This is a journal of our retirement move and life in Ucluelet on Vancouver Island's ruggedly beautiful west coast. The town's motto is "Enjoy life on the edge".

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Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Colour, Shape and Texture

Beach walking on the Pacific Ocean is a serious pastime for this photographer, Dear Reader, and I never tire of the sights, sounds and smells as I wander along. Nor do I neglect Colour, Shape and Texture. These three salient elements are as crucial to a good image as are the two other major factors: light and gesture. Colour, shape and texture may also be sublime in their ability to present a palette and form that is instantly appealing to the viewer.

This morning, we spent a few hours at Combers Beach, walking slowly north from the trailhead to the the end of the beach where the rocks demarcate where Combers Beach ends and Long Beach begins. The morning was bright and clear, with almost no clouds in a sky of deep azure. In the distance, we could see a bit of mist coming in off the water.



At one point, we came across what I think is a crab pot that had washed up upon the beach and was half buried in the sand.


Somewhat further along, an oval platform of raised sand was visible, and when I went to investigate I realized it was a good-sized Dungeoness Crab, it's carapace about 6-inches across. I gently lifted him (or was it a her?) up out of the sand a bit to see whether it was alive, and the legs came to life, pincers clacking at me. I released it, and it immediately set about working its way back down into the wet sand, water spewing vigorously from its mouth.


In the rocks at the end of the beach, a small tidal pool contained a microcosm of shellfish, anenomes and other minute life, resplendent in their colourful diversity.


Walking back, I concentrated on the back of the beach, where there is often more to be seen. It's here that I find the texture differences that catch my eye. Various tracks may be seen, and present a puzzle for the viewer to imagine what the maker was, and what behavior was being followed. Or the waving patterns in the sand that the wind and water has sculpted along the miniature plains and dunes that build up around the logs that the waves have thrown willy-nilly, like jack straws for a game between giants.




At one point, a small stream egressed from the foliage and before it quickly disappeared beneath the sands, it painted the beach a vivid ochre. Probably some microorganism or algae, I suppose.


As I ambled along, I looked for the elements we discuss in this post, the colour, shape and texture that I would then pick up and photograph close-up. I am always captivated with the gorgeous colours of the shells, the palette ranging from bold to subtle, and their marvelous iridescence that looks like a miniature oil slick upon wet pavement.

At one point, I found a fragment of blue plastic upon which barnacles had established a foothold. Who knew what it would look like in a few months, or years?






The delicate intricacy of a gull's feather: what better to showcase all three elements of colour, shape and texture?


So much wonder, so little time!


Sunday, 27 July 2014

Out for the Evening

After dinner last night, Marcelle and I took a stroll on Wick Beach, taking advantage of the long, oblique evening sun. The beautiful side-lighting this time of day creates, as well as the golden colours, a product of the sun's rays filtering through a thicker portion of the atmosphere which filters out more of the blue, yields a perfect time for taking pictures. (All images by iPhone again today.)

The long shadows create a sculpted look that makes the sand look as if you are flying over a miniature desert of dunes.



We wandered past the visitor centre toward the rocks, checking the waters edge for anything interesting. I spotted a few small jellies, glistening in their transparency, their internal ribbing just barely visible.


Upon the rocks, a face suddenly took shape, made up of barnacles and anenomes.


Clambering up on one of the large rocks, we sat and watched the sun sinking toward the water, its rays washing over the rocky outcrops in front of us.


What better way to spend an evening?


Saturday, 26 July 2014

Ukee Harbour Walkabout

Yesterday, I had to take Tigger, our redoubtable Toyota Yaris, in for an oil change and lube at the Petro Canada station here in Ukee. To pass the time while the car was being worked on, I walked down to the inner harbour and roamed the docks. Again today, I had just my iPhone with me as a camera, and as I wandered, I looked for some graphic element around which I could build a composition.

Because Ucluelet is an ocean port, there are always a fair number of interesting craft in the harbour, including many fishing boats. This means there are a lot of interesting details one can find to capture.

