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".

Follow our new adventures at Eyes On Vancouver.

Check my main photography website, or follow me on my Facebook page.

Click on pictures to see them full size.

Saturday, 30 August 2014

Escape from Chaos

As this is our last week as residents of Ukee, we are currently hip-deep in packing activities which means that we are presently surrounded by all manner of baggages, packages, parcels and paraphernalia... in short, utter CHAOS!


And to boot, it was pouring down with rain this morning, making the propect of filling further cardboard coffins a decidedly miserable prospect. Imagine our delight when, as we broke our fast, the the rain stopped, and the sun shone brightly in a sky of deep azure. Time to hit the beach!


We have promised ourselves that during this last week, that we would try to get out as much as our duties allowed to bask in the beauty of this amazing place and pack our memory banks as full as possible before we leave next weekend for our new digs in North Vancouver.

Today, we headed for Wick Beach and were pleasantly surprised to see some quite decent waves, possibly from the hurricane that has been responsible for the great surf along the California coast the last few days. The surfers were out in droves, taking advantage of both the weather and the waves.


As usual, Marcelle was right in the surf, wading along the shoreline as we made our way north along the beach. And, as usual, it didn't take long before a 'rogue wave' managed to attack her and thoughtfully drench her to the waist. (As you, Dear Reader, will probably know by now, this is de regueur for my darling wife, who seems to somehow attract these 'rogue waves'.)



A fine mist was blowing in from offshore, creating a layer of separation from the background distance, helping to pop out subjects on the beach in the middle distance.


Reaching our turn-around point, we found a convenient log upon which to cop a squat and have some water and rest our old legs for the walk back down the beach to the car.


As we trudged back, I shot some of the innumerable tiny jellies that lay upon the sand, capturing the sun's light like little biological lenses, magnifying the sand they lay over.


Weary from the walk, but with hearts full, we made our way back to town and treated ourselves to a lunch at the The Blue Room, where Trish and Melanie looked after us in style, as always. While we have often had breakfast there, this was our first time for lunch, and with the countdown to the move, we will probably be eating out a bit over the next few days and our kitchen inexorably disappears into boxes!


We just need to figure out a way to package some of this marvellous place and take it with us. But then again, that's what this blog has been all about: Capturing life on the edge!

Friday, 29 August 2014

Local Photographer Shot on Big Beach!

Now that I have your attention, let me allay your fears, Dear Reader... your humble narrator was not a victim in the sights of a mad gunman, but rather in the viewfinder of a very talented fellow photog, David Paul Crombie. David, whom Marcelle and I had the pleasure of meeting just recently, has become a valued and generous friend. An amiable, gentle, soft-spoken soul, David has a remarkable eye for composition and a sense of timing that enable him to work easily and effectively with subjects to produce stunning images.

Last evening, Dave asked us to meet him at Big Beach so he could shoot Marcelle and I for some sunset pictures. Here is an example of his fine work:

Image copyright David Paul Crombie

Be sure to check out more of David's fine work on his website.

The three of us had a fun and productive time as David posed us here and there and let us do what we just love doing... love each other! Snogging in the great outdoors, all for the sake of art, is something that I can get behind 110%, so a splendid time was had by all. We look forward to seeing more of the results of David's wonderful art.

Here's a picture of the artist himself:


And just to prove that no photographers were harmed during this production, I present a couple of iPhone shots from this morning where Marcelle and I went for brekky at our favorite diner, the Blue Room.


Food for the soul last evening, and food for the body this morning.

Ah, life on the edge can be exhilarating!


Thursday, 28 August 2014

Musico Diminuendo

As we get closer to our moving day, where we will leave our current 2600 sq ft and shoehorn ourselves into a modest 600 sq ft space, the downsizing activity is becoming frantic. Furniture and other sundry goods are disappearing out the door at a pleasing rate, and we have a trip to Port coming up to supply the Thrift Shop there with odds and sods that we will be left with and no longer need. Well, the dreaded day finally arrived where I had to tackle downsizing my computer/music setup.

