Downtown Toronto Panorama at Night

Visit to Toronto

I had very little time to take photos in Toronto, just one night after work.  Ventured to the islands off of downtown and managed to get a few nice shots.  I'll try to update this post once I edit a few more.

Downtown Toronto Panorama at Night
Toronto, Canada

Dale Chihuly Glass Art : 2013-01-05 : Display 7

The Wonderful Art of Dale Chihuly

I have been a huge fan of Dale Chihuly for many years.   He is a glass artist from Tacoma, Washington (USA) and now has an amazing gallery in Seattle called Chihuly Garden and Glass.  I don't have too much time to ramble on about each piece, each one can speak for itself.  His incredible versatility and technical execution makes each piece special.  I hope to own a few of his works one day.

Dale Chihuly Glass Art : 2013-01-05 : Boats

Dale Chihuly Glass Art : 2013-01-05 : Display 2

Dale Chihuly Glass Art : 2013-01-05 : Bowls

Dale Chihuly Glass Art : 2013-01-05 : Garden 3

Dale Chihuly Glass Art : 2013-01-05 : Chandelier 3 BW

Dale Chihuly Glass Art : 2013-01-05 : Display 7

Dale Chihuly Glass Art : 2013-01-05 : Boats BW

Dale Chihuly Glass Art : 2013-01-05 : Bowls 7

Dale Chihuly Glass Art : 2013-01-05 : Paintings

Dale Chihuly Glass Art : 2013-01-05 : Chandelier

Dale Chihuly Glass Art : 2013-01-05 : Bowl detail

 

Dale Chihuly Glass Art : 2013-01-05 : Bowls on Table

 

A bunch more photos from the trip.  Click any image for a bigger version.

 

And one photo from our journey back.  Some random pub in a town I no longer remember.

2013-01-06-Seattle Road Trip : Pub


Graffiti in Santiago, Chile

Exploring Santiago

Though I'm posting this in September, the photos were taken in March. It has taken me ages to find the time to edit and post these shots but such is the life with young twins. I have been to Chile several times in the past but often don't have time to explore due to my work schedule. However, during this trip I had an extra day and decided to explore the city of Santiago.

I contacted Cat at Foto Ruta to see if she had time to plan a custom tour. Not knowing the city well, it's nice to have a local show you around. Cat was very accommodating to my schedule and interests and we planned an afternoon/sunset shoot.  We met at the GAM (Center of Arts, Culture, and People) and wandered the streets for hours from there.

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Not far from the GAM is the "Cerro Santa Lucía".

My favorite photo from the fountain did not turn out great but I had a good laugh at the little boy playing in the water.

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Here are my tour guides for the afternoon, Cat and Alex.  I never did see the photo from the other side :)2015-03-19-Santiago-Chile-0257-MKH

I did try my hand at some sweeping shots of traffic.  Need more practice.

A few shots while walking through the streets.

We then made it to this great plaza where guys sit around and play chess.  Maybe women play too, but likely few and far between. Some interesting characters, and a bit of street art too.

I love old and interesting churches, this one was beautiful.
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Caught this guy in the plaza, his shirt says "I shoot people".  So do I :)

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Some fantastic murals, they were huge and very well done.

This young guy looked relaxed and waved to us.  I like the long shadow in the waning daylight.2015-03-19-Santiago-Chile-0426-MKH

We got into an area of town filled with graffiti.  This is not the crappy work you see in a subway tunnel, but works of art by commissioned local artists.  It was brilliant.

My guides Cat and Alex looking for shots.

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Even the people around here are covered in art.

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A few shots from a rooftop to finish the day.  Thanks for the great tour Cat and Alex!

 

The next day, I only had a few hours before my flight but enough time to visit Centro Artesanal Los Dominicos.  This is a small village full of Chilean handicrafts and a farmers market.  Worth a visit.

My final stop for the day, and a place I have visited twice before, was the Cementerio General de Santiago.  It's an interesting place to roam around, with a blend of old and new.  I'll likely visit again in the future.

I "almost" sat on this at the end of the day.  No idea what it is but it was covered with long, hard, and incredibly sharp spines.  It hurt to even pick it up, so I'm glad I didn't sit on it. It would have been a LONG plane ride home.

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Wrocław, Poland : Cathedral of St. John the Baptist At Night : 2015-02-13

A Short Visit to Wrocław, Poland

Being a native of Poland (specifically Łódź), I was happy to book a return visit to my homeland.  I haven't been back for many years, and it being a work trip I didn't have much time for sightseeing.  I flew to Wrocław via Frankfurt, and while at the Frankfurt airport I had the chance to stretch my legs so I took my camera along. They have a great kids area complete with a plane and a soft rubber floor.  I didn't have the twins with me, so they couldn't enjoy playing pilots.  Click any photo to enlarge.

I also got my first glimpse of the new Airbus A380, the largest passenger airliner in the world.  I actually saw many of them so Frankfurt must be a hub for these monsters.  It's an impressive machine.

I spent my week in Lubin, Poland and unfortunately have just one photo to share.  I took this at a park near the Astone Hotel on a cold and foggy morning.  The toned black and white conversion was done in Silver Efex Pro.

Lubin, Poland : Moody Morning : 2015-02-13

 

The night before my flight home, I did have a few hours to spend walking around Wrocław.   It was late so I was unable to enter any of the fantastic cathedrals and churches in the city (I am fond of these places: 1, 2).  It was also very cold and I was poorly prepared for the elements :)  Regardless, I did get a few photos from this beautiful city.  Next time I intend to spend more time there.

First, just a quick shot as I was on my way to the city square (Rynek).

Wrocław, Poland : Church near Rynek : 2015-02-08
St. Elizabeth's Church / Kościół Garnizonowy pw. Św. Elżbiety

A quick stroll through the city square, very beautiful and not something I find in my home town of Vancouver :)

Wrocław, Poland : Rynek / Market Square : 2015-02-08
City Square Wroclaw / Rynek we Wrocławiu
Wrocław, Poland : Rynek / Market Square 2 : 2015-02-08
City Square Wroclaw / Rynek we Wrocławiu

As you may notice, it's now dark.  I may have stopped for a pint, maybe.  Below is a photo of the University of Wroclaw with the River Odra in the foreground.

 

 

Wrocław, Poland : Wrocław University At Night : 2015-02-13
University of Wrocław / Uniwersytet Wrocławski

My chilly walk continued and I was treated with a great view of the Cathedral Island (cathedral right and church of the Holy Cross [Kościół Świętego Krzyża], left).

Wrocław, Poland : Cathedral of St. John the Baptist At Night : 2015-02-13
Cathedral of St. John the Baptist / Archikatedra św. Jana Chrzciciela

Getting to Cathedral Island meant crossing the Tumski Bridge (Most Tumski).  From WikipediaTumski Bridge is also called Lovers Bridge, Cathedral Bridge or Green Bridge. It's a place of enamoured tradition for lovers. The bridge is full of padlocks which lovers leave to cherish their feelings. An important part of the ceremony is to throw the key into the Odra river.

 

Wrocław, Poland : Tumski Bridge / Lovers Bridge : 2015-02-13
Tumski Bridge / Most Tumski

Now on Cathedral Island, the Church of the Holy Cross.

Wrocław, Poland : Kolegiata Świętego Krzyża i św. Bartłomieja we Wrocławiu : 2015-02-13
Church of the Holy Cross / Kościół Świętego Krzyża

At the side of the big Cathedral.  Very sorry I was unable to go inside.

Wrocław, Poland : Cathedral of St. John the Baptist At Night 2 : 2015-02-13
Cathedral of St. John the Baptist

Now off Cathedral Island, I took a few photos of the National Museum.  Such great architecture, I spent some time here.

Wrocław, Poland : National Museum : 2015-02-13
National Museum / Muzeum Narodowe we Wrocławiu
Wrocław, Poland : National Museum Black & White 2 : 2015-02-13
National Museum / Muzeum Narodowe we Wrocławiu

 

 

Wrocław, Poland : National Museum Black & White : 2015-02-13
National Museum / Muzeum Narodowe we Wrocławiu

Looking back towards Cathedral Island, I took one more shot before heading back to my hotel cold and happy.