The morning's overcast and cloudy skies provide a beautiful backdrop for landscape images, as well as a lovely even, soft light.

For those of you shooting and editing on iOS (iPhone and iPad) devices, I just published an article on my See, Capture, Show blog entitled "In Search of the. Holy Grail: Good iOS B&W" which discusses workflows for getting great black & white results on the iPhone and iPad. The above image is used for this workflow discussion.

That's all for now folks!

Thursday, 24 July 2014

South Beach Stroll

Went out by myself to South Beach this morning, taking along just the iPhone again. It's a sunny day here in Ukee, with a bit of a breeze, but warm enough for just a sweater. Along the trail, just before the boardwalk ramp, there was a large pile of bear scat, so I was sure to make a bit of noise as I walked. We haven't seen a bear on the trails yet, but the evidence was certainly there!

As I prowled along the beach, I spotted what looked like scrimshaw carving on what I first thought was cork. Turned out upon closer examination to be a piece of bark that has been intricately carved out by industrious beetles.

In many areas on the beaches here, one can find enormous amounts of shell debris that has washed up upon the tide. As you walk, the shells crunch and crack beneath your feet.

Here, a rugged tuft of grass shone brightly in the sunshine, contrasted against the dark tones and shades of the surrounding rocks.

I walked back along the beach, past the visitor centre and watched the groups of surf school pupils further down the beach.

As I turned to exit to the parking lot, the snapping of the flag in the wind caught my attention, and I composed it against the brilliant blue sky and sun.
A short, but gratifying excursion. Cheers!

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

The iPhone: a Stream of Consciousness Sketchbook

Expanding on yesterday's post praising the iPhone, today, I walked a portion of the Wild Pacific Trail with the iPhone as my sole camera. As I walk, I tend to keep my eyes on the right-side of the trail, concentrating on one side in order to maximize what I can glean in the way of graphic elements. (By doing the same thing on the way back, I rarely miss any of the treasures that nature conveniently places along my path.) If something catches my eye, then it triggers the thought loop I go through:
  • Is it worthy of capture?
  • Is there a good composition to be had?
  • Is the lighting sufficient for a good exposure?
  • Can I capture it with the equipment I'm carrying?
For the most part, all this is automatic now, and with the iPhone, very simplistic in that I'm working with a fixed 35mm perspective and I know I can only focus so close. At this point, the capture becomes simple mechanics. As i mentioned yesterday, I use an app called ProCamera 7 to capture my images as it allows me to easily set and lock focus and exposure separately as can be seen in the screen-capture below. The yellow circle is the point I set for exposure, and the blue square shows my focus point.

Using the iPhone and this app allows me to have a virtual sketchbook that I can use to quickly and easily capture what I see as I walk the trail. I can then process the captures later at my leisure.
This morning it is raining lightly and intermittently, the moisture making the forest's verdancy pop out even more vividly, leaves shiny with beads of water like jewels scattered by Mother Nature. As I walk along, a gust of wind off the ocean dislodges a cascade of fat drops from the overhanging foliage, drumming a tattoo on the top and bill of my baseball cap.

I follow the trail slowly, not wanting miss the bounty set before me, while other hikers seem to hurry by, intent more on reaching the next stretch where the ocean is once again visible. I greet them as they pass, and either relish a moment of comradly satisfaction when they answer in kind, or wonder what's in their minds if they don't reply.
A flash of colour catches my eye and I pull out the iPhone and find an angle that gives me a pleasing composition, juxtaposing the colour against a darker background.

Now the trail winds past an ocean lookout and I watch an an eagle chases a seagull that has offended it somehow, then turn to capture the scene before me.

Along the shore at one point is a small beach, and on it, there are the remnants of shellfish that have been strewn into the foliage at the back of the beach, a treasure box of shapes and colours that provide a rich feast for the roving eye.

The Salal bushes offer a rich palette of succulent berries, each tiny globe covered in minute globules of rainwater.