In the picture above, you will see the old system, based around a Fatar 88-key piano-action MIDI controller keyboard, the tubular, modular 'A-frame' stand stretched to 60" in width, presenting a formidable footprint, especially as the 'A-frame' legs splayed out quite a distance at the floor. A half shelf above it all, on the top crosspiece, held my backup drive array etc. In fact, we simply had no space for something this big in the new condo. Surgery was called for!


As may be seen here, this tubular construction set (from Ultimate Support Stands) is completely modular and with a bit of imagination, you can build almost any type of supporting structure. In fact, I've been dragging this stuff around with me for years, and used it for all manner of modifications to the base stand.

Because the 88-key Fatar was really the limiting factor here, my dear, patient, loving, and all-around incredible wife told me to go ahead and buy a new, smaller keyboard. I lucked out and found that Tom Lee Music had a special on the M-Audio Axiom Air with 61 keys. The 61-keys are just about perfect for the stretch between bass and treble notes I play, and it's easy to reach past at either end to additional octaves with the tap of a button. The Axiom is also hugely lighter than the heavy Fatar, which also helps things out. So, to work...


The first thing was obviously to clear all the equipment off the stand so I could dismantle it and start modifying and building my new design. My design goals were:

  1. Reduce the width
  2. Reduce the height
  3. Reduce the front-back depth
  4. Increase the available shelf space

While goals 1,2 and 3 are fairly easy, incorporating number 4 was a challenge, especially as I was shrinking the entire structure! Before I actually solved the shelving issue, here is what the basic redesigned stand looked like:

As may be seen, it is essentially a rectangular two-tiered bench that is only as high as the top-rear shelf for the monitors needs to be. The top-rear crosspiece holds the shelf for the monitors, while the lower-front crosspiece holds the MIDI controller and the computer keyboard and mouse etc.


Well, here's the finished piece. And if you're wondering where the additional shelf is, it is mounted on a crosspiece below the top-rear one and is thus not visible in this picture. This works out really well, as it keeps the clutter of hard drives, audio/MIDI interface and USB hub out of sight, and makes cable management a lot easier. When we get settled, I'll properly dress the cables with Ty-wraps to keep everything clean and as noise-free as possible. (This means keeping AC lines away from audio lines, or if not possible, have them cross at 90 degrees to minimize crosstalk.)

The whole cost, excluding the new controller and almost a full day's labour, was $27 for some new shelving to properly fit the stand. I was able to reduce the size by 12" in width, 20" in height and about 12" in depth. And, I have double the storage shelf space.

All-in-all, a banner project day here on the edge!


Wednesday, 27 August 2014

They Roam in Packs

A photographer friend, Phil Douglis, once told me that his wife compared photographers to dogs... "they were always stopping at every lamp post". Put us in a pack, and all manner of chaos may be observed (and documented).



Thus it was late yesterday afternoon when I accompanied good buddies Holly Enn and David Paul Crombie out to Florencia. David, as I mentioned in an earlier post, is a superb photographer, and produces stunning images. His friend, Holly, was shooting yesterday too, under the excellent tutelage of David, so there we were, a brace of ambulatory lenses, pointing and poking our way along the shoreline. Grubbing for the elusive graphic element that then triggers a composition, and with luck, a potential image... Snap! Next morsel...


When you add into the fray that all of us were shooting different focal ranges (all 35EQ):

  • I was using 18mm, 42mm and 135mm lenses
  • Holly used a superzoom with 450mm at the long end (maybe the 18-300)
  • David shot with a 24-70mm f2.8 zoom (a magnificent piece of glass)

In consequence, we were all probably working in different focal lengths, and even if we shot the same scene, we could have quite different, individual representations of the original image.



In the slanting late afternoon sun, peering just over the trees at the north end of Florencia Bay, Holly and David were lit up by the lovely warm light.


In places, where the water had carved delicate fluted channels in the sand, the sunlight reflected on the wet edges and made the fire-like lines of the pattern come alive as if indeed on fire.


Looking back down the beach to where the trailhead is, there were the inevitable band of visitors who seemingly never stray more then a few metres from the corridor between the parking lot / trailhead and the water. The low, long sunlight popped them out nicely against the wet sand, so I forgave them their silliness.


