I am an outdoor adventure, landscape, nature, and product photographer based out of Cumberland in the Comox Valley, on British Columbia's Vancouver Island. This blog is where I post up all my adventures in the world of photography!
New Year's Eve is traditionally a time of celebration and cheer, but with 2020 being the year that it was, general jubilance was maybe a bit muted, and for many, it was a time spent either alone or with a very small group. The weirdness of this holiday season inspired me to explore the use of the traditional drink of celebration - champagne, or sparkling wine - in portraying the end of this sideways year. Images from this study are below, with notes on my thought process as I was making them.
This is probably a traditional way of photographing a champagne/sparkling wine product. The label is clear, and effervescence is on display. One thing I didn't count on was the weird reflections that my textured backdrop caused on the champagne glass, but in my mind, this is a decent first attempt.
This is an example of "light field" photography for glass, where the glassware is outlined, allowing it to be seen where it might otherwise blend into the background. I chose this lighting pattern in order to highlight the colour of the drink and show the bubbles. This is a typical way to photograph glasses and liquids; I just wish I'd used a larger backlight in order to make the outline of the champagne glass more crisp.
This is probably the most celebratory image that I have in this set. The holiday lights and reflected table top light from below raise the mood of this image, which is meant to give the idea that it was taken in a dark bar or club. Sadly, the drink has gone flat here, and I didn't have a way to wake up the bubbles, but lesson learned - champagne bubbles don't last very long! Next time I do this I'll have a few Alka-Seltzer tablets on hand.
Aftermath 1. This image is actually what I had envisioned when I started thinking about how to portray the oddness of celebrating this new year. The lighting design is intended to evoke morning light coming through a partially-open window. As for the content/props - the small twist-top bottle of sparkling wine, the single glass, hat, and noisemaker - these were chosen to portray the small gathering sizes that most people experienced this year, as well as the hardship that many faced**. (**Aside: I couldn't bring myself to use Baby Duck for this shoot, despite it definitely being a cheap alcohol alternative. My intention was not to portray a high school party vibe!)
New Year's Aftermath 2. After I took the first "Aftermath" picture, I reviewed it on my computer, and decided that there were technical aspects of it that I didn't like. The glass was too dirty, the fact that the bottle was a twist-top wasn't readily apparent, and I'd allowed too much of the light source into my frame, causing too much flare. This was my second attempt at this image, using a cleaner glass and an HDR-type of technique to better control the highlights and shadows, and upon reflection I'm not sure that it's an improvement. Yes, in my mind it's a bit clearer, but it's almost *too* sanitized and loses some of the grunge of the first attempt.
What are your thoughts? What emotions did the above images evoke? How did you spend your New Year's Eve?
Conditions were overcast and blissfully cool for the 2019 Mount Washington stop of the Vancouver Island Trail Running Series. The clouds made for an epic West Coast mood!
These are the highlights of the day; for the full set of photos and purchase options, please visit the full gallery:
The next generation of trail runners ready to go!
And they're off!
Running is FUN!
Yeah, the views aren't bad from the top.
Long course winner Sean Chester is all alone on the way to the summit.
This climb was steep!
Lovely ribbon of sub-alpine singletrack.
After the steeps come the rocks.
Just a wee bit of exposure to keep things interesting.
What, more UP?!?
Just posing on a mountainside.
Finally get to cruise for a bit!
The second climb for the long course racers was really, really steep.
Yay for hydration and gummies!
! This chairlift must have been a bit of a tease for the long-course runners, since the second climb went right along beside it.
All kinds of critters in the trees.
Happy to be at the finish line!
Lucky number 13!
This is the 13th year of the BC Bike Race, a seven-day mountain biking stage race visiting the best singletrack trails coastal British Columbia has to offer. With 600 racers from 38 countries, this is a bucket-list-worthy mountain bike event for riders around the world.
I met the travelling circus in Duncan, in the Cowichan Valley on Vancouver Island. By this time, the racers had already done the Day 0 prologue in North Vancouver, and had taken the first of the four ferry trips that would take them to mountain biking destinations around coastal BC.
BoB (Bear on a Bike) is the mascot of the BC Bike Race.
Six hundred racers come with a lot of baggage.
We were welcomed to Duncan in the Cowichan Valley by the Quw’utsun First Nation.
The sun set on the tent city on the eve of the first full day of racing in the Cowichan Valley.
Rocky Mountain mechanics were up late getting their athletes' bikes ready for the next day.
Two timed segments greeted racers on the first full day. Mount Tzouhalem featured some fast, flowy singletrack, while Maple Mountain offered some sweet technical rocky climbs and descents.
Tzouhalem's Double D in particular was a crowd pleaser.
By the time racers had gotten to this point in the course, they had ridden about 35 km and were ready to see the finish line.
Overnight rain made the Cumberland trails slick and... interesting... for visiting racers. Locals cheered, heckled, and coached participants down one particularly gnarly corner on Blockhead, high in the Cumberland trail system.
Cumberland was the first introduction many participants had to West Coast riding. The talk around the campground over the next day was that "the wet roots were a real eye opener!"
The second portion of the loop took riders through some tight, flowy, singletrack amongst the alders.
For the first time, the BC Bike Race spent a second day on the same trail system. This shorter loop in Cumberland took racers down some trails never visited before by the BC Bike Race.
The race course reached tight singletrack very quickly on the 2nd Cumberland day, so rather than the 100 rider waves, racers started in groups of 25.
The fireweed was in full bloom in the clearings.
