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January 20, 2013

And The 8 O’clock Alarm Rings

Take52 Challenge – Week 3

“8 O’clock.”  It doesn’t leave much room for interpretation; but does give you an opportunity to think about 14 different options, or less, if your 8 O’clocks repeat in any way.

I briefly considered taking my photograph at 20:00.  On Monday it would’ve been a photograph of my runners, a sweat towel, and a water bottle.  It would’ve been an accurate description of my Monday nights spinning.  Throughout the rest of the week, by 8pm I can be found on the couch with the television on.  Depending on the night, I might also be preparing my lessons for the next day’s classes.  Truthfully with this being the first week of second term I was pretty well burnt out by the time I made it home at the end of the day.  I had no motivation to photograph in the evening.

You can typically find me doing one of two things at 08:00.  If it’s one of my four teaching days, I’ll be standing in Starbucks waiting for my Grande – Triple-Shot – Half-Sweet – Non-Fat – No-Whip – No-Foam – Mocha.  Otherwise I’m tucked into bed, hopefully sleeping soundly.  It was clear that I wouldn’t be capable of taking a photograph while I was sleeping, so a photograph at Starbucks it will be.

This idea was still “fresh” in my mind from last week’s assignment.  It was one of my many ideas to shoot photographs of the coffee plant at Starbucks.  I simply never got around to asking the Baristas for permission, and never brought my camera along with me.  This week was different.  On Friday morning I brought my camera with me inside to grab my coffee.  After Bill, a barista, took my personal cup I asked if it would be alright to photograph the coffee plant that was sitting at the end of the counter.  Bill had no problem with it.  After being served my coffee by Judy, I also asked her, since there was a chance she may walk into the background.  Judy didn’t have a problem with it either.

I made my way through the crowd of caffeine addicts to get to the end of the bar.  I moved the coffee plant from its original position, over to the left about 1 foot.  Placed my freshly brewed mocha slightly in front of the plant.  Then I started shooting.  I remembered to change my ISO, something I usually forget.  Then the aperture, I knew I wanted the focus to be on the plant itself.

I wanted to attempt to capture the calm before the storm.  With coffee in hand the warmth comes over me and I'm able to take my last deep breathes before the day truly begins.  I know once I arrive at school I'll be going until I'm in my car driving back home.  I love my morning ritual of my Starbucks.  It sets the tone for my day.  I know without the caffeine I'll feel lost.

Aperture Priority; ISO 3200; Shutter 1/40; Aperture f4.5 ; Focal Length 35mm; ev 0; WB Temperature - 10000 K

This was my original composition for the photograph.  My blinders were on and I didn't notice the negative space.  I think I was also lacking the creativity in the morning.  Looking at it now, I think the composition would improve if the plant's and the tumbler's positions were switched.

Aperture Priority; ISO 3200; Shutter 1/50; Aperture f4.5; Focal Length 35mm; ev 0; WB Auto

Here I wanted to try something a little different with the cropping.  Trying to minimize the negative space I didn't even realize was there.  And I'm prone to Black & White.  I love the deeper contrast. 

Aperture Priority; ISO 3200; Shutter 1/40; Aperture f4.5; Focal Length 35mm; ev 0; WB Fluorescent - Sodium Vapour Lamps

I’m not as happy with my composition this week.  Looking at the photographs on the computer I’ve now noticed a large negative space on the left.  I don’t know how I missed it while I was shooting.  I was probably subconsciously thinking about getting to school, and to try to avoid annoying any other customers that were in need of their caffeine fix.  All in all, maybe a little rushed.  

As always I welcome any thoughtful critiques.

January 16, 2013

An Adventure of a Life Time

Cycling Throughout SouthEast Asia!

As I write my brother, Houston, and his fiancĂ©e, Johnny, are flying high in the skies!  They’re embarking on a trip of a lifetime.  Leaving their home in Vancouver, BC they will land in Singapore, open up the boxes containing their bicycles, assemble their bicycles, and start peddling.  So long as their money last, they will not be returning home for another eleven months!  Houston and Johnny will spend the next eleven months cycling throughout SouthEast Asia.  “On [their] loaded touring bikes [they’ll] be cycling throughout Asia past cities, beaches, jungles, deserts, and the highest mountain in the world..”  (  Their journey will begin in Singapore and finish in India.  If they hold true to their plans the two of them will each put over 15, 000 kilometers on their bikes travelling through nine countries.  I don’t know about you; but to me that is a concept I cannot comprehend.

