!

Iona Beach – Logging Industry

These two images further indicate the presence of the logging industry in and around the park:

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Sawn driftwood and escaped logs along the tide line of the beach

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A discarded pile of wood shards

When we got married in Tofino last year, I was astonished at the quantity of escapee logs (whole tree trunks) that were washed up on the shores of the beaches. It seemed like such a waste of natural resources that otherwise might still be standing in a forest somewhere. The problem is not as pronounced at Iona Beach but it still bothers me a bit. I was pleased to bump into a small group of people who were beachcombing for sound wood to use in an arts project.

Iona Beach – Sewage Pipe Strolling

The last set of sky and silhouette images are of people exercising along the sewage pipe. These are my favourite images - I love the way that the sky changes the mood of the place and I love the outlines of the people, all doing different things. You will need to click and enlarge the images to see but...

...there are people striding, cycling, carrying skateboards, chatting and pointing, peering at the view and even someone taking a photograph!

I also love the fact - do not ask me why - that all of these people are doing all of these things on top of a very large sewage pipe! Which, of course, is another example of our impact on the local landscape and environment.

On that note, I think that I will leave you to enjoy them!

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Bit of a delay blogging about these even though the pictures have been on Flickr for ages...something about being up to my armpits in some photography projects, my UK tax return (it might appear to be late but it is not!) and trying to organise my BC Driver's Licence before my 90 days are up!

Friday, 12 February 2010

The Last Landscape Fieldtrip...

...was a straightforward trip to Steveston, which is just south of Vancouver. Here are my top 3 picks that I presented for critque in class on Wednesday night:

The Emanating Menace of Beige Food

I have decided to call this picture, 'The Emanating Menace of Beige Food'. Yes, it is perfectly innocent seaside concession stand and yes, I agree that it looks perfectly harmless at first glance. However, as your eyes tune in and you realise that it sells fish and chips, you start to sense the thigh-bulging evil of deep fried beige food emanating from its fat-saturated core!

Mind you, if it gets its supplies from here:

03 DSC_0052

The fish and chips that they sell will be very fresh indeed. This is the Public Fish Wharf. Yes, I know that I was overdoing the creative effects at the moment but hey, I was practising and having fun!

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To round off, here is a straighforward image of a tug boat at work towing two barges of sand or something - just another Saturday by the edge of the Fraser river.

Thursday, 4 February 2010

Landscape Creative Techniques

Last week we did not have a Landscape field trip class. We had a Wednesday evening lecture on 'creative landscape techniques' and after our class, we were released into the wild with an assignment to practice some of them over the weekend.

Now, the Fella and I had booked a road trip to visit the Seattle Boat Show. We headed off last Friday and returned on Sunday. We sort of assumed that we would meander back to Vancouver via the coast to have a look around and complete our assignment en route home.

In retrospect, the problem with this plan was that the Fella decided that he would drive. While this made complete sense at the time (he knows the roads), it's been so long since we've been on a road trip together that I had completely forgotten that he doesn't have a switch for gentle 'touring' driving speed.

Y'know, the kind of driving speed that allows you to pull over easily if you see something that might be worth a closer look or photographing (and perhaps, even posting on this blog). E.g. the first cattle, sheep, goats, llamas and alpacas that I have seen out at pasture since I arrived in North America (all in the course of about 5 miles, on a single stretch of road somewhere NW of Seattle).

Just as an aside: yes, you did read that correctly, I have not knowingly clapped eyes on any farm livestock (other than the occasional horse, do they count?) since I arrived here in October 2008. Yes, I have ventured out into a number of different rural areas around Vancouver but I have not ever seen a single farm animal. This really threw me last year when I did not see any Spring lambs anywhere. As that always used to be one of the uplifting signs of Spring for me!

The Fella appears to be of the firm opinion that all routes should be travelled at the maximum allowable speed, so as not to inconvenience any vehicles that might happen to be travelling behind us. As a result (my camera being safely stowed in the boot), I have no NW US landscape pictures to show you at all - just a frustrating memory of a nice drive with a great landscape and my continuous requests for us to stop, or at least slow down, being ignored. Bah Humbug.

In the end, I insisted that we stop in White Rock (in Canada, just over the border) to scrape together some shots for last night's class.

Here are my results. I am not sure that I like them but at least I have tried them and I know what effect they produce now:

01 Graduated Filter Test - Sky Tint Issue

Creative Tools/Techniques: Graduated Neutral Density Filter, Polariser & Long Exposure. What does this do? It helps to balance sky/foreground, remove glare from the surface of the ocean and blurs the people. I am not sure that I have the hang of this yet as the foreground looks a bit too overexposed and I really don't like the odd pink-brown colour that the two filters seems to have stained the sky.