By the end of the 3rd day of racing, some riders were looking to ham it up in front of the camera...
...while others were all about the intensity.
After the second Cumberland stage, the race crossed the Strait of Georgia via ferry to Powell River on the Sunshine Coast.
The rain and clouds of the previous two days cleared and the ferry crossing was done under blue skies and calm seas.
The campground at Powell River is always a crowd favourite, being right on the beach and all.
Definitely an insta-worthy campsite.
The mechanics at the Obsession Bikes tent didn't let gorgeous views stop them from keeping racers' bikes in tip-top shape.
...And a beautiful sunset brought an end to day 3.
The perfect conditions continued throughout the day in Powell River and racers were treated to ribbons of undulating singltrack through mossy forests.
This guy wore a bunny suit for the entire race. If that isn't hardocre, I don't know what is.
Four days in and some folks were still hamming it up for the camera.
While there was less elevation gain and loss than on other days, there were still some descents to keep things fun.
...And that's it! It was a blast playing bikes with all these fine people.
Check out bcbikerace.com for more information! Maybe I'll see you on course next year!
In the fall I had the opportunity to accompany a Vancouver Island Avalanche Centre Society (VIACS) work crew heading up to Mount Cain to install weather station towers. This is part of a larger research project on weather and precipitation on Vancouver Island and the British Columbia coast.
Although the day started pretty miserably with rain and snow coming down at the Mount Cain lodge parking lot, by the end of it we were treated to glorious sun and views.
Special thanks to the lovely folks at VIACS for having me along for the ride!
For more information, and to learn about backcountry and avalanche safety, contact VIACS:
LJ_20170930-B9301067Rustic cabins are the accommodations of choice on Mount Cain. LJ_20170930-B9301118Bill Floyd wrestles a chainsaw at the base of Mount Cain. LJ_20170930-B9301124Bill Floyd uses a chainsaw to cut plywood templates for the bases of the weather station towers. LJ_20170930-B9301275The heavy lifting was done by the good folks at West Coast Helicopter. Rain and snow featured at the beginning of the day. LJ_20170930-A9300024The parking lot at the base of Mount Cain made a good staging area and helicopter landing pad. Reaching for the skyBill Phipps attaches a load to a line on the helicopter under dark and cloudy skies. LJ_20170930-A9300164The kind folks at West Coast Helicopter saved us a hike up the mountain. LJ_20170930-A9300225Bill Floyd hikes up into the fog to the location of the upper weather station tower. LJ_20170930-B9301326The new upper weather station tower is located next to the old one along the ridge on Mount Cain. LJ_20170930-B9301329The new upper weather station tower is located next to the old one along the ridge on Mount Cain. LJ_20170930-DJI_0043Aerial photo of the site of the upper tower. LJ_20170930-DJI_0047Aerial photo of the site of the upper tower, located adjacent to the ridge run trail. LJ_20170930-DJI_0048Aerial photo of the site of the upper tower, located adjacent to the ridge run trail. The blueberry bushes are in their scarlet fall foliage. LJ_20170930-A9300269Building the tower foundations requires a variety of tools. LJ_20170930-B9301338Dave Kallai and Haj consult over the hole they are digging for the new tower foundation. LJ_20170930-B9301346-PanoPanorama of the upper tower site LJ_20170930-B9301427The lower weather station tower is in a beautiful meadow LJ_20170930-A9300300Much digging was required for the foundations of the towers LJ_20170930-A9300307-HDRThe lower tower was located in a beautiful meadow. LJ_20170930-DJI_0064Aerial view of the site of the lower tower. LJ_20170930-A9300344Large boltsr are used to anchor the towers to their foundations, rebar reinforces the poured concrete foundations. LJ_20170930-A9300347The anodized blue of the nuts stands out against the autumnal sub-alpine colours. LJ_20170930-A9300365Megan Burns and Bill Phipps pour concrete for the foundation of the lower tower. LJ_20170930-A9300387Several bags of concrete went into the foundations of the tower, all hauled up by helicopter. LJ_20170930-A9300451The skies cleared and the weather was wonderful on the hike down the mountain. No helicopter for the return trip, so all the equipment and materials had to be hand-carried down. LJ_20170930-B9301553The team: Haj, Megan, Bill, Dave, and Bill LJ_20170930-B9301554All done!
Moonlight and Magic marks the beginning of the winter festival season in downtown Courtenay on Vancouver Island. It was a beautiful rain-free evening, and it seemed as though the entire Comox Valley came out to play.
My goal for the evening was to capture the energy of the event. To this end, I generally used relatively long exposures to illustrate the movement and flow of the crowds; my shutter speed for the most part was from 1/3s to 1/20s. Shooting mostly with a full-frame equivalent of a 90mm lens, and with all the shots being hand-held, the excellent in-body stabilization of my Olympus E-M1 was a necessity.
Wishing for ramenNikkei Ramen-Ya was an oasis of warmth as the sun went down. Open lateThe crowds swelled and swirled around the lights of the stores and restaurants on 5th St. Something for everyone!Face painting was popular with the little ones. The streets were alive with the sound of musicMusic from roaming musicians, DJs, and pop-up choirs filled the street Float like a butterflyLights everywhere made for a magical evening The place to beAt times it seemed as though all of Comox Valley was gathered in downtown Courtenay Holiday spiritAll the businesses were dressed up for the holidays BubblesWhere else can you find bubble-blowing unicorns of a Friday evening? Under the bright lightsEven more music was to be heard at the stage on Duncan Avenue.