Help fund the snowflake book project! (Sky Crystals)

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Snowflake book project link:

It has been a long time since a new blog post, but the time has come to show off the 2012-2013 snowflakes and announce to everyone about the snowflake book project!

Snowflakes take up months of my time as a photographer, but the time and effort required is always worth it:

In a snowflake like this, you’ll see a few things you might not expect. The colour jumps out at me, and has a number of causes. Prisms in the ice crystal split the light in the branches, creating a rainbow effect. The pink center is coloured that way due to optical interference between multiple boundaries of air and ice at just the right thicknesses. The geomteric patterns are created by the way ice crystals form into hexagons… there is a ton of science explaining the wonders of snowflakes, and as much of it as I can understand will be in the upcoming book.

There are better examples of specific things. For example, this snowflake shows some very interesting geometry:

The geometric patterns are typically 6-sided with all angles matching 60-degrees (6*60 = 360). What happens in one section is in no way “linked” to the other sections, but the symmetry exists because all parts of the snowflake grow in nearly the same conditions. As a snowflake grows, the symmetry starts to fall off and get a bit more chaotic, as even in the distance from one end to the other, the environmental variables that make a snowflake (temperature, humidity, etc) change slightly.

Some snowflakes exhibit colour in a vibrant, yet telling way:

The above snowflake shows you beautiful colours created through optical interference, revealing the interference pattern as the thickness of the ice changes. This same pattern can be identified and compared to soap film. The soap film has a pattern that changes with thickness just as this snowflake does, and answers some of the mysteries you can uncover on a black mitten in your backyard.

Some features on a snowflake may remain hidden, unless viewed on a very precise angle:

This is the same snowflake but photographed from two different angles, only a few degrees apart. The light from the camera flash changes to bounce off the icy surface and into the camera lens, instead of traveling right through the crystal and only reflecting the edges. Each view has it’s merits and tells a different story. It’s a gentle reminder that even the person next to you can see the world in an entirely different way – and the smallest change in perspective can have a dramatic impact on perception.

The book will contain all of these images and hundreds more. In it’s 300 pages, the hardcover book will detail the photography and photographic techniques (over four hours of editing on average goes into each image), the science and physics found in each snowflake, and the philosophy and psychology explaining why we find snowflakes beautiful in the first place. It’s going to be a great book, but I need your help to make it happen.

A production run of books is expensive, and I need to raise $15,000 in funding to get the book produced. I’m using a website called indiegogo to gather the funds, and you get rewarded for your contribution. A $35 contribution or more will get you a copy of the book when it’s published later this year (higher contributions have extra perks as well!). As of this writing, I’m two weeks into the campaign and at 40% of the funding goal! The remaining 60% will be the hardest, and I sincerely hope that you’ll be able to contribute to get this book made and get a copy of it in your hands!

Here’s the link to the book project, please share it with everyone and contribute!

$35 is a great price for the kind of book you’ll be getting. Offset printed, beautiful cover and 8.5″ square. Below is a gallery of some of the images from this season’s snowfall. I’ve edited many more than this (over 100) and have the same number from last year. I also have roughly 200 images to edit still, so the book will be full of the most beautiful snowflakes you’ve ever seen. Check them out!

A week at Onaping Lake

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I’m watching the clock with 8 minutes to go before I head out on another adventure – three weeks in the Yukon.

Before I go, I was hoping to post a few images from my recent visit with family at Onaping Lake. It’s always great to spend time with family and relax, though my form of relaxing is a little different – early mornings and late nights to get the best pictures:

Onaping Lake is a beautiful place, especially when the light is perfect. CHanging the camera angle to position the sun behind the island results in a fiery display of mist:

The night were a treat too – I was able to successfully test out the Canon 8-15mm fisheye lens, creating a 180 degree full circular image of the night sky, complete with swirling stars. The north star is at the center of the spin in the upper left, and the band of slightly more concentrated stars is the Milky Way:

Twice during the week, I also ventured to the nearby waterfalls for some further relaxation and photography. The number of compositions were endless, and I found it particularly fun experimenting with infrared photography. Cameras are sensitive to light outside of human vision, and using that light to make images can be quite fascinating:

The above image was made with a 16 minute exposure. The clouds and water all smooth out over that time frame, and motion from the wind in the trees can also be seen. As the IR spectrum of light cannot be seen with our own eyes, the colours are remapped into our visual spectrum (they’re fake colours). Even still, it shows an eerie world always around us in light that we can’t see. Uncovering this unseen world is one of my favourite aspects of photography. 🙂

…and with that, I’m out of time. Off to the Yukon!