Wrocław, Poland : Cathedral of St. John the Baptist At Night 3 : 2015-02-13
Cathedral Island, Wroclaw

 

 

 

 


Komatsu Haul Truck Black & White : Copper Mine, Calama, Chile

A Trip to Chile

I visited Chile in May 2013, so this post is LONG overdue.  In my defense though, two cute babies arrived and those little things take up all of my time :)  So after months of inactivity, here are a few photos from the trip.

I landed in Santiago and had a day to explore the city with my colleague Jamie.  We decided to go for a walk without having a destination in mind. and as we left the hotel the sun was reflecting off the large tower.  Sadly, I think the effect is visible due to air pollution.

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We walked along the canal, and came across several interesting sights.

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We saw a large statue at the top of a hill and decided that was a good destination.  It turned out to be the Santuario de la Inmaculada Concepciónand it was a much farther walk than we had expected.

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Half way up the hill, you can see the tower in the distance where we started our walk.x2013-05-25-Chile-May-2013-2777-MKH

Finally at the top, tired and needing a rest.2013-05-25-Chile-May-2013-2798-MKH

Enjoying the view.

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A few more shots from the top of the mountain (click to see bigger).

We found a rail car that could take us back down, which was great as we didn't want to walk all the way back down.  Using Trip Advisor, I found that the cemetery is worth visiting.  Despite being tired, we decided to make our way down there since it wasn't far.  Along the way, we came across some interesting graffiti.

And a dog that didn't like me taking his photo.

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We finally made it to the Cementerio General, and I'm glad we made the effort.  It is an amazing spot, with a lot of old crypts and gravestones.  The sun was starting to set and we just walked around looking at the interesting sights.  This is the entrance gate.

Cementerio General Santiago Chile

Inside one of the buildings, there are many like this. Each plaque a person's final resting place.
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Some are obviously very expensive, with marble and stained glass windows. They are beautiful.

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Cementerio General Santiago Chile

 

Others are older and less well maintained, but equally interesting and with a lot of character.

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A few more shots. This is a spot I will have to come back to, it's a fantastic place to walk around.

That was it for Santiago, not a city you can see in one day but we did our best.  Must have walked 20Km in total.  The next day, we took a tour to the Casablanca Valley, well known for it's white wines.  The tour would visit several wineries, with a sampling at each one of course.  First up was Indomita, with a great view and a beautiful estate.

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A few shots during a tour of the winery.2013-05-26-Chile-May-2013-2901-MKH_HDR-Edit

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The name of the second winery escapes me.  It was smaller and used more traditional techniques.  If you recognize it, leave a comment and I'll update the post.  Thanks!

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Here they are making balsamic vinegar.  As the vinegar ages it reduces in volume so they pour it into ever smaller barrels.2013-05-26-Chile-May-2013-2931-MKH-Edit

The final winery was Casas del Bosqe.  Another beautiful spot where we sampled wines and had an excellent lunch.

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The next day, I caught an early flight to Calama, which is located in the Atacama Desert.  The Atacama is the driest place on earth, receiving almost no rainfall.  Some weather stations have NEVER received rain!  These are a couple of iphone photos from the plane as we were leaving Santiago.  There are still clouds here, in the Atacama there are only clear skies.

Chile iPhone 5 : From Plane : Atacama Desert

 

Chile iPhone 5 : From Plane : Atacama Desert

 

This shot is on the approach to Calama.  A bizarre landscape featuring no plants.  In the bottom of this photos, there is a small river that supports a small group of shrubs.  Beyond that, it's  bleak but strangely beautiful as well.

Chile iPhone 5 : From Plane : Atacama Desert 3

 

I was in the Atacama to visit a copper mine in the region.  This is where the big trucks live.

Komatsu Haul Truck Black & White : Copper Mine, Calama, Chile

Chile: Komatsu Haul Truck 360 Ton - Antofagasta

 

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It's hard to visualize how big these trucks really are.  The tires are 4.3m (14') tall, here is a shot of me standing next to one (I'm 1.8m or 6' tall).

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And a few small trucks too.

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From the mine, I went to Antofagasta which is a port city in the north of Chile.  Despite it's proximity to the coast, it is still extremely dry.  While working in the office, I had a little friend visit me.

Chile iPhone 5 : From Plane : Antofagasta Buzzard

While in Antofagasta, I made a quick stop at the Ruinas de Huanchaca.  These are the ruins of an old silver smelter, now a National Historic Landmark.

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Inside the museum is NASA's moon buggy.  They tested this buggy in the Atacama Desert because of the similarity to the moon and mars. 2013-05-31-Chile-May-2013-3124-MKH_HDR-2

The ruins are opposite the Enjoy casino and hotel, where I stayed for a few nights.

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Towards the end of my visit, a few of us decided to head to the coast to visit Mejillones.  Another port city, and not a bad place for a walk.

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We saw a huge sea lion, and it was keeping a close eye on two kids on the beach.

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On the way to the Antofagasta airport, I did stop at La Portada.  This is a natural arch on the coast, and a very popular spot for photos.  It is one of fifteen natural monuments included among the protected areas of Chile.

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On the way home, I had one more opportunity to visit Santiago, though only for the evening.   I watched a few street performers, had dinner, and called it day.

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Oct 2012 : Mumbai Visit : Old man and the wagon

A Visit to Mumbai, India - Part III

This is the third group of photos (part 1 and part 2).

One day I decided to book a tour with Bravo Bombay (reviews), run by Hemali Talsania.  Hemail is great, and put together a great tour for me and a couple that joined us.  Hemali's knowledge of the city is great, and her English is excellent.  We went to several spots that I wanted to visit, here are a few photos from the day.

First, I was picked up in a van by a driver.  I didn't take the Mumbai Local this time, and after two journeys on the crowded train it was nice to get driven around in an air conditioned van.  The accident with the motorcycle was just part of the adventure.  On our way down the driver asked if I wanted to take the sea link, having read a bit about it I agreed that we should.  The Bandra–Worli Sea Link, or officially the Rajiv Gandhi Sea Link, is a new bridge and freeway that links western and southern Mumbai.  It's a great route saving a lot of time but it's tolled so it is virtually empty.  In the city (where there is no toll) the traffic is snarled but the freeway is wide open.  Maybe it will get more use over time.  I know, not a great photo but I took it through the window of a speeding van ;)

Oct 2012 : Mumbai Visit : Bandra–Worli Sea Link / Rajiv Gandhi Sea Link

One of the first stops was Dhobi Ghat, a huge (world's biggest?) open air laundry.  This facility washes an absolute mountain of laundry every day from all over Mumbai.  A few photos from the laundry.

This is my favourite photo from the set, just a little kid going about his day.

Oct 2012 : Mumbai Visit : Dhobi Ghat Open Air Laundry 5 (Child)

Next on the agenda was Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus railway station, or Victoria Terminus.  An amazing building with incredible detail.  Worth a visit if you are into architecture.  Unfortunately, the interior was not nearly as amazing as the exterior.

Oct 2012 : Mumbai Visit : Train Station

At the university, there is a replica of London't Big Ben.  It's actually a very good replica, though sadly I could not get any closer than this as it's behind locked gates.

Oct 2012 : Mumbai Visit : Big Ben Clone at the Mumbai University

When you take a close look at the faux Big Ben, you can see the Indian touches compared to the original.

Oct 2012 : Mumbai Visit : Big Ben Clone at the Mumbai University (detail)

A popular tourist spot, the Gateway Of India.  One of the few places we visited where there were a lot of tourists and people pushing their wares.  I was somewhat of a celebrity being one of the only tall white guys around.  Several people asked to take their photo with me, first time that has happened.

Oct 2012 : Mumbai Visit : Gate of India

Everyone in the group received a blessing (for a small donation).  It was nice.

Oct 2012 : Mumbai Visit : Gate of India 2

We visited a Hare Krishna temple, and listened to the chants.  A nice spot and interesting religion.

Oct 2012 : Mumbai Visit : Hare Krishna Temple

 

Oct 2012 : Mumbai Visit : Hare Krishna Temple 2

The Mahatma Gandhi Museum, full of interesting artefacts.  The most powerful and memorable were the letters to Adolf Hitler and Winston Churchill.

Oct 2012 : Mumbai Visit : Ghandi Museum

Outside the museum, I met a charismatic and friendly tour guide who I chatted with while waiting for my group to finish up.  Smartly dressed, he was happy to pose for a photo.  For some reason he reminds me of Eddie Murphy.