02 Graduated Filter Test - DeSat

Creative Tools/Techniques: polariser and a graduated neutral density filter. Reduced water glare and helped to enhance sky detail. I converted this image to black and white afterwards in order to combat the pinky-brown stain problem in the sky area.

03 Zooming Pick

Creative Tools/Techniques: filters as before and zooming lens during a long exposure to create feeling of movement. Well it sort of does, I guess - I don't like this effect at all!

04 Multiple Exposure Test Pick

Creative Tools/Techniques: polariser to manage water glare and multiple exposure to capture water movement at 3 different times during the same wave.
The other 'in camera' creative techniques suggested in our class were:
  • panning the camera to capture a moving object and blur the background. We did try to pan on some birds but they were too far away for our pictures to be effective!
  • taking pictures with a very high ISO set on the camera to create pictures that are deliberately 'noisy'. I forgot to take any pictures like this!
  • spinning the camera during a long exposure. I don't have a safe way to do this without risking my camera. I did try flipping it from horizontal to vertical but um, the images were shockingly bad so I gave them the boot!

Can anyone else think of any other 'in camera' techniques that give unusual results?

Tuesday, 2 February 2010

Is it wrong...

...to like some of your own pictures sometimes?!

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South Pacific, 5th Avenue, Seattle

I realise that I have some ghosting in the bottom of the picture (passing car headlights) but I love how the number 5 appears to spin at the top of the brightly lit theatre sign - it looks like it is spinning like something out of that film The Exorcist!

Thursday, 28 January 2010

The Beautiful City & Its Homeless Community

Now that I have seen this, I am not sure that I should attempt to take another landscape image within the downtown Vancouver area! This art project is a very cool time lapse photography video of Vancouver set to even cooler music:

Personally, I think that this is a beautiful piece of work. I find it a good representation of the glossy parts of downtown Vancouver. I suspect that videos/images like this will go a long way to perpetuate the idea that Vancouver is one of the best cities to live in on the planet?

I tend to think of downtown Vancouver as being a bit like the City of London on a smaller scale. It is a blend of smart high rise office and residential developments. It has shopping streets plus the usual entertainment, restaurant and bar type places.

For me, in style and location, it appears to sit a bit separate to the rest of the city (in the way that the City of London feels like a distinct but sort of separate part of London to me). It is a dense mix of metal, glass, brick and concrete. It has a big park and it is surrounded on 3 sides by water. Downtown is reached from both North and South Vancouver by bridge.

The remainder of the city and the Greater Vancouver area is a bit less 'glamourous city' in its look and feel. It has quite a different sort of character and feel. Many residential homes are timber-framed. The commercial and retail areas tend to have a lower profile too (storey-wise).

In order to balance the content and mood of the above time-lapse video, I think that it is also fair to say that there are certain areas of the city that have serious, ongoing problems with poverty, homelessness, prostitution and drug use e.g. Downtown East Side (DTES). In addition, there are other areas within Greater Vancouver that have a real problem with gang violence - it seems that the recession last year did not just hit legitimate businesses hard.

So it's not all pretty scenery backdrop, buildings and lights here in Vancouver.

I am not suggesting that we do not have these problems in the UK. We do. However, I am still shocked by the numbers of homeless people that I see wandering the streets here.

DSC_0011 01

I snapped this image as part of a class photography assignment during a fieldtrip downtown last Autumn. Even though I consider it to be a picture of two people helping each other out, I still felt uncomfortable about taking it. I read a book about the DTES called, 'Hope in Shadows,' which helped me to pinpoint exactly why I wasn't happy. As a result, I have not taken another image like this since and I am only posting it now for awareness raising purposes.

People pushing supermarket trolleys stacked high with bags is not a sight that is confined to the DTES either. There are many more people living rough in parks and out in the suburbs. The homeless people where I live congregate in the local supermarket and off-licence car park - they sit outside, beg or busk for money and they trawl the local alleys for bottles to recycle*.

The city opened over 160 new winter shelter beds in the past month but they will close them again in April. While I am delighted that some more homeless people now have a safe roof over their heads, I confess that I am suspicious about the timing.

These shelter beds opened in the month before the Olympics and they are due to shut in the month after the Olympics end. The bad weather here kicks off in September/October. Where were those beds when temperatures went down to -7 degrees celcius and it hosepiped down with rain last year?

This topic feels like it is a boil that is just too big and complex for me to lance properly on this blog. I do not feel well-enough informed to do it justice. (It is why I have not blogged about it before. Actually, I did not set out to when I started to write this post today.)

So if the topic of homelessness in Vancouver interests you, here are links to:

  • Operation Pheonix, which is the campaign that was run by a local newspaper here over the past year. If nothing else, it gives a snapshot view of kinds of problems that exist in the DTES;
  • Hope in Shadows which is a annual community photography project for DTES residents. It is a really positive project that I support. Their book is an illuminating, if extremely depressing, read; and
  • Greater Vancouver Food Bank Society which is a non-profit organization that provides food and related assistance across Greater Vancouver.