It’s important for you to know, that when I say eleven months and that they will finish in India, that’s simply the current plan.  On Houston’s first cycling tour he had only intended on being gone half a year.  This was when he was cycling from the Southern-most tip in South America to the Northern-most point in South America.  Once reaching his initial “final destination” he had come to the conclusion that this ending would just be anti-climatic.  Instead he flew to the “0km” marker in Eastern Canada in St. John’s, Newfoundland to ride his way past home to the “0km” marker in Western Canada in Victoria, BC.  His finial “final destination” was now going to be Victoria, BC adding on another few months to the initial half a year.  So, you can see that with Houston plans do change. 

This trip will be a hard trip for me to sit through.  My brother is four years younger than I am, but over the past couple of decades we’ve come quite close.  Even though we don’t always agree or see eye-to-eye, we both respect each other and the lives we lead.  After I graduated from highschool, I was the one that would pick Houston up every day (or as often as I could) so he wouldn’t have to walk the long route home.  For a period of time, again when Houston was still in highschool, he and I would go out to dinner just the two of us once a week.  Houston is the one that first got me on a snowboard and taught me how to board.  Now with Johnny all the active things we used to do are done with the three of us.  We go snowshoeing, snowboarding, geocaching and every once and a while we just hang out.  Not to mention I’m still a chauffeur.  Since they don’t own a car, I’m the one that drives them out to our mom’s for family dinners.

Johnny, Houston, and I on New Years day this year.  Snowshoeing around Lost Lake in Whistler, BC.

I’m jealous and envious of them and their abilities to quit their jobs and simply travel.  Jealous of the fact that they both have jobs that they can quit and return to with very little difficulty.  Being a teacher, that’s not the case for me.  I’m envious of the destinations that they will be able to experience.  Many of the countries they will tour through are ones that I would like to make my way to in the upcoming years.  I’ve only been to a couple of them, Thailand and Vietnam, and that was over 12 years ago!  I’m envious of they way they live their lives in such a care free way.  Don’t get me wrong I don’t live a strict regimented live myself.  And I LOVE everything in my life!  But, I’m at a different point in my life with my career going in the direction I want it to.  And my family couldn’t be any better; I love my life with Jeremy (my boyfriend, partner, other-half, common-law husband, husband, what ever you want to call it) and our two boyz (cats), Sam and Gimli.  There’s not one thing I’d change about our life.  We get to travel every year 3-4 weeks at a time.

It’s just that it’s human nature to want what you don’t have.

I was so excited for their trip that I decided that Houston and Johnny needed a special gift.  I had customized t-shirts and hats made for both of them.  Hoping that they wear them throughout their trip, of course not when they’re peddling away, since it’s not technical gear.  I also thought that it migh be a way for them to spread the word about their blog.

Johnny and Houston sporting their new threads.

Johnny showing off his new HoJoBiking hat with Houston looking on.

The excitement grows, as I know Houston and Johnny only have another 60 minutes in the air before they land at 5:30 am in Singapore.  Over the next eleven months I will be following their adventures and watching their love for one and other grow as I read their blog, HoJo Biking: Bicycle Touring SouthEast Asia, and follow their tweets @HoustonMarsh and @hojobiking. 

If you, yourselves, have any interest in living vicariously through two adventurous people I suggest you follow along too.  And if you’re interested in the cycling tours, check out Houston’s blog from his trip across South America and Canada at Vagabonding around South America & Canada.  Houston will also be posting their current trip there.

Houston & Johnny, I wish you both all the best!  And can’t wait to hear about all of your adventures.  Johnny you better make sure that you both email us on a regular basis back home.   Love you both!!

January 14, 2013

Something a Little Fresh

Take52 Challenge – Week 2

This week was a challenge for me.  Almost immediately I my idea; I was going to photograph of Fresh Water.  Thinking rivers and lakes since I teach all about their properties in Earth Science, this idea was fresh in my mind.  Unfortunately someone beat me to the punch and shot photos of water. 

Then to the fish stalls on Granville Island.  Had all the intensions in the world to head there on my day off during the week.  Well, apparently I wanted to be lazy and never made it out of the house that day.