Oct 2012 : Mumbai Visit : Well dressed tour guide

Close to the harbour, we saw a fishing boat coming in.   A little helter skelter but definitely interesting.

Oct 2012 : Mumbai Visit : Fishing boat coming back into the harbour

The harbour itself.

Oct 2012 : Mumbai Visit : Harbour

Hemali, our tour guide (far right) and the couple who joined the tour.  Maybe they will see this one day (if so leave a comment ;)

Oct 2012 : Mumbai Visit : Tour

After the tour, I did some of my own exploring.  Here a vendor is selling strings of flowers.  These were being used to decorate cars for a festival.

Oct 2012 : Mumbai Visit : flower market

A family I ran into, they were great and the boy holding the dog asked me a million questions.

Oct 2012 : Mumbai Visit : family

 

 

My favourite photo form the trip.  This old guy was sitting in a flashy metal carriage when I approached him.  He didn't speak English, but nodded and smiled when I asked him if I could take a photo.  His weathered skin and the detail in the carriage make the perfect subject for a  black and white photo.Oct 2012 : Mumbai Visit : Old man and the wagon

In the evening, and very close to my hotel, I ventured down to the beach to view the Vijayadashami Hindu festival.  There were thousands of people on the beach, and every group had a sculpture which they end up throwing into the ocean.  Note the sun in this photo.  Due to the air pollution most sunsets in Mumbai looked like this during my visit.

Oct 2012 : Mumbai Visit : Vijayadashami Festial

Some well dressed chaps walking their well groomed dogs.

Oct 2012 : Mumbai Visit : Vijayadashami Festival dogs

A vendor selling grilled corn, smelled great.

Oct 2012 : Mumbai Visit : Vijayadashami Festial 7

 

As happened several times, kids approached me when they same me taking photos and asked to have their photo taken.  This boy was curious, asked some questions, and posed for a shot.

Oct 2012 : Mumbai Visit : Vijayadashami Festial Kids

Soon his friends all ran over and started to clown around, it was great fun.

As the sun set, even more people started to show up.

Oct 2012 : Mumbai Visit : Vijayadashami Festival twilight

Literally by the truck load.

Oct 2012 : Mumbai Visit : Vijayadashami Festival twilight mob

 

And the festivities continued.Oct 2012 : Mumbai Visit : Vijayadashami Festial Sunset

Oct 2012 : Mumbai Visit : Vijayadashami Festival splash

Oct 2012 : Mumbai Visit : Vijayadashami Festival friends

A sacred cow all dressed up for the party.  Though tired after a long day, I'm glad I made it down for the party.

Oct 2012 : Mumbai Visit : Vijayadashami Festival sacred cow

The next day, I decided to visit Dharavi, a massive slum in the heart of Mumbai.  This slum is well known as it appeared in the popular movie Slumdog Millionaire.   Despite the term "slum", this is a huge industrial center for Mumbai.  Recycling is common, as is creating goods for export.  I was very surprised at how many small factories are in operation in this area.  My guide in the slum Shailesh Jethva who operates Mystical Mumbai, if you are in the city and want to tour Dharavi I highly recommend Shailesh.  He knew almost everyone there and took me to many interesting spots in the area.  Photography is not appropriate in most parts of the slum, so I respected the custom.

This shot is from the bride over the rail tracks as you enter the slum, the district us huge and without a guide you are certain to get lost.  Depending on who you ask, there are about one million people that live in this slum, and the population density is just staggering.  A worthwhile tour if you are not just into the popular tourist destinations.

Oct 2012 : Mumbai Visit : Dharavi

One of the factories we visited with several embroidery machines at work.

Oct 2012 : Mumbai Visit : Dharavi textiles

My guide, Shailesh.

Oct 2012 : Mumbai Visit : Dharavi tour guide

That is all the photos I'm posting from Dharavi.  If you want to see more you just need to visit for yourself.  On my way back to the hotel, I decided to take a walk on the beach which, just one day earlier, held thousands of people for the Hindu festival.  The beach was littered with remnants from the celebration, including all of the religious idols which now lay discarded.  I understand the need to celebrate but it's tough to see the impact on the environment following such celebration.

Oct 2012 : Mumbai Visit : Vijayadashami Festival aftermath 4

 

Sunset over Juhu beach.  I'll return to Mumbai soon.

Oct 2012 : Mumbai Visit : Sunset on Juhu beach


2012 Oct : Mumbai India Visit : Kids Posing

A Visit to Mumbai, India - Part II

I took a lot of photos in Mumbai, this is the second group. You can view part 1 here.

I decided to head to the south part of the city to explore the area.  Leaving the hotel the security guard posed for a photo.  Hotels have strict security since the terrorist attacks of 2008.

2012 Oct : Mumbai India Visit : Hotel Security

I have heard some crazy stories about the "Mumbai Local" train.   During rush hour, it's one of the most crowded trains in the world, people are hanging off the sides.  The staff at the hotel told me not to ride it, it's not for tourists.  A tour guide I hired said "you are taking the local?  I don't even ride the local".   With those sentiments, I knew I had to ride it :)

I decided to ease my way into it, my first trip was off-peak, and it was quite pleasant.  There are no doors on the train, and it stops for only a very short while at each stop.  For my second trip, I booked the cheap fare during rush hour.  That was definitely entertaining and highly recommended for anyone looking for some adventure.  The mass of humanity that steams off a train at each stop is crazy, and somehow you need to push your way though that to get on board.  Good times.

2012 Oct : Mumbai India Visit : Mumbai Local Train

My destination for the day was the Chor Bazaar.  "According to popular legend, if you lose anything in Mumbai you can buy it back from the 'Chor Bazaar'."  You can literally get anything here, it is one of largest flea markets in India.

2012 Oct : Mumbai India Visit : Chor Bazaar

2012 Oct : Mumbai India Visit : Chor Bazaar 2

2012 Oct : Mumbai India Visit : Chor Bazaar Food

This aisle was full of garlic.  It smelled amazing, not overpowering at all.  The guy sitting on the ground was peeling cloves, that is what he does most of the day.

2012 Oct : Mumbai India Visit : Chor Bazaar Garlic

At one point, I walked past a school.  The kids were just leaving and a few of them come over to say hello.  They spoke very good English (they all learn it in school) and they started asking me a lot of questions while showing me around.  They wanted to pose for a photo, but at the last second all ran away leaving just one.

2012 Oct : Mumbai India Visit : Chor Bazaar Kids Running

 

These guys had a good laugh.

2012 Oct : Mumbai India Visit : Chor Bazaar People

Venturing outside of the market after a few hours of exploring, I decided to just stand on a street corner and look at the interesting people streaming by. [Click any image to view bigger.]

 

There are interesting people everywhere.  I'm not even sure what this gentleman is selling, but he looks sharp.   If you know what this stuff is, please post in the comments.  Update: Thanks to Sandhya for letting me know via the comments that this gentleman is selling Singhara (Water Chesnut/Water Caltrop) seeds.

2012 Oct : Mumbai India Visit : Chor Bazaar Sales

Another friendly character, spoke no English but was happy to pose for a photo.

2012 Oct : Mumbai India Visit : Selling Nuts

 

Some of the local animals.  Fresh mutton?  No problem.  Want to buy a rooster, they have that too.

Sidewalks in Mumbai are not quite up to Canadian standards.

2012 Oct : Mumbai India Visit : Sidewalk

 

A few more interesting sights and people including a fruit and vegetable stand.

On more than one occasion kids ran up to me and wanted to pose for a photo.  Very curious and very cute.

2012 Oct : Mumbai India Visit : Kids Posing

 

A shave on the street.2012 Oct : Mumbai India Visit : Street Shave

 

I'm not sure this is up to WCB standards. It was amazing to watch these guys climb bamboo scaffolding with no harness or other safety equipment.

2012 Oct : Mumbai India Visit : Scaffolding

 

One of the slums on the beach.  Despite the conditions, children will find a way to entertain themselves.  Here they made a kite and they seemed to be having a great time.

2012 Oct : Mumbai India Visit : Kids & Kite

 

A well dressed gent at a street market.

2012 Oct : Mumbai India Visit : Well Dressed at the Market

Finally, my dinner.  Curried goat, roti, and a local beer.

2012 Oct : Mumbai India Visit : Curry Goat


Mumbai : Juhu Beach : October 2012 : shelter

A Visit to Mumbai, India - Part I

My trip to Mumbai, India was an eye opening experience.  In a way it was what I expected but at the same time I wasn't always prepared for what I saw.  India is clearly a developing nation but in many ways behind other third world countries I have visited.  I know that India is becoming a technology center for many global companies, it has a quickly developing economy and is on the verge of rapid industrialization.  However, when you walk the streets and talk to the people you don't see much evidence of that.  There are obviously many wealthy people in India, but there are far too many that live on the street below the poverty line.

While it's true that many people are poor and live on the street, all of the people I met were warm and accepting of my presence.  Some were guarded at first but if I asked for directions, to take a photo, or just how their day is going they would all flash a big smile and do their best to help me out.  Those that spoke English were eager and willing ask where I'm from and how I like the country.  Some engaged in conversation and other just said hello and posed for a photo.   I'm wouldn't get the same reception if I walked the streets of Vancouver (my home town).  People in Vancouver are often self-centered, indifferent, or paranoid you are running some scam and do not engage strangers to the same level.

The people in India are also very spiritual and tolerant.  They are a blend of many religions (Hindu, Muslim, Christian, Sikh, and others) often obvious by their clothing though there is no visible tension between them.  They celebrate festivals and openly practice their faith.  Many also believe in the concept of Karma which is present in all of the religions.  Because of this, there seems to be an environment of safety and I did not ever feel threatened during my visit.  I walked in many different areas of the city, alone, as an obvious outsider and didn't feel unsafe at any time.  It may have been luck but I can't say that I would do the same in other large cities around the world.

My experience of India is limited to one city, Mumbai (Bombay).  Other cities may be drastically different, I really don't know.  I hope to visit other parts of India some day to see for myself.

Exploring On Day 1

My first day in Mumbai was just spent exploring the area I was staying in, Juhu.  Juhu is an affluent suburb of Mumbai where many Bollywood stars live however if you plucked me from Vancouver and dropped me in Juhu I would think it far from affluent.  There are obviously many poor people living on the street and there is garbage littered everywhere.  The waterways I saw were extremely polluted, looked almost like blank ink and filled with trash.  Juhu Beach unfortunately isn't much better being covered in garbage, and both animal and human waste. For a country so blessed with natural beauty and resources it's a real shame to see it treated so poorly.

Part of the problem is the population explosion in Mumbai.  I have heard estimates that put the population between 20 and 24 million people and all those people need to live somewhere.  Combined with the fact that Mumbai is home to some of the most expensive real estate in the world, you essentially force people to live on the street or in slums.  These places often have no sanitation, garbage collection, or even running water.  The garbage and waste is simply dumped into the environment and it is clear that nature has paid a heavy price.

Juhu Beach, not every area is this littered though there is no area that is clean. One thing to note is the smog in the background, air quality is not very good either. At the end of the day, my eyes started to hurt and I attribute this to the air pollution.

Mumbai : Juhu Beach : October 2012 : Juhu trash

 

People getting a ride across the water, if you saw the water you wouldn't want to get wet either.

Mumbai : Juhu Beach : October 2012 : raft

 

One of the ways the people who live on the beach support themselves is by growing methi (fenugreek) crops. These are grown on the sand of the beach, watered with salt water collected from a nearby pool, and harvested as sprouts for sale in the local markets.
Mumbai : Juhu Beach : October 2012 : methi crop

 

The pool where water is gathered, dug below the ocean water level so always full.
Mumbai : Juhu Beach : October 2012 : Water hole

 

The water is carried in large plastic jugs, sometimes a long way.
Mumbai : Juhu Beach : October 2012 : Carrying Water

 

One of the locals harvests his crop. He saw me walking around the area and taking photos, he waved me over and asked me to take his photo so he could see it. He also told me how he grows the crop and about his life. His English was basic but we managed a short conversation. He has spent most of his life on this beach.
Mumbai : Juhu Beach : October 2012 : Methi (Fenugreek) Harvest

 

Behind him, an extremely polluted body of water. I'm assuming it is a river, but it barely has any flow. I saw people defecate into this water, and in another area people were using it to wash off. It's no wonder that tropical disease thrives here. When you combine the poor sanitation, very high population density, heat and insects you have the perfect recipe.
Mumbai : Juhu Beach : October 2012 : Boat

 

I saw a lot of dogs, cats, and other animals roaming around as well. They get by on what scraps they can find, most do not appear to be in good condition.
Mumbai : Juhu Beach : October 2012 : Dog

 

The various beach shelters are rudimentary at best.
Mumbai : Juhu Beach : October 2012 : Shelter

 

Mumbai : Juhu Beach : October 2012 : Shelter

 

When you see how little some people have, it makes you rethink your needs and wants.  This image in particular has stuck with me, it seems even a slight breeze would be capable of wiping out what little this person has.
Mumbai : Juhu Beach : October 2012 : shelter

 

Behind the beach, you can see how bad the water is. While I sat in this spot, I saw people throwing garbage into the water and it was a soup of debris.
Mumbai : Juhu Beach : October 2012 : slum water

 

Despite the pollution, life still does exist in and around the water. I saw birds walking around in the water trying to catch whatever may be present. Also, crabs live in the mud and carry on as usual. Nature is certainly resilient.
Mumbai : Juhu Beach : October 2012 : crab

 

The people carry on as well, despite the trash a game of cricket is being played (I saw cricket being played everywhere, and by everyone. It is another religion in India).
Mumbai : Juhu Beach : October 2012 : juhu cricket

 

If you are not playing cricket, you are probably playing football (soccer).
Mumbai : Juhu Beach : October 2012 : football on the beach

 

On more than one occasion, young couples courted each other on the beach apparently oblivious to their surroundings. After a while, I think the trash just blends into the background, it becomes the norm.
Mumbai : Juhu Beach : October 2012 : lovers

 

Part II of the trip available here.


Belize 2012-12-02 : Coco Plum Island Resort : Dock at Night

Belize Vacation

On November 30th, my wife and I left rainy Vancouver to visit Belize for the first time.  Belize is a tiny country in Central America with a population of about 320,000.   It is 290km long and 110km wide, you can literally drive around the whole country in one day if you wanted to.  English is the official language which makes getting around very easy.

Due to our last minute booking we had to take four flights (Vancouver -> San Francisco -> Houston -> Belize City -> Dangriga) and a boat ride to reach our final destination, Coco Plum Island Resort.  The last flight is on a small plane which lands on a tiny runway in Dangriga, just part of the adventure I suppose.

2012-11-30 : Belize Vacation : Belize City to Dangriga Hopper Flight

2012-11-30 : Belize Vacation : Dangriga Airport Approach

Coco Plum is on a small 16 acre private island about 15 minutes by boat from Dangriga.  There are only 10 or so cabanas on the island, so it is very quiet and far removed from large resorts elsewhere in Belize.  As soon as you arrive on the island, the staff make sure you are well taken care of.  Bags are taken to your room, and the bartender makes you a tropical welcome drink.  In our case, mosquito bites :)

2012-11-30 : Belize Vacation : Coco Plum Island Resort : Welcome Drinks - Mosquito Bite

The bar is a central hub of activity for staff and guests.  Special thanks to Leo for being such a nice guy and a great bartender.  Erwin, Bella, Sam, Crispin, and Byron also deserve special mention for making our stay fantastic.  The roof of the bar is covered in t-shirts from former guests, each with its own message.

2012-12-01 : Belize Vacation : Coco Plum Island Resort : Shirts At The Bar

After check-in, we went to our cabana and were surprised how big they were.  More than enough space for two people.  Everything is very clean, well maintained and comfortable.

2012-11-30 : Belize Vacation : Coco Plum Island Resort : Cabana Interior

2012-111-30 : Belize Vacation : Coco Plum Island Resort : Cabana Interior

2012-11-30 : Belize Vacation : Coco Plum Island Resort : Cabana Interior

The ocean literally steps from the door.

2012-12-01 : Belize Vacation : Coco Plum Island Resort : Cabana View

 

2012-12-01 : Belize Vacation : Coco Plum Island Resort : Mangrove Trees

The resort is beautiful, tranquil, and a great place to relax.  Here are some shots from around the resort.  The island in the photo below is another resort, Thatch Caye.

2012-12-01 : Belize Vacation : Coco Plum Island Resort : View To Paradise

2012-12-01 : Belize Vacation : Coco Plum Island Resort : Conch Shell

2012-12-02 : Belize Vacation : Coco Plum Island Resort : Sunset

The long dock is one of the great features.  During the day a place to relax.  At night the lights attract rays, sharks (small ones, don't worry), and squid.  It's also a good place to snorkel, we saw a lot of interesting creatures and I even found a huge live conch.

2012-12-03 : Belize Vacation : Coco Plum Island Resort : Live Conch

A large hermit crab.

2012-11-30 : Belize Vacation : Coco Plum Island Resort : Hermit Crab

Another type of crab which seemed to be unhappy about my presence.

2012-12-01 : Belize Vacation : Coco Plum Island Resort : Crab Under Dock

Even an urchin which did a good job of hanging onto my hand.

2012-12-05 : Belize Vacation : Coco Plum Island Resort : Sea Urchin

The water is typical Caribbean: blue green, warm, and clear. Katie and I spent a lot of time snorkeling around the area.  We also ventured out on most of the snorkel trips from the island to the local barrier reef.  Belize has some of the best snorkeling I have encountered anywhere in the world and I have been to a lot of great locations.  The reefs are still in great shape and there is a huge variety of coral, fish, and invertebrates.  Spotted Eagle Rays are common.

2012-12-01 : Belize Vacation : Coco Plum Island Resort : Spotted Eagle Ray Over The Coral Reef

2012-12-04 : Belize Vacation : Coco Plum Island Resort : Sting Ray

Belize Vacation : Coco Plum Island Resort : Coral Reef

2012-12-02 : Belize Vacation : Coco Plum Island Resort : Snail on Coral

A lobster trying to hide in the coral.  The lobster here don't have big claws.

2012-12-03 : Belize Vacation : Coco Plum Island Resort : Lobster on the Reef

This puffer fish was also trying to keep a low profile, but I spotted him.

2012-12-02 : Belize Vacation : Coco Plum Island Resort : Hiding Puffer Fish

There are also a lot of birds in the area, including pelicans.

2012-12-02 : Belize Vacation : Coco Plum Island Resort : Pelican Unhappy With Us

We had a few nice sunsets while we were there, though not quite as good as we had in Thailand and Hawaii.

2012-12-01 : Belize Vacation : Coco Plum Island Resort : Sunset At The Bar

2012-12-02 : Belize Vacation : Coco Plum Island Resort : Sunset in Belize

2012-12-05 : Belize Vacation : Coco Plum Island Resort : Sunset In Paradise

2012-12-05 : Belize Vacation : Coco Plum Island Resort : The Dock At Sunset (Final)

On some days, there are several inland tours you can participate in.  We chose to visit the Belize Zoo, which is small but well laid out and quite natural.  Animals have large pens with plenty of room for cover.  Considering that this is a third world country, the animals were well kept.  Unfortunately, when we were there it was raining and a lot of the animals were not visible.  We didn't get to see a jaguar, which is one of the big draws.  It also made getting good photos harder, but here are a few from our visit.

2012-12-04 : Belize Vacation : Inland Tour : Monkey at Belize Zoo

2012-12-04 : Belize Vacation : Belize Zoo : Monkey at Belize Zoo

2012-12-04 : Belize Vacation : Coco Plum Island Resort : Tapir

2012-12-04 : Belize Vacation : Coco Plum Island Resort : Deer and Food Thief

2012-12-04 : Belize Vacation : Inland Tour : Puma at Belize Zoo

2012-12-04 : Belize Vacation : Inland Tour : Peccary at Belize Zoo

2012-12-05 : Belize Vacation : Jaribou Stork at Belize Zoo

On the say to the zoo, we also stopped at a gift shop that had captive Coatimundi.  Similar to a racoon, they are very cute and curious animals.  Unfortunately, they have to live in this small cage.

2012-12-04 : Belize Vacation : Inland Tour : Coatimundi

 

Being far removed from a large city there isn't much light pollution and on a clear night there are a lot of stars visible.  Though I have almost no experience with star photography I decided to give it a shot.  Here you can see the mangroves lit up from a small amount of light on the island.

2012-12-02 : Belize Vacation : Coco Plum Island Resort : Mangroves at Night

I also tried to 'light paint' some of the mangroves with a flashlight in a few of the shots.

2012-12-02 : Belize Vacation : Coco Plum Island Resort : Mangrove at Night with Light Painting

 

One of the cabana at night.

2012-12-02 : Belize Vacation : Coco Plum Island Resort : Cabana at Night with Light Painting

While the snorkeling was great, I also enjoy scuba diving and went out with divemaster Steve for two dives (thanks to Byron for setting it up!).  As expected, it was amazing.  The reefs are teeming with life.

2012-12-05 : Belize Vacation : Scuba Diving : Spotted Eagle Ray

Here Steve swims with a green sea turtle.  This guy didn't seem spooked and just swam around with us for a while before moving on.

2012-12-05 : Belize Vacation : Scuba Diving : Steve With Green Sea Turtle

Pterois Lionfish are not native to the Caribbean, and are quite damaging to local species.  They don't have the same predators here that they do in their native waters, and their numbers are rising.  They are strikingly beautiful fish (though poisonous so don't get too close), but they should be removed from these waters when possible.

2012-12-05 : Belize Vacation : Scuba Diving : Pterois Lionfish

2012-12-03 : Belize Vacation : Coco Plum Island Resort : Pterois Lionfish

The variety of coral is just fantastic.

2012-12-02 : Belize Vacation : Coco Plum Island Resort : Fan Coral

2012-12-02 : Belize Vacation : Coco Plum Island Resort : Coral Formation

Some great camouflage.

2012-12-05 : Belize Vacation : Scuba Diving : Fish Camouflage
Finally, a few parting shots.  The bar at night.

2012-12-02 : Belize Vacation : Coco Plum Island Resort : Bar at Night

Mangrove trees at sunrise.  Shot straight into the sun, then converted to a sepia tone.  I just liked the composition.

Belize 2012-12-02 : Coco Plum Island Resort : Mangrove at Sunrise (Sepia)

The dock at twilight, a few stars visible in the sky.  In the evenings, the hut is converted to romantic dinner spot for two.  I like the contrast of the warm red light in the hut with the cool blue and green tones of the surroundings.

Belize 2012-12-02 : Coco Plum Island Resort : Dock at Night

We left a lot unseen in Belize, it will warrant a return trip some day.

A couple of people have asked what type of camera I used.  I have a bit of info about some of my gear here, but specifically for these images I used:

  • Nikon D800 DSLR camera
  • Nikkor 14-24 f/2.8 lens (the wide angle zoom)
  • Nikkor 24-70 f/2.8 lens (the normal zoom)
  • Really Right Stuff TVC-33 tripod and BH-55 ball head

For the underwater photos, I use:

  • Canon PowerShot SD870 IS Digital ELPH
  • Canon WP-DC17 Underwater housing

The Canon camera and housing is a relatively inexpensive way to get decent underwater photos.  The housing is good to 40m of depth and suitable for recreational diving.  The major drawback is that I can't shoot in raw and adjust white balance in post processing.  White balance adjustments are needed much more for underwater shots then for photos on the surface.  Unfortunately, I can only do so much with a jpg file.

 


Ucluelet BC Vacation : 2012-10 : Sunrise Lighthouse (Tofino MCTS Centre)

Ucluelet Vacation

In early October my wife and I decided to visit Ucluelet, BC. It had been too many years since I made a visit to the 'real' west coast of BC. I forgot how beautiful and how close it is. From Vancouver it is only 200Km plus a 1.5 hour ferry ride. The weather was truly amazing, it was unseasonably warm for October and we made the most of it. At night it got quite cold but during the day it was in the mid 20's and sunny. I wore shorts, t shirt, and sandals, we couldn't ask for better weather.