Bulgaria: a twilight walk gone wrong

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During our month-long visit in Bulgaria, Desi and I often went for walks in the evening. The air was warm, the streets were busy and the atmosphere was fantastic. I had a few ideas for good photographic locations during our trip (one was detailed in a recent post about Buzludzha), and I had already taken a good number of night and twilight images along the coast.

There are two canals that run further inland to give greater support to the local industry, and a bridge that runs over each one. The ships that line the canals range from fishing boats to tankers, and the textures of the hulls and the overall landscape screams “take my picture!”. I assumed twilight would be a great time to take these images, as reflections in the water surface would really pop. So off we went, and came across the first bridge fairly quickly:

The scene was beautiful, but this wasn’t the location we set out for – we were heading towards the larger bridge and a more expansive view. The road under the bridge was dimly lit and eerily silent. A small restaurant was vacant and bus stops seemed abandoned. As we continued on our journey, a warning sign jumped up and… barked at us. Guard dogs! Thankfully behind a fence, and then the reality of where we were set in. Along the canal, there must be storage facilities for goods in shipment, and other similar businesses that need protection from thieves. I was hoping that we wouldn’t encounter any further troubles, but I was wrong.

As we neared the end of the road and the beginning of the canal, we noticed two cars pull out of a property in front of us. Employees heading home, no doubt, and they were not our direct concern. The indirect problem here is that the property gates were open – and the guard dogs spotted us. Desi noticed them first, and as soon as I caught glimpse we turned around and walked as quickly as possible away. I was quite adamant NOT to run. Under any circumstance, do not run… a hard thing to do when guard dogs are running at full speed in our direction. Running would only make us more interesting to them and give an incentive to chase. The dogs stopped roughly 100 feet / 30 meters away from us, let out a few more growls, and pursued no farther. A narrow escape, and enough adventure for us for one evening. There were four dogs, by the way – big ones.

So we headed home, quite shaken by the experience and didn’t feel safe until the streets became familiar. We never attempted to photograph that canal again – the story was worth more than the pictures.

However, there were many photographs made during twilight in the city of Varna on other occasions. A safer journey was one to the lighthouse:

While this end of the pier was mostly in darkness, no dogs lurked around the corner. It was quiet and peaceful, and Desi and I shared stories while I set up for some night photos – it was a wonderful time. Next to the lighthouse was a small harbour containing a random assortment of ships. Ranging from fishing boats to cruisers, and many sailboats (some with wooden hulls), the sleeping harbour begged to be photographed:

We also traveled down to a populated and lit area near the marina, where people were fishing well into the night. Careful not to get in the way of any casts or step on any of the incredible long fishing poles, I found a spot to set up the camera to take a picture across the bay:

This picture shows the industrial and commercial capacity of one small area of the city. No less than 20 cranes can be seen, ready to be woken up at daybreak to keep that part of the world moving.

Our twilight walks did not only bring us along the coast of the Black Sea, but also through the various pedestrian streets of the city itself. I usually carried my camera with me just in case of an unexpected photograph, like this:

Street performers are common on the streets of Varna. We enjoyed traditional Bulgarian music on a few occasions, and always gave a few leva (Bulgarian dollars) if the performance was good. On a few evenings, we noticed a traveling fire dancer had set up in one of the central squares. I asked if I could take his photograph, and to my surprise he spoke very good English. He asked what I was going to set the shutter speed of the camera to, so that he could match his motions to get better results in the picture. The communication paid off, and I ended up with some great shots.

Another night brought me to surprised curiosity when I looked at the sky above the largest church in the city. The sky contained moving, swirling specks of light, directly above the church. Desi informed me that they were birds, and as we got closer I started to make out the details of seagulls flying in circles. Likely attracted by the night-time lighting of the building, the birds stayed there on most nights. If I knew where to look, I could even see them from our apartment. As a photographer, I thought the scenario would be perfect for a long exposure, showing the flight path of the birds over 30 seconds:

When I first posted this image online on Google+, someone commented that I invented the genre of photography called “bird painting” (thanks PandT Davis). I doubt I’m the first person to do this, but I’m glad that photographically creative moments like this happened at random.