Onto the next idea; a freshly brewed cup of coffee, my morning ritual.  Only I was going to add a twist of including an actual coffee plant and freshly ground espresso beans.  I’ve been keeping my eyes open for coffee plants in the local garden stores for months now, only I still haven’t been able to find one.  I look at a coffee plant every morning before work, as I await my Grande – Triple Shot – ½ Sweet – Non-Fat – No-Whip – No-Foam – Mocha at Starbucks.  I thought about asking if I could borrow their plant but never got around to it.

Fourth idea; freshly cut oranges slightly squeezed so it would look extra juicy.  Only by the time I got around to photographing the oranges were all gone.  And by this point there were photos of lemons, limes, and oranges that had been posted.

Lost count yet?  Fresh baking, I was going to bake my favorite oatmeal muffins and have a nice perfectly square piece of butter melting on it.  Then I thought to myself, "then I'd have to eat them."  And this wouldn't fit into my attempts at getting back into healthier eating after a couple of weeks of over indulgence.  Ah well...maybe in a months time for a special treat.  (My muffins are extra fattening with the amount of butter I use).

I was stuck; I knew I’d find something eventually that I wanted to attempt to photograph.  Ah… “fresh” threads?  The new t-shirt and hat I had designed and made for my brother’s upcoming cycling trip.  Although, the term “fresh threads” didn’t quite have the right ring.  Maybe “new threads”; but not fresh threads.

In the back of my mind I had the idea of a “fresh perspective” and was going to take a photograph from a new perspective.  A perspective you normally wouldn’t encounter.

But that’s okay…Sunday night I saw it…it was calling to me.  A pomegranate.  It’s a fruit and fruit are fresh.  And there it was!  I knew I wanted it to have a strong contrast to bring out the red, so after being cut and half of it seeded it went on display on a white plate.  And a white backdrop was added too; okay it was a piece of paper that I had taped onto the backsplash of the kitchen counter. *I couldn’t get any of the preset White Balances to bring out the correct colors, so I used a gray card to create a Custom White Balance.  Due to the slower shutter speed I had to use a tripod too.

Aperture Priority; ISO 400; Shutter 1/2; Aperture f5.6; Focal Length 80mm; ev 0; WB Custom*

I’m quite happy with the results.  As always I welcome any thoughtful critiques.

January 06, 2013

Celebrating the New Year

Take52 Challenge – Week 1

There is always something worth celebrating in life.  It’s important not just to simply the “special” moments when we have planned or scheduled celebrations; but to remember to celebrate the “ordinary” and the everyday occasions as well.

As part of my Take52 Challenge I selected a photograph I took while snowshoeing around Lost Lake in Whistler, BC with my brother and his fiancĂ© Johnny.  This year for Christmas I put only a few items to purchase on my Wishlist, the main component of my wishlist was activities to do with the “giver” to create memories.  Why have someone buy me something I can easily go to the store to get myself.  I’d much rather be able to spend time creating memories with those I love.

One activity I placed on my Wishlist was a day snowshoeing.  My brother, Houston, and Johnny had planned a day for us to drive to Whistler, snowshoe around Lost Lake on some of the most beautiful trails, and warm-up while sitting in the Village sipping on our coffees.  It was a gorgeous, bluebird day; I was almost disappointed I wasn’t boarding instead.  But due to their upcoming yearlong cycling trip throughout Asia, they didn’t want to risk any injuries.  I don’t blame them at all.

I found myself carrying the camera ready to shoot everything I encountered.  The white contrasting with the blue sky and the green of the firs peaking through was stunning.

I’ve whittled the hundreds of photographs I took that day to two. 

The following photography is of an ornament hanging from a Christmas tree along one of the trails.  From this Christmas tree you can look over to the runs on Blackcomb Mountain.  Although I didn’t want to focus on the runs themselves, I wanted all focus to be on the ornament in celebrating the Christmas season.

Aperture Priority; ISO 400; Shutter1/1250; Aperture f22; Focal Length 35mm; ev -4.0; WB Flash*

The second photography is of Houston and Johnny posing along the trail.  I was more interested in telling the story about our day snowshoeing; that’s why I focused on the trail sign instead of the two of them in the background.  However, it was important for me to include them in the photograph, otherwise the whole story wouldn’t have been told.  You may not be able to recognize their features but to me the scream.