Walking north into the sun, the beach was lit up with tidelines and a patchwork of silver puddles on the sand. The aperture blades of my ultra-wide angle 12mm (18mm 35EQ) create exquisite light rays around the sun. (J.J. Abrams approved, dontcha know.)


With the sun almost down beneath the trees, you get a curious combination of colour temperatures where part of an image will look warmer (gold colour) and part cooler (bluish colour). The remaining barnacles warm against the cooler background rock. (I'm not sure if the light circles are the remains of barnacle foundations, or the start of a new barnacle!)



As we ascended up the stairs to the trail above, the sun was just visible through the trees, creating a beautiful dappled light effect and again, the rayed-sun.


Lovely afternoon, lovely friends, lovely image to have as the last remembrance of the hike.


Friday, 22 August 2014

A Little on the Small Side

This morning, I went and walked the Shorepine Bog trail, intent on trying for some macro images. While there's a lot to see, trying to capture macro images, which require you to be within centimetres of the subject, become quite exciting while trying to remain on the boardwalk. The surrounding bulk of sphagnum moss just devours anything you sink into it. This left me only with the few subjects that grew right along the sides of the boardwalk.





Three little images, a bit small.

Life can be tiny on the edge.


Variations on a Theme

I just published a new post on my See, Capture, Show blog that uses an iPhone picture of Ukee harbour to illustrate what different iOS apps can do to showcase an image.


Thursday, 21 August 2014

For Love of the Frame

As a lifelong passionate photographer, it was natural that I tried to interest my kids in photography, just as my father had indeed done with me. I can say that it worked 2/3's of the time. That is, two of the three took to it, while my son Alex never seemed to have been bitten by the bug. Rachael is an accomplished artist who can produce a work of art in the sand with a few flourishes of a stick, and works with all manner of media, including creating the most intricate and beautiful food items. She's an omnivorous photographer, always ready to grab an image, even with her iPhone.


When I gave Cameron a camera, he took to it immediately and has a good eye for composition and balance. We've spent many hours out together, tramping the back roads and trails, and now beaches, quietly content in each others' company, searching out images to gather. Compared to his sister, Cam is more of a studied photographer who moves more methodically, planning his images and often working with a tripod.



While Cam was here this trip, we gave him Marcelle's old iPad, and I showed him how to download his SD card to it and use some of the apps for doing some post-processing on his images. Because it is so portable and generally as capable as a laptop or desktop, I find the iPad a perfect photographic companion. This blog, for example, is completely constructed on my iPad using an app called Blogsy.



It's a lot of fun having a hobby or interest you can share with kids, it makes it that much more special to be a mentor when asked, and then to see, with pride, the results that are achieved. And, of course, the satisfaction that you see in your child to be able to produce something, anything, that is from the heart.




Being a photographer is being in search of beauty, structure, colour, chaos and timing. All to fill that little frame we look through. A frame we choose to see our world through.

Just love that frame!

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Family Outing

Well, the day I've been looking forward to for some time now has finally come... my kids, Rachael and Cameron, accompanied by our great friend Alexandra (fondly known as Ms. Alex to distinguish her from my other son Alex), arrived yesterday to spend a few days with us. It's doubly nice because neither Cameron nor Ms. Alex had visited us here before. It's fun to have the young people in the house, reminiscing about growing up, as I now get to hear details that would have curdled my blood if I'd known at the time. What fun it is being a parent!


We decided to do Wreck Beach, from the Willowbrae trailhead, and spent an enchanting few hours roaming along the sand. Not much interesting detritus there yesterday, but the kids loved the experience anyway and examined all and sundry articles and features, taking lots of photos.



It was a great sky day yesterday, something I delight in, and I always take my ultra-wide lens (18mm) for capturing the maximum amount of drama.







There were some lovely reflections available for the taking, so I helped myself.



While the kids forged onward to find a geocache farther up the beach, Marcelle and I wandered back slowly to await them at the trailhead. On the way back, just before the trailhead stairs, a tiny creek emerges from the green, a microcosm of life and beauty, a treat for the eye.

Life on the edge is even better with family and friends!