Shooting Walterdale with a shaky hand

Anyone who knows anything about anything will tell you that to take photos at night you need a very-sensitive-to-light camera or a sniper-steady hand and a longish exposure. But first prize would be a tripod, low ISO (google it if you don’t know what ISO is) and a long exposure to let in the right amount of light for a super-sharp photo with no graininess.

Late last week, while visiting friends in Edmonton, I went downtown to shoot the new Walterdale Bridge. The new Walterdale (not to be confused with the old Walterdale, which was built in 1913) was completed exactly a year ago. Already, it has been instagrammed to death, and can be found under the hashtag walterdalebridge.

As I mentioned in my blog about northern lights, I somewhat foolishly decided not to bring my tripod on this trip to Canuckistan. With shaky hands and a camera with only slightly above average low-light ability, it was impossible for me to produce the same quality shots as so many Instagrammers out there.

These were a few of them (handheld, at 6400 ISO and more grainy than a drizzly Vancouver dawn). Sorry I was struggling to find an appropriate simile just as much as I struggled taking photos that night.

Some random guy walking, to give perspective.
Probably the best of them all.
One of the first ones I tried to shoot.
A second one from the same angle. I couldn’t decide which was the worse of the two, so I posted both.
The could have been cool with a tripod and long exposure, to draw light from the shadows.

As you would see if you checked out the hashtag on Instagram, these really are just a bad example of the same old angles that have been shot in overabundance. (I mean, really, how many photographic angles can one come up with, short of scaling one of the arches to the top?)

But then I decided to use my strengths – shaky hands… Et voila – my creation of the Walterdale Bridge, which is at least unique, if nothing else. But, honestly, I love it.

16mm focal length, manual focus, ISO 100, 1 second exposure, f/5.6, panning to right after approximately half a second.  

Throwback Thursday: Little church on the prairie

Back in June 2013 I did a blogpost on this gutted church that stands lonely in a field of dandelions out on Red Bluff Road, south of Quesnel, British Columbia. The light was perfect – pink and soft after a late afternoon shower – so I took a detour to try to photograph her. I turned off the main road down a pot-holed dirt track, and was met by two mangy dogs, which barked noisily at me – not used to seeing strangers in their neck of the woods. Literally.

But they were harmless, and I wandered around for at least half an hour – trying to do the old Catholic church justice with my photos. I imagined the stories she could tell – of families whose histories were intertwined with her own: of baptisms, weddings, funerals and Sunday services.

Interestingly enough, when it first caught fire, the local volunteer fire fighters went inside, only to find that there were no flames or smoke. It turns out that the part of the church one can see was simply built around the original structure, and that the double walls and double roof were keeping the flames on the outside.

When I returned to these parts in July this year I went over one evening to shoot her again, and was met with a sign with red letters: Private. And something about needing to get permission to enter. Perhaps my numerous visits in 2013 and 2014 had something to do with that. Of course, I ventured in anyway to see if I could find the right person to give me permission to shoot my favourite model. Once again, a few dogs announced my arrival loudly, and a young woman stepped out of a van or truck in a cloud of smoke, clutching a beer and a joint.

“You’re not allowed to be here,” said she. “You have to get permission from the band,” which, in these parts, means the First Nations or aboriginal ‘group’ (for want of a better word). And so I left, just a little bit dejected. Perhaps I will try to get permission from them at some point, but in the meanwhile I leave you these – my first photos of my favourite model.

(PS, when I blogged about it previously, I was told in no uncertain terms by a Canadian friend who lives abroad that I should  “be careful where/when you use the term ‘prairie’ while in Canada. As someone from THE Prairies, a small flat open space such as is shown in your photo does not qualify.” I decided to keep the name because it sounds poetic. My apologies to everyone from THE prairies to my east, including you “prairieplett.”)

Approaching down a makeshift track.
Approaching down a makeshift track.
This image was made up of 16 separate photos stitched together.
This image was made up of 16 separate photos stitched together.
Dandelion
Dandelion
Stained-glass window
Stained-glass window through a gaping window frame.
Window. Stained. Burnt.
Window. Stained. Burnt. Shattered.
Scarred. For good.
Scarred. For good.
Stretching towards the heavens (in wide angle)
Stretching towards the heavens (in wide-angle)

Bridges over the Quesnel

Two nights ago, with sleep eluding me again, I headed downtown with camera in hand. There I wandered past the station and up the tracks to the rail bridge that links Cariboo Pulp and Paper to town. After shooting it from the west bank I gingerly walked out onto it, tripod in hand and D600 securely slung over my shoulder. There’s something about watching the water rush by below through the gap between the sleepers to get the heart pumping. From there (with temperatures finally plunging towards zero and the sky clear and crisp) I took the golden last photo of the vehicle bridge.