There are many more adventures to write about from our latest adventure in Europe – hopefully I can post more soon. 🙂


Come See Me at Kempenfest 2012!

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Kempenfest 2012 is upon us, and for the third year I’ll be participating! Kempenfest is the largest arts and crafts festival in the region, of which I claim my own little corner of.

The last two years have been very successful for me, and I’m very excited to show off my new work (and all of the crowd favourites), hopefully destined to be in the homes of admirers. I will also have copies of my book available, as well as snowflake greeting cards (you’ll want to see these!).

If you’ve got time this weekend and simply want to stop by and talk photography, I’d love that. If you’d like to support me and put some great art on your walls, I’d love that even more.

Where you can find me:

I’m in spot 109A (same as previous years), right in front of the washrooms on Centennial Beach – easy to get to! I’m there from 10AM-6PM from Saturday August 4 to Monday August 6, 2012. It’s looking like Sunday is going to give us some rain, but that might be just the time to visit if you want to beat the crowds. 🙂 Saturday and Monday look beautiful, however!

Let’s add some photos to this post too. I’ve been shooting lots of nature work lately, including waterfalls, water droplets and tons of macro work. Here’s a fun spider web photo:

I sprayed the web with a mist bottle, the special ingredient to this photograph. The sun was low on the horizon and cast a dark shadow behind the web, giving the dark background. Shot with natural light and my new Canon 1D X, which performs extremely well at the high ISO settings required to make this image. Now for a fun insect picture:

This is a Leaf-cutter bee, an adorable little insect. I’ve photographed these bees before in flight, and they are very fast insects and hard to get in focus. Sometimes, you get lucky! They collect pollen, but not in the usual way. Honey Bees gather pollen in cavities on their legs, where Leaf-cutter Bees have a “pollen brush” on their abdomen. They land on a flower and stick their but in the air, and proceed to add pollen to it with their hind legs. Happy with the new addition, they move on to more flowers. Equally fascinating are butterflies:

It’s wonderful to think that such a tiny, fragile insect, fueled only by flowers, can travel so far and so fast. Some butterflies can travel thousands of kilometers in their lifetime on very fragile wings. Nature is truly remarkable, and I have a print of this image in my exhibition at Kempenfest. Stop by to check it out!

Thanks to everyone who has supported me in my photographic career so far – you’ve helped me to get to this point and I couldn’t be happier about it. I’m hoping that Kempenfest this year will help me a step further along this wonderful adventure. 🙂

Urban Exploration in Bulgaria: Buzludzha

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Desi and I had a wonder trip through Bulgaria and Turkey, and I’ll make a few posts on various adventures had. One of these adventures was on our last day in Bulgaria before heading back to Canada. We rented a car in the central city of Plovdiv with the intent to drive two hours north the mountains.

Weeks earlier, I had done some research and found that there are a number of interesting abandoned monuments throughout the country, the best one being Buzludzha. Buzludzha is sitting atop a mountain in the center of the country. It was built in 1981 by the communist party of Bulgaria during the era of the Soviet Union. It was to be a meeting place, celebration center and monument for generations to come. When communism fell in that country in 1990, the monument was left to the elements and to looters. Scavengers took everything of value from the building, including the roof which was covered in copper. Now the building lies derelict, falling apart and off limits.

We headed towards the village of Shipka, and up the Shipka Pass (nine hairpin turns) to the top of the mountain. There was a small monument of torches located lower down the mountain, which is where we parked the car:

I believe this foreground monument was supposed to symbolize the friendship between Bulgaria and Russia. The graffiti saying “Ataka” is the Bulgarian word for “Attack”, but probably also refers to the far-right political party by the same name. These torches marked the beginning of a pathway that leads up to Buzludzha, and off we went.

The walk was not easy. It was very windy and the pathway was not maintained – watch your step. We took a few breaks on our way up, and finally made it to the top. The front of the UFO-shaped monument displays a clