Aug 26 2009

When do we eat?

There are probably some things worth eating that aren’t inherently photogenic, but a savvy purveyor will figure out how to make them so.  Case in point: the bounteous displays at the Granville Island Public Market.

As a Seattleite, I am of course loyal to the Pike Place Market, but when I’m in Vancouver I won’t miss a chance to visit Granville Island.  Fresh fruit, meat, pasta, cheese — as far as the eye can see and more than one stomach could accommodate in a lifetime.  Like great public markets everywhere, it’s an exercise in sensory overload.

Unfortunately, hotel rooms in Vancouver rarely come with decent kitchens, so there was no point taking these cool little crustaceans home other than in a photograph…


Aug 24 2009

Just below the surface

I spent the last 10 days in Canada, most of that on Salt Spring Island, the largest of the Canadian Gulf Islands.  According to the guide books, there are about 225 islands in the group — some are so teeny they are little more than navigation hazards.  Salt Spring boasts a year-round population of about 10,000 and supplements its natural beauty with an amazing array of resident artisans working in wood, clay, and textiles.  (Not to mention the artisanal bakers, cheesemakers, and organic farmers!)

The waters of the Strait of Georgia are teeming with marine life.  It’s not unusual to see orcas frolicking in the distance while you’re on the ferry, or seals joining the hubbub in the harbors.  When the tide goes out, you can see the sand dollar beds, watch the itty-bitty crabs scurry around, or — if you’re really lucky — marvel at the weirdness of a moon snail.  (Just be careful where you stand, or you’ll get squirted by the clams that haven’t yet fallen prey to the moon snails.)  There are numerous starfish, in contrasting coral and purple, and then there are the jellyfish — purply-brown and the size of a dinner plate.

I was wandering around Fulford Harbor at the south end of the island, and saw a couple of these jellyfish swimming just at the surface.  They’re fascinating to watch, changing from perfectly round to an eight-pointed star and back again as they propel themselves from place to place.

I didn’t have my polarizing filter with me when I took this shot, but the jelly was so close to the surface you can actually make out a great deal of detail, and the reflected light creates an abstract effect that’s quite striking.

Aug 13 2009

Reflection and reversal

Well, if I had some vague idea what I was looking for when I took the pictures I’m using for the header, the one below came as a total surprise.  I was in the Japanese Garden at the arboretum in Seattle.  It was late afternoon — generally a good time for taking pictures, except that it turns out much of the garden is in shadow at that time of day.  There were some high clouds that periodically dimmed things even more, pushed along by a gentle breeze.

The reflection of trees and clouds on the surface of the pond caught my eye, so I took a shot or two but didn’t really expect much.  When I looked at this one, I was intrigued by the texture caused by the slight ripples in the pond, so I decided to spend a bit of time working on it.  It almost looks like brush strokes — and while it’s certainly possible to add that texture using Photoshop, I assure you I did not do that this time.  (I’ll probably get around to posting an image where I did.)

As I worked, I was pleased with where the image was going, but it still wasn’t singing.  I should mention that because I was working with a reflection, the clouds were at the bottom and the trees at the top.  On a whim I rotated the canvas 180 degrees and got the image you see below.  It was so different it literally took my breath away.


Aug 12 2009

The magic of light

Have you had a chance to notice the header image?  If not, take a minute right now and look at it; I’ll wait.

I took those two photos just seconds apart, standing on the tide flats in Provincetown watching the tide come in around my ankles.  So why is one light and one dark?  A polarizing filter — the same thing they use in sunglasses to help cut down on glare when you’re driving.  The filter on my camera lens rotates to cut out light that’s scattering in one direction or another.  A quarter turn, more or less, is all that makes the difference between those two images.  You can see the same effect by tilting your head while wearing polarized sunglasses.

(Here’s a great explanation of how polarization works.  Go ahead, click that link — science doesn’t have to be scary.)

I can’t say that when I pressed the shutter release I knew exactly what the two photos would look like.  I knew I wanted to find out.  Sometimes the results are even better than you hoped…

And if not — well, there’s worse things in life than standing on the tide flats in Provincetown watching the tide roll in.

Aug 10 2009

A slightly different angle

This summer we acquired a raft in the pond in Truro.  Not long thereafter, a young cormorant took up residence.

I figured I could get close enough to get some good pics, even without a super-long lens.  Little did I know how close: this bird is not exactly shy.  I circled the raft in a kayak, and quickly discovered that even a slight breeze is enough to make the kayak drift, which meant I had to continually adjust focus and framing.  I finally got right over to the raft, reached out with one hand to hold the kayak steady, and clicked away.  The cormorant clearly was not perturbed.

Yeah, I did get pictures of the other end of the bird, but check out those feet!  Slightly reptilian, slightly prehistoric…

cormorant feet