By the light of the mills
By the light of the mills
Steam silhouette
Steam silhouette
Torch-light.
Torch-light.
Golden river
Golden river

A jaunt to clear away the cobwebs

Until early January I was loving winter. Then I took a trip to the warmer climes of South Africa and Madagascar for five weeks. Since arriving back in Canuckistan in early February winter hasn’t been quite as kind. It has been colder than before I left, granted, but that wasn’t the problem. After a week of exercise, and enjoying nature on foot, I got sick – nausea, dizziness, sore muscles, extreme fatigue and trouble breathing. Just getting up in the morning was challenging.

But last week I had had quite enough, and so decided to go for a walk up in the provincial park overlooking town. It was invigorating and I stayed out longer than I planned, winding my way back through the west side, past my favourite footbridge and back home very very sore. Winter does seem to be in its death throes – despite the cold snap last week – and I was determined to get a few more snowy pics before it had faded.

Strangely enough, town wasn’t nearly as colourful as I was hoping it would be. The park closes at dusk, which meant I couldn’t stay up there long enough to shoot the city’s night lights. But I did get a few nice photos of my little corner of Canuckistan in the back-end of winter.

Trees up in the provincial park
Trees up in the provincial park
Sunset
Sunset
Trees at dusk
Trees at dusk
The much-photographed pulp mill
The much-photographed pulp mill
Town in the evening glow
Town in the shadow of the evening glow
The west side from the water reservoir
The west side from the water reservoir
The Fraser River all iced up
The Fraser River all iced up
On the footbridge.
On the footbridge
The footbridge from the water's edge
The footbridge from the water’s edge
The footbridge, all iced up
The footbridge, all iced up

I’ve previously shot the footbridge (in summer and early winter.)

And here’s the pulp mill from another perspective.

Of fire and ice

It’s not like I’ve never seen snow before, but I really am excited about this coming winter, and the photo opportunities it’s sure to bring. I guess I’m especially excited because I’ve never lived in a place with as much snow as what people are telling me we can expect. Because all that snow means I can rediscover old haunts (as I mentioned in my previous post) and see this city I now call home through totally different eyes.

This evening, for example, I had half an hour to kill downtown and so decided to shoot Quesnel’s Old Fraser River Bridge again. I drove over and scrambled down the slippery slope to the water’s edge. I’ve photographed the bridge before here and here, but never with snow about, or from this angle.  Again, I was not adequately prepared – as I had left my tripod at home – but I made do: balancing my camera on rocks cleared of their snow. All four of these shots were taken with 30 – 60 second exposures, between f/8 and f/16 and at quite low ISOs.

The time? Shortly before and after 7pm.

Fish-eye view
Fish-eye view
Snow covered rock
Snow covered rock
A bridge and water droplets
A bridge and water droplets
Portrait of a bridge
Portrait of a bridge

Beauty in the broken

It seems I just can’t stay away from the old burnt-out church on the Indian Reserve. I’m sorry, that’s not very politically correct of me – First Nations land. Last weekend when friends Russell and Helen came for a visit from Edmonton she asked if we could go out to take some photos (having seen the series on my blog a few months back.)

We drove in at dusk and were met by the man who lives out there, and a dog.

“Hi, we’re from out of town, may we quickly take some photos of the church,” I asked.

Fortunately we were in a car with Alberta plates, which strengthened my case for being from out of town. And my accent works too. He nodded and and headed into his home followed by the dog, which seemed as happy to have us on the land as his owner was.

This time I wandered to the other side of the church and even went inside. Only one stained-glass window remains, but it made for some divine photos.

As I was leaving I found an old ladder in a hidden nook leading up the steeple, and started climbing it, but after becoming snagged on several nails decided to leave that adventure for another day, with older clothes …

(Please click on images for bigger versions).

 

 

Shooting a pulp mill at night

This is my first attempt to photograph one of the many mills here in Quesnel – in this case, the Cariboo Pulp and Paper Company because it was closest to my home. I went out at 9.30pm, once again without a tripod (I am working on acquiring one) and tried a few long exposures … The mosquitoes are still out in force, and I look forward to Autumn when there shouldn’t be as many around. For now I’m reasonably happy with the results.

I am, however, seriously irritated with the state of my image sensor. Sure, I frequently change lenses but I have never experienced a sensor get as dirty as mine is now. Ever. I cleaned these images up to some extent in post production but I am at a loss as to what to do to remedy the situation long-term…

Cariboo Pulp and Paper (greyscale) f/22, 10 seconds, ISO 100.
Cariboo Pulp and Paper (greyscale) f/22, 10 seconds, ISO 100.
Cariboo Pulp and Paper. f/22, 30 seconds, ISO 100
Cariboo Pulp and Paper and passing truck. f/22, 30 seconds, ISO 100

Quesnel’s Old Fraser River Bridge

At 831 feet (253m) long, Quesnel’s* Old Fraser River Bridge is apparently the longest wooden truss walking bridge in the world. That was the information the inebriated chap I met down on the river bank gave me … And then, as I was walking home, I came across a plaque on the east end of the bridge that seemed to confirm the information.

Construction began on the bridge in August 1928, and it was officially opened in March 1929. During World War II birch was harvested west of the river, trucked across the bridge and shipped by rail to make plywood for Mosquito bombers. But as the lumber industry around Quesnel grew through the 1950 and ’60s the bridge, which could only handle a single lane of traffic, became inadequate. Upon completion of its replacement downriver (the Moffatt Bridge) in 1971, the Old Fraser River Bridge was converted for pedestrian use (as well as for horses, cyclists and skateboarders).

In 2010 the bridge was restored and integrated into Quesnel’s Riverfront Trail system. Apart from the decking and trusses that were replaced, a modern low-power programmable lighting system was installed … Beautiful!

I shot all of these handheld, while fighting off buzzard-sized mosquitoes… You can read more about the old bridge here.

"Horses must not exceed walking pace." Skateboarders on the other hand ...
“Horses must not exceed walking pace.” Skateboarders on the other hand …
The Old Fraser River Bridge from the east bank
The Old Fraser River Bridge from the east bank.
All alone after dark ...
All alone after dark …
View from the bridge up the Fraser River.
View from the bridge up the Fraser River.
The Old Fraser River Bridge from the west bank
The Old Fraser River Bridge from the west bank.

* Quesnel (kwəˈnɛl) is a small city in the Cariboo District of British Columbia, Canada – about 650km north of Vancouver.

Little church on the prairie

To be honest, I know nothing about this gutted church that stands lonely in a field of dandelions out on Red Bluff Road, south of Quesnel, British Columbia. I don’t know who built it, what church group it belonged to, or how it caught fire.

I first saw it when Helen (Dean) shot some ghostly, snowy photos of her sister around it in January this year. Then, shortly after arriving here last week, I stumbled across the old building while out exploring my new neighbourhood. I promised myself that I would return with my camera as soon as possible.

That time came yesterday evening, as I was driving home at around 8.30pm. The light was perfect – pink and soft after a late afternoon shower – and so I took a detour to try to photograph her. I turned off the main road down a pot-holed dirt track, and was met by two mangy dogs, which barked noisily at me – not used to seeing strangers in their neck of the woods.

But they were harmless, and I wandered around for at least half and hour – trying to do the old church justice with my photos. I imagined the stories she could tell – of families whose histories were intertwined with her own: of baptisms, weddings, funerals and Sunday services. I wouldn’t have swapped squelching through the wet field, and braving the giant, voracious mosquitoes for anything …

Despite her dilapidated state, this once white-washed old church is still beautiful!

Approaching down a makeshift track.
Approaching down a makeshift track.
This image was made up of 16 separate photos stitched together.
This image was made up of 16 separate photos stitched together.
Dandelion
Dandelion
Stained-glass window
Stained-glass window through a gaping window frame.
Window. Stained. Burnt.
Window. Stained. Burnt. Shattered.
Scarred. For good.
Scarred. For good.
Stretching towards the heavens (in wide angle)
Stretching towards the heavens (in wide-angle)

Update (June 17, 2013): This was apparently a Catholic church on “First Nations” land. Interestingly enough, when it first caught fire the local volunteer fire fighters went inside, only to find that there were no flames or smoke. It turns out that the part of the church one can see was simply built around the original structure, and that the double walls and double roof were keeping the flames on the outside. I will definitely be returning in winter for more stark pictures.