Aperture Priority; ISO 400; Shutter 1/400 ; Aperture f5.6; Focal Length 35mm; ev 0; WB Flash*

I love the fact that I’m able to celebrate the beginning of the New Year with Houston and Johnny.  Over the past couple of years I’ve tried more and more to make an effort to spend quality time with my close friends, those that I consider family, and family.  As a bonus was able to start off the New Year in fine form doing something active and outdoors.

This New Year’s Day I was celebrating family, new beginnings, healthy/active lives, and the beauty of nature.

*I must have accidently chosen a White Balance of Flash.  Most of the day I spent with my White Balance in Daylight, Shade, or Cloudy.

Photography – My New Year’s Resolution

Growing up I was enthralled with photography!  It's my New Year's Resolution in 2013 to continue to develop my photography skills and to keep my DLSR with me whenever possible, if not a point-and-shoot, and at the least my iPhone.  I want to develop my artistic eye and to capture the objects, the subjects that tug at me.

My dad, although he had a regular full-time job, was a professional photographer.  On weekends, and weeknights during the long summer days, he’d be off taking family portraits or wedding portraits.  I of course wasn’t allowed to accompany him to the wedding sessions, but would often go as his assistant to shoot family portraits.  I’d be the “sit-in” before the clients arrived.  He was great!  I’d sit there in awe, especially when it came time to developing in the dark-room and retouching by hand. 

For himself personally though, he’d prefer the abstract concepts of photographing everyday items found in unusual places, or landscapes.  I’ll have to dig out a copy of my favorite piece, it’s a close up of a doll he’d found laying on the ground with runny make-up.  He traditionally shot everything in black and white. 

For my 16th birthday he bought me my first film camera, a Nikon D50.  I was so super excited by it!  I had been taking photography classes at school and was spending all my spare time using one of my mom’s old cameras.  Throughout the next couple of years I’d play with the camera, never spending lots of time to perfect the skill.  You know how busy highschool can get in your senior years (I was taking advanced classes and lots of extra time went into homework, and I began playing more sports).  Photography went by the wayside for a while.  Then something happened, I’d lost my mentor when my dad passed away.  I’d played with the camera and in the darkroom for a while.  Until the chemicals that were on-hand expired.  There was no sense spending the money on the chemicals when I was living 50 minutes from the family home, in which the darkroom was located. 

I continued to take photographs when travelling with my film camera, some photos I loved, some were okay, others (most) I was frustrated with that they were “noisy.”  Getting good film, with decent ISO,  in South East Asia was apparently hard.  So that was it…the D50 was put away and the small digital point-and-shoot was bought.  I’d lived with the point-and-shoot for nearly a decade before I decided it was time to buy a DSLR.  Last spring I began to realize that I was missing something, and now that I had time to spend on my own hobbies I wanted to get back into photography. 

Last spring before heading off on another trip to Europe in the summer, I was adamant that I was going to get a DSLR for a birthday gift to self.  I didn’t get the camera I ultimately wanted, the Nikon D7000.  I just didn’t have the money to buy it nor could I justify spending the money on a camera I knew I wouldn’t need while I was learning to photography all over again.  Instead I bought myself the older version, the Nikon D90.  My choice was between these two cameras so I could continue to use my old lenses, without having to start my collection from scratch again.

Shot of Mont St Michel from the Emerald Coast, France.  ISO 3200; Shutter 1/3200; Aperture f14.0; Focal Length 78mm

This fall I enrolled myself in a ten-week Beginner’s Introduction to Digital SLR course with Vancouver Photo Workshops, a great place to learn.  Throughout those ten weeks I reviewed some concepts I was familiar with, and learned many that I was not familiar with.  I’ll share some of these photographs at a future date.

Shot of Downtown Vancouver from Granville Island.  Aperture Priority; ISO 200; Shutter 1/3; Ap f4.0; Focal Length 35mm; WB Auto

And here we are today, the start of a new year.  I was going to continue taking photography classes, although I realized that this term was going to be a busy term with my teaching.  So I decided that I would need something to entice me to keep my camera in hand and out of the closet gathering dust.  I am going to challenge myself to take the CameraShyTake52Challenge.  My goal will be to complete the weekly challenges and post the photographs here on my blog.  (Please note that the photographs posted will have little to no editing done, since my computer lacks any memory space to actually work on the photographs and install any editing software).

Wish me luck!  And good luck to those of you participating in the challenge.