As I pass a rotting log, I spy a 5-inch Banana Slug, surfing slowly along a trail of slime, waving its eye stalks to and fro.

Every now and then, the sound of a Tree Frog Dopplers by me as I walk past. I've yet to see one, but I hear them nonetheless, and it's enchanting. I see, and capture a spray of lichen, its brightness contrasting against the branch it resides upon.

The overcast skies provide a lovely, even light against which to showcase the rugged beauty. The subdued palette of greys, blues, browns and greens is quintessentially Pacific Northwest.
My little iPhone sketchbook is the perfect tool to capture the feel and look of what I see and experience. I love technology!

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

In Praise of iPhone Photography

When we ventured out this morning, I left my cameras at home, and went out armed with only my iPhone. This is a conscious choice I make every so often just to challenge myself a little. These days, however, the challenge consists more of being able to see the LCD sufficiently well in sunlight, and not trying to work around limitations in the "camera" software. When I first got an iPhone, it was the 3G, with a 5 MP sensor, and now I shoot with the 4S and its 8 MP sensor. Either sensor delivered a perfectly adequate file size for posting to my blog, and indeed, I down-size my images to 1200 x 900 pixels, so the hardware performs as required.

Where I've seen the biggest evolution is in the apps I now use for capture and processing. At first, I used the OS's built-in camera app, but soon started to explore the world of dedicated camera apps that were emerging. I've bought and tried virtually all of them, but the one I kept coming back to and have long since settled on is ProCamera (now ProCamera 7). While occasionally I'll use Hipstamatic, by and far, ProCamera 7 is my standard camera app. I much prefer to capture the image in the best possible way, and then later process it as I wish. ProCamera 7, with its ability to easily and separately choose and lock focus and exposure, gives me the best starting point from which to then "build" my finished image. The app also has a number of additional useful features, such as white balance, aspect ratio choice, tilt meter, rapid fire and you can even save your files as TIFF if you wish. (Because I always use other apps to process my images which do not allow a consistent TIFF workflow, I simply save to the best quality JPEG. I would point out, however, that being able to save in TIFF format is great if I want to capture the best file for use in my desktop software workflow.)

ProCamera has another important plus for me: it is very quick to start and use. Since the iPhone shuts off, or I shut it off, in fairly quick order, this performance factor is an important one. My shooting strategy with ProCamera is the same as if I'm using my other cameras: expose for the highlights and let the other areas of the image expose where they are. And as with post-processing files from my cameras, I use app software to adjust the shadow areas to compensate for an overall satisfactory luminace distribution. Exposing to ensure the highlights do not blow out is extremely important on the iPhone, and ProCamera's excellent method to separate and lock focus and exposure is critical to my image making.

Once I have the captured the scene to ensure an exposure that I can later work with, I will then typically transfer the files to my ipad so that I have a larger working surface, and then use a post-processing workflow that starts with Snapseed, using the Tune Image functions, then Selective Adjust if necessary (most often to darken skies), then Details for a touch of Structure and Sharpening. This final image is then saved to my Photo Library, and quite often, I'll then use a custom preset in Painteresque to add a little "tooth" to the image.

Sometimes, I'll get a bit more daring and use apps such as Glaze, Moku Hanga, MobilrMonet or lately, Waterlogue to give a more traditional media look to the work. Sometimes it works, and sometimes... meh! But the fun is in the trying, and just as the digital darkroom supplanted the wet darkroom for me, the joy of using these wonderful and astonishingly inexpensive apps have made mobile photography a never ending source of wonder and amusement.

Here are a couple of shots I took this morning up in Tofino, first I'll show you the scene as ProCamera captured it (giving me the perfect platform upon which to build the finished image) and below them, the image after my above-mentioned processing routine.

As you can see, if you get a good initial capture, the amount of detail and luminance detail that can be pulled out and massaged is quite astounding.

Here are some more iPhone pictures that I've done over the last couple of years.


With a camera phone, photography is available to everyone, everywhere, at almost any time. Try taking a break from texting and take some pictures!