On the way to Ucluelet, we stopped at a river to let the dogs have a break and enjoy some time out of the truck. Cedric immediately ran into the water and started to pull out sticks.
Ucluelet BC Vacation : 2012-10 : Cedric having fun

 

Jammie almost took our her eye by running through the forest.
Ucluelet BC Vacation : 2012-10 : Jammie almost missing an eye

 

Then she did her best impression of a wolverine.
Ucluelet BC Vacation : 2012-10 : Jammie's wolverine impression

 

We also stopped along one of my favorite spots along the drive. Here the river (I can't remember the name, if anyone can help please post in the comments) cuts into the bedrock leaving deep green pools and amazing formations. It is a busy spot in the summer, but now there was almost no one there.
Ucluelet BC Vacation : 2012-10 : River and bedrock

 

Once we arrived in Ucluelet, we went to our condo which was fantastic. Located right on Big Beach and near the Black Rock Ucluelet Resort facing west for a fantastic sunset view.
Ucluelet BC Vacation : 2012-10 : Condo main level

 

Upstairs, Katie immediately took advantage of the chaise to relax.
Ucluelet BC Vacation : 2012-10 : Condo upstairs

 
I also managed to lure a resident blue jay in for a photo with some crackers.
Ucluelet BC Vacation : 2012-10 : Blue Jay

 

Our condo from the front.
Ucluelet BC Vacation : 2012-10 : Condo

 

The first night we were there, we were treated to a beautiful sunset. I find that sunsets over the open ocean are often amazing and I have seen them from several spots in the world. With no obstructions and a completely flat horizon you have the most vibrant colors.
Ucluelet BC Vacation : 2012-10 : Sunset Day 1

 

A few minutes later. The contrast between blue and orange is great.
Ucluelet BC Vacation : 2012-10 : Sunset Day One 2

 

Katie and I spent a lot of time at Florencia Bay, it was a 20 minute walk to get there but we usually had the beach to ourselves. It is a nice walk through the forest and we saw a ton of different types of mushrooms so we dubbed Ucluelet the 'mushroom capital of BC'. Here are a few of them.
Ucluelet BC Vacation : 2012-10 : Mushrooms 9

 

Ucluelet BC Vacation : 2012-10 : Mushrooms 7

 

Ucluelet BC Vacation : 2012-10 : Mushrooms 6

 

These are some of the best mushrooms to eat, I grew up collecting these with my family. Common name is the Saffron milk cap (genus: Lactarius).
Ucluelet BC Vacation : 2012-10 : Mushrooms 5

 

Ucluelet BC Vacation : 2012-10 : Mushrooms 4

 

No idea what this is, but looks like fungus so I'm throwing it in. If anyone can help identify it please post in the comments.
Ucluelet BC Vacation : 2012-10 : Mushrooms 8

 

Ucluelet BC Vacation : 2012-10 : Mushrooms 3

 

Ucluelet BC Vacation : 2012-10 : Mushrooms 2

 

Ucluelet BC Vacation : 2012-10 : Mushrooms 1

There were more, but I would just fill up this post mushroom photos. At the trail head to Florencia Bay, there was a funny sign. I guess you if you are going to deface a sign you have to do it right and in both languages.
Ucluelet BC Vacation : 2012-10 : Funny Sign

 

Once on the beach, the dogs could run around and we could walk for ages and not see anyone else. There was bull kelp all over the place and the dogs loved to play with it.
Ucluelet BC Vacation : 2012-10 : Bull Kelp Black and White

 

I also found that it was hard to take a good photo of the waves.
Ucluelet BC Vacation : 2012-10 : Waves

 

The second night, I decided to venture out on the rocks at Big Beach for some sunset photos.
Ucluelet BC Vacation : 2012-10 : Sunset Rocks

 

Ucluelet BC Vacation : 2012-10 : Sunset Rocks 2

 

Also took a long exposure shot using a neutral density filter. I definitely need more practice with this, but it does give the water an interesting texture.
Ucluelet BC Vacation : 2012-10 : Long exposure rocks

 

On my way back to the condo, I saw a couple of black tailed deer in the parking lot of the condo complex. They didn't seem to be too scared so I watched them for a few minutes.
Ucluelet BC Vacation : 2012-10 : Deer

 

One morning, I decided to try and photograph a sunrise instead of a sunset. I went to the lighthouse at the south end of the peninsula, it's near the Tofino MCTS Centre but it's actually in Ucluelet (go figure). This was taken just before the sun came up over the horizon. I was the only one there, very peaceful and quiet.
Ucluelet BC Vacation : 2012-10 : Sunrise Lighthouse (Tofino MCTS Centre)

 

Shortly after the sun came up over the horizon.
Ucluelet BC Vacation : 2012-10 : Sunrise Lighthouse (Tofino MCTS Centre) 2

 

Soon after the sun came up, another photographer joined me and said he could see a whale off shore. After a few minutes of looking, I did see a humpback whale breaching in the distance. I tried to get some photos, but it was just too far away to get a decent shot. Not long after this sighting, a gray whale came cruising by much closer to shore. Having seen two whales that day, I decided to check into a whale watching tour.
Ucluelet BC Vacation : 2012-10 : Humpback whale breach

 

On the way to Tofino, we stopped at Long Beach. It was a foggy morning so we didn't stay long. I think other beaches in the area are much nicer but this is popular with the surf crowd.
Ucluelet BC Vacation : 2012-10 : Long Beach Tofino : Foggy morning

 

Katie and I decided to go out with a tour company in Tofino. We did try to find a humpback but were unable to do so. However, we did get very close to two gray whales feeding. A great experience.
Ucluelet BC Vacation : 2012-10 : Gray Whale

 

Two gray whale spouts.
Ucluelet BC Vacation : 2012-10 : Gray Whale Spout

 

A rainbow created by the spout of a gray whale.
Ucluelet BC Vacation : 2012-10 : Gray Whale Rainbow

 

Considering how big these animals are, they are very graceful in the water. Even the giant tail fluke barely makes a splash as it sinks below the surface.
Ucluelet BC Vacation : 2012-10 : Gray Whale Tail Fluke

 

One more walk on the beach, here Katie is enjoying the sunshine and solitude with the dogs. It turned out to be one of my favorite photos from the trip.
Ucluelet BC Vacation : 2012-10 : Katie and the dogs

 

We had a beautiful sunset every night we were there but the last one was the best. Clouds always make a sunset more interesting and colorful, this one was taken from our condo.
Ucluelet BC Vacation : 2012-10 : Big Beach Sunset

 

Ucluelet BC Vacation : 2012-10 : Big Beach Sunset 2

 

Ucluelet BC Vacation : 2012-10 : Big Beach Sunset 3


Alberta Visit Aug 2012 : Lonely Road in Alberta - Big Sky Country

A Visit To Alberta

I decided to make a short visit to Alberta to see family and friends. Weather was good and I did some fishing, some hiking, and a lot of eating. On the way from the Edmonton airport, I stopped to take this photo of a lonely highway. There are many of these quiet secondary roads where you won't see a car for ages.
Alberta Visit Aug 2012 : Lonely Road in Alberta - Big Sky Country

 

My first destination was Saint Paul, the area has a lot of farmland with old and abandoned buildings. These make for great photos, especially at sunset.

Alberta Visit Aug 2012 : Old Farmhouse Sunset HDR

 
One of the reasons I like shooting here is because the clouds are often interesting and completely change the composition. Montana is referred to as Big Sky Country but it certainly applies to Alberta as well.

Alberta Visit Aug 2012 : Old Farmhouse Sunset HDR 2

 

Next day, my dad and I went fishing to Bellis Lake. The fish were not biting but I did see a large Osprey nest so I went to investigate. Not as majestic as the Bald Eagles I shot in Brackendale, but I managed to get some photos of these amazing birds. There was a pair of them, and they seemed most displeased that I was walking around their nest. After a few photos, I left them alone.
Alberta Visit Aug 2012 : Osprey in Flight

 

Alberta Visit Aug 2012 : Osprey in Flight 2

 

I also saw this Volkswaken Bus in the parking area, so even though we didn't catch any fish I left with some interesting photos.
Alberta Visit Aug 2012 : Volkswagen Bus at the Lake

 

We left Bellis lake and decided to check out Hanmore Lake. A beautiful, clean lake where we each caught a Northern Pike and I went for a swim.
Alberta Visit Aug 2012 : Hanmore Lake

 

My brother arrived and we decided to head out at sunset to find more abandoned buildings. There are a lot of them, and I'm sure each one has an interesting story to tell. They all have a lot of character.
Alberta Visit Aug 2012 : Old Farmhouse Sunset HDR

 

Alberta Visit Aug 2012 : Old Farmhouse Interior HDR

 

Alberta Visit Aug 2012 : Old Farmhouse Interior HDR 2

 

Alberta Visit Aug 2012 : Old Farmhouse HDR

 

Alberta Visit Aug 2012 : Old Farmhouse HDR

 

Alberta Visit Aug 2012 : Old Barn Doors HDR

 

Sometimes it is not just houses that are abandoned.