Don't get me wrong, Vancouver is a nice enough place - I have just never been able to reconcile these two very different aspects of the city in my head.

With thanks to Katy, I have added these links which relate to the Vancouver Winter Olympics and relocation of Whistler's and the city's homeless for the duration of the games:

I do understand the issues around security for the Olympic venues. Yet there is still something extremely grotesque to me about shuffling homeless people out of the way for the expensive frills, pomp and ceremony of the Games. Heaven forbid that the world should see anything other than partying tourists, Olympic officials, athletes and Official Game Sponsors advertising** behind the heads of presenters during tv broadcasts during February and March.

* Here you still pay a bottle and can deposit (in the way that I remember that we used to in the UK when I was little). You get your money back if you return your empties to the store. However, many people simply put their bottles and cans out in their recyling box where they become a potential source of income for people living on the street. I hesitate to say, as a result but, I notice that many stores have a limit on the number of bottles and cans that a single person can return at any one time/on any day.

**Apparently VANOC spent $40million on procuring all commercial advertising space across the city during the Games for Official Sponsors (so that the city is suitably badged behind tv presenters' heads). The local media have been having a bit of fun with the fact that VANOC officials are (apparently) driving around town, reporting incidents of ambush marketing and making people take down unauthorised Olympic symbols etc. So we are now a city advertising a lot of Macdonalds and Coca Cola?

Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Family Affair / Ok, it's like this...

...I do not seem to be making anything at the moment. I am not knitting, not spinning, not quilting or making anything else out of fabric. (This is a slight issue as I have a quilt class tomorrow evening and no, I have not made any of the squares set in the class that I attended back in November. Hmm.)

However, I have been taking lots of photographs and I am really loving it. I also want to find ways to combine my photography with my making - I have lots (and lots) of ideas but they seem to be trapped in my head waiting for me to discover the correct technique to make them real and not look completely crap!

So at the moment, I am biding my time, collecting images that I like. With this in mind, I am doing two photography classes at the moment - Advanced Studio Lighting and a Landscape Photography workshop.

The Advanced Studio Lighting course has really only just started. We've had an intro and a kit orientation but we do not go into the studio to start our practical work until next Wednesday. The Landscape Photography course is being taken by the tutor I studied Macro Photography with last term.

However, this time, I am not taking her class alone. I am taking it with the Fella - so this class has become a family affair! The Fella has dragged out his 35mm SLR camera and this class seems to becoming a battle of technologies between us (digital vs. film)!

That said, I am being helpful. I mucked out, hoovered, dusted and scrubbed the Fella's darkroom area of the basement on Monday night (untouched since about 1996). On Tuesday I picked him up some fresh developing chemicals and last night? He made some B&W prints.

I even shot a roll of black and white film with his camera last week and I cannot wait to get down there (now that it is up and running) in order to do some printing of my own. - I am SOOOOO excited about it (oddly, for someone who should be burying herself in Photoshop post production techniques for her digital camera).

For fun, here are the photos that we took to our first two critique sessions. Now, we know that these are not perfect. The idea is that you take images to class that you sort of like but that are not quite right i.e. you need feedback from the class on what you can do really nail the shot that you want.

Also, because we are teaming up (as a couple) on our field trips, we are consciously trying to take in pictures that are different - even though we are taking pictures in the same place.

Field Trip One: Stanley Park
Please click to enlarge images

Fella's 35mm Film Images

Shot By The Fella
Lighthouse, Stanley Park

Shot By The Fella Shot By The Fella
Olympic Barge & Lost Lagoon, Stanley Park

My Digital Images

01 DSC_0057 - Landscape Pick 01
Lost Lagoon, Stanley Park

02 DSC_0196 - Landscape Pick 02 03 DSC_0225 - Landscape Pick 03

Two Images from Trails around Beaver Lake, Stanley Park

Field Trip Two: UBC Area
Please click to enlarge images

Fella's 35mm Photos

Shot By The Fella
View From Old Marine Drive (UBC)

Shot By The Fella
Log Detail - Wreck Beach

Shot By The Fella
Log Leading Line - Wreck Beach

My Digital Images

DSC_0262 - Pick 002
Reeds - Wreck Beach

DSC_0100 - Pick 001
Sky above Iona Beach

DSC_0434 - Pick 03
Stream Detail - Wreck Beach

We have another two classes and one more field trip left before the end of this workshop. Plus we have to come up with a final project for our last class and we are feeling a bit stumped for ideas...do we collaborate (okay with our tutor) or do we attempt completely separate projects?!

I favour collaboration because the Fella works full time (I have only just started to look for work) so I have more time on my hands (e.g. I helped him to digitise and crop his prints). However, I get the sneaking feeling that the Fella is starting to get a bit competitive and may wish to complete a project on his own?!