Alberta Visit Aug 2012 : Old Farmhouse and Abandoned Car HDR

 

On our way home, as the sun was setting, we stopped to look at this little valley. There is a beaver lodge in the middle, hard to imagine a better paradise for those guys than this spot.

Alberta Visit Aug 2012 : Beaver Paradise

 

The next day, I set up the camera close to my parents hummingbird feeder. These are Ruby-throated Hummingbirds and they are FAST, and hard to capture, though I did get a few decent shots.

 

Alberta Visit Aug 2012 : Ruby-throated Hummingbird at Feeder

 

Somewhat easier to capture when they sit still for a second, but she didn't stick around for long.

Alberta Visit Aug 2012 : Ruby-throated Hummingbird on Branch

 

I also took the opportunity to eat a ton of berries from the yard. The yellow raspberries are my favorite.

Alberta Visit Aug 2012 - strawberries and raspberries

 

The next day, it was time to move on. My brother and I drove south towards Calgary and on our way out of Saint Paul we saw some good ol' redneck ingenuity.

Alberta Visit Aug 2012 : Redneck Ingenuity

 

We stopped in Lamont to take some photos of the limousine 'sculpture'. Odd, but every town in the area has its own claim to fame.

Alberta Visit Aug 2012 : Lamont Limousine Sculpture

 

We drove through Elk Island National Park hoping to see some wildlife. We did see some bison, though none were close enough for a shot. Overall, the park was a bust but worth going as the wildlife are always on the move.

 

On my final full day in Alberta, we made the most of it. We first drove out to Dinosaur Provincial Park (DPP) which is recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. My brother (who lives in Alberta) enjoyed telling me that there are four UNESCO sites in Alberta and only one in BC.

 

DPP is in the badlands of Alberta, an arid region full of snakes and dinosaur fossils.

Alberta Visit Aug 2012 - Snakes on the Road

 

We took a short hike next to the river to look at the ancient cottonwood trees. These things are several hundred years old, gnarly and deformed. They have seen a lot of things in their many days.

Alberta Visit Aug 2012 : Dinosaur Provincial Park Cottonwood Tree

 

We also walked the Badlands Trail, where you can see some of the interesting geology of the area.

Alberta Visit Aug 2012 : Dinosaur Provincial Park Badlands Trail

 

Alberta Visit Aug 2012 : Dinosaur Provincial Park Badlands Trail

 

Alberta Visit Aug 2012 : Dinosaur Provincial Park Badlands Trail

 

Alberta Visit Aug 2012 : Dinosaur Provincial Park

 

Alberta Visit Aug 2012 : Dinosaur Provincial Park

 

After a sufficient baking in the mid-day sun on the Alberta badlands, we went to the metropolis of Brooks for lunch before heading to Newell Lake. The lake is actually a man-made reservoir created after construction of the Bassano Dam. My brother tried his luck at fishing while I took a few photos. Found this Double-crested Cormorant taking off not far away.

Alberta Visit Aug 2012 : Double-crested Cormorant Taking Off

 

This beaver also cruised by and didn't seem too bothered by our presence. I couldn't get close as there were a trillion ants on the bank of the lake and if you got anywhere near them they immediately covered you.

Alberta Visit Aug 2012 : Beaver

 

We decided to go for a drive around the lake instead of fishing as the fish were not cooperating. We were just killing time waiting for sunset and the real fishing to begin. These cows were worth stopping for.

Alberta Visit Aug 2012 : Cows

 

Alberta Visit Aug 2012 : Cow Tongue

 

Not much farther we saw a mule deer.

Alberta Visit Aug 2012 : Mule Deer

 

Alberta Visit Aug 2012 : Mule Deer

 

Finally the sun was starting to set so we found a nice spot to set up in. While it was a beautiful area, the mosquitoes were horrendous. We both covered ourselves with bug spray but it didn't seem to help much. There couldn't be a better breeding ground for these things and often I was standing in a few inches of water with my tripod getting completely attacked while setting up for a shot. I fought through it and managed to get some of the shots I wanted.

Alberta Visit Aug 2012 : Sunset at the Newell Lake

 

Alberta Visit Aug 2012 : Sunset at the Newell Lake

 

Alberta Visit Aug 2012 : Sunset at the Newell Lake

 

This is a shot taken with my iPhone 4S showing my D800 set up for the sunset shot.

Sunset Newell Lake, Brooks, Alberta - iPhone 4S

 

The resulting shot from the D800 turned out to be my favorite shot from the trip.

Alberta Visit Aug 2012 : Sunset at the Newell Lake

 

As the sun went down, it was time to explore the real reason we came to Newell Lake in the first place: crayfish! These are like small freshwater lobsters, and invasive in many waters in Alberta. They are best to catch at night, just walking through the water with a flashlight. When you see one, just grab it and throw it in a bucket. We caught enough for a feast.

Alberta Visit Aug 2012 : Live Crayfish at Newell Lake

 

Ready to eat.

Alberta Visit Aug 2012 : Cooked Crayfish at Newell Lake

 

As you can see, they are just little guys, but tasty!

Alberta Visit Aug 2012 : Cooked Crayfish Just a Little Snack

It was a fun trip to Alberta, I covered a lot of miles but saw a lot and caught up with friends and family. Here is a link to the general route map. I flew into Edmonton, and out from Calgary covering over 1500Km in the few days I was there. Certainly made the most of it :)
Alberta Trip Route Map


Amsterdam Dec 2011 night long exposure hdr

A Day in Amsterdam

Back in December 2011, I had to travel to the UK on business. I took the opportunity to route my flight through Amsterdam instead of London and I had to pleasure of spending an afternoon in this great European city. I'm finally getting around to posting some of the photos I took during my short stay. I definitely need to go back and spend more time in this city, it was a lot of fun.

Most of the photos here were shot while on a photo tour with Photo Tours of Amsterdam.  I booked this tour after reading positive reviews on Trip Advisor.   Things didn't start well as my flight was delayed.  Rather than arriving at 8:00am which would have given me plenty of time to get to my hotel then meet my guide at the 1:30pm start time, my flight arrived at 12:30pm.  I rushed to the hotel, dropped off my things at the front desk and didn't even check in.  I just grabbed my camera and tripod and jumped in a taxi to head to the meeting spot.   There, I met Jonathan who turned out to be a fellow Canadian currently living in the Netherlands and discovered I was the only one on the tour that day.  This allowed Jonathan and I to just explore the city and go where wherever we wanted to go.   Jonathan was a good photographer, and also knew a lot about the city.   I didn't get a lot of good photographs during the day, it was a gloomy and flat winter day.  Things were better at night, and I'm happy I brought my tripod along for some shooting.  Overall, Jonathan spent more time than he needed to with me and was a great guide.  I learned a lot about the city and brushed up on my skills as well.  I would definitely book another tour with this company if I'm in one of the cities where they offer tours.

Some of the photos from that day, it was raining on and off and mostly overcast skies.  I love European cites, there is so much more history and culture compared to things in North America.  It's hard not to appreciate the architecture on display everywhere.  This is one of the markets many markets we found just walking around.

Amsterdam Dec 2011 market

A three shot HDR, not my best work but I love the buildings here.  Also, Amsterdam has a lot of pubs :)

Amsterdam Dec 2011 pub hdr

I didn't process many in black and white, but I likely will as scenes like this lend themselves well to such processing.  The canals in Amsterdam are fantastic, and are the reason why it's sometimes called Venice of the North.

Amsterdam Dec 2011 canal black and white

I love graffiti, and there was plenty of it in Amsterdam.

Amsterdam Dec 2011 graffiti

Amsterdam Dec 2011 graffiti 5

Amsterdam Dec 2011 graffiti 3

Amsterdam Dec 2011 graffiti 2

Amsterdam Dec 2011 graffiti 1

No idea what this is, but it was an interesting courtyard.

Amsterdam Dec 2011 courtyard

The Hermitage.  I wish I had time to visit.

Amsterdam Dec 2011 hermitage

Throughout the city you will find a lot of houseboats in the canals.  Some are beautiful, or at least interesting.  Others are complete trash heaps and detract from an otherwise beautiful city.  In another life, I would like to live on the water in one of these boats.

Amsterdam Dec 2011 boat

Jonathan told me what these little critters were, but for the life of me I can't remember.

Amsterdam Dec 2011 bike

Youth Hostel, I got a few shots of this, I'm sure it looks great in the spring when the vines are covered in leaves.

Amsterdam Dec 2011 hostel

Some guys saw me taking photos and started goofing around.  The people I met in Amsterdam were friendly and helpful.

Amsterdam Dec 2011 clowning around

Dutch cat, seems content in his bed.

Amsterdam Dec 2011 dutch cat

So many of the buildings have interesting details like this.  They just don't build them like they used to.

Amsterdam Dec 2011 building detail

Jonathan showed me a good spot to practice my panning technique.  There is certainly no shortage of subjects zipping by and you don't need to wait long to see some interesting characters.

panning 4

Amsterdam Dec 2011 panning 3

The Dutch carry everything on their bikes.

Amsterdam Dec 2011 panning 2

Amsterdam Dec 2011 panning 1

Amsterdam is know for diamonds, but I didn't bring any back for my wife on this trip.

Amsterdam Dec 2011 diamonds

The Theater.

Amsterdam Dec 2011 cool theatre

I had no idea there were going to be this many bikes in the city.  They are literally everywhere, of all shapes and sizes, and locked to any stationary object available.  I saw entire families on one bike, or people hauling a substantial amount of goods using special bikes.  There are multi-level bike parking garages which hold thousands of bikes.  It really is great to see, I'm sure it cuts down on the number of cars on the road.  Oh, and there is a hose in this photo too.

Amsterdam Dec 2011 horse and carriage

The only thing there may be more of than bikes is bongs.  Imagine if every coffee shop in Vancouver were a bong store, then double it :)  I also found out that you don't go to a coffee shop to get coffee, they sell weed.  If you want coffee, go to a cafe.

Amsterdam Dec 2011 bongs

This liquor store had the coolest bottles I have ever seen, sadly it wasn't open when I was there.

Amsterdam Dec 2011 bottles 3

Amsterdam Dec 2011 bottles 1

Amsterdam Dec 2011 bottles 2

More bikes, bikes, bikes.

Amsterdam Dec 2011 Bikes

The train station.

Amsterdam Dec 2011 main train station

Interesting bridge detail.

Amsterdam Dec 2011 bridge detail

The Magere Brug, or "Skinny Bridge".  Well lit at night, and one of the more famous bridges in Amsterdam.

Amsterdam Dec 2011 bridge detail (magere berg)

None of the buildings have elevators, so they set up these contraptions on the outside to move things in and out.  Also, you can see big hooks at the top of the buildings in some of the photos.  These were used to attach pulleys to winch stuff up to the higher levels.

Amsterdam Dec 2011 elevator

Electric car charging station.

Amsterdam Dec 2011 electric car plug in

The city looks great at night.

Amsterdam Dec 2011 long exposure

Amsterdam Dec 2011 night long exposure hdr

Amsterdam Dec 2011 canal hdr

This is on the edge of the Red Light District.  Down that alley, you can see red lights on the side of the building marking windows where guys can take their pick of women.  It's actually a very trendy area, with a lot of tourists visiting pubs, restaurants, or doing some shopping . The alleys are right in the middle of everything, and everything seems to be clean and safe.  As you can imagine, they don't take kindly to tourists taking photos in front of said windows.  I didn't press my luck by trying it.

Amsterdam Dec 2011 red light district

Some long exposure fun while Jonathan kept watch on the traffic.

Amsterdam Dec 2011 night long exposure

One of my last, and one of my favorite, photos from the day.  I set up on a tiny island in the middle of an intersection.  I had a view of a tram coming right at me, and veering off to the right.  This was my first attempt, and the best of the bunch, I actually thought the tram would hit my camera, but it turned out well.

Amsterdam Dec 2011 long exposure train

 


Swansea Marina Trees

Marina in Swansea, Wales

When I was visiting Swansea I did some night time shooting with my colleague Leighton who just purchased a new Nikon D90.  There are some interesting sights in the area, so I appreciate that Leighton showed me around.

This was the first set of exposures I took that night, an HDR of the pedestrian bridge at the marina.

Swansea Marina HDR

 

This courtyard is very interesting.  There are lights on the ground that change colours and create movement.  The trees are not purple, but the long exposure combined with purple lights gives them an interesting glow.  Turned out better than I thought it would :)

Swansea Marina Trees


Brackendale Eagles Photo Trip

Bald Eagle Photography in Brackendale

I took a trip with my friend Andrew to Brackendale to find some Bald Eagles.  The eagles were not hard to find, but certainly not easy to photograph.  Most of the time they were quite far away, but occasionally they would fly by a little closer.  The eagles gather here to eat Coho Salmon that have died after spawning.  I guess eagles are lazy, and prefer to let dinner float by rather than waste energy catching it.

I borrowed a huge 400mm f/2.8 lens with a 2x teleconverter from my boss, which was a huge help and allowed to me to get some good shots.  I wouldn't say any of the shots from the day were excellent, there was heavy cloud cover and relatively low light which meant a lot of the shots were at ISO 400 or even 800.   Add to that slower shutter speeds, and a lot of the shots just didn't turn out very well.  Considering this was my first time at this location, the first time shooting the 400mm, and the first time on a dedicated trip to shoot eagles I think I did ok.

Aside from the eagles, we were treated to a few nice views during the day.  Both shot with the 400mm, the darker blue image is a 3-shot HDR.

Portfolio Brackendale Mountains

Brackendale Eagles Photo Trip

These are some of my favorite shots from the day.  First, a juvenile eagle was flying towards me and about to land in a tree.  Of the 5 shots I got of him, this is the only one worth posting. (In case it's not obvious, you can click the photos to view the bigger version).

Brackendale Eagles Photo Trip

Another flight photo, this one I attempted to pan the 400mm to get some shots, most were blurry or had only a part of the eagle in the frame.  This one turned out better than I thought it would.

Bald Eagle in flight Brackendale BC Dec 2011

Sometimes, eagles are not the graceful and majestic creatures we think they are. When you have to go you have to go.

Brackendale Eagles Photo Trip

Some shots of the equipment used.

Brackendale Eagles Photo Trip

Brackendale Eagles Photo Trip

Brackendale Eagles Photo Trip

Brackendale Eagles Photo Trip

The following photos are not great, but I thought I'd include them as they capture a flight sequence and my attempt at capturing the eagles in flight.

Brackendale Eagles Photo Trip

Brackendale Eagles Photo Trip

Brackendale Eagles Photo Trip

And more, not good due to slow shutter speeds, but capture a moment when an eagle swoops in to steal the salmon away from the others.  Incoming!

 

Brackendale Eagles Photo Trip

Brackendale Eagles Photo Trip

Brackendale Eagles Photo Trip

And the rest of the images from the shoot worth posting.  They include a Great Blue Heron, which often go ignored when the eagles are there but they are no less interesting nor any less beautiful.

Brackendale Eagles Photo Trip

Brackendale Eagles Photo Trip

Great Blue Heron Brackendale BC Dec 2011

Bald Eagle in flight Brackendale BC Dec 2011

Brackendale Eagles Photo Trip

Brackendale Eagles Photo Trip


Spotted Moray among the urchin and coral, Lanai, Hawaii, Nov 2011

Trip to Hawaii, November 2011

A few photos from my trip to Maui in November.  I stayed at the Honua Kai Resort and Spa, which is the newest resort property on Maui.  Great place to hang out.   I didn't get the chance for any really nice shots, so this is more documentary than artistic.

Spotted Moray among the urchin and coral, Lanai, Hawaii, Nov 2011

 

Cathedral 1, Lanai, Hawaii, Nov 2011

 

Hawaii Diving: Wreck of the Naked Lady
Hawaii Diving: Wreck of the Naked Lady

 

Hawaii Big Island South Point
Hawaii Big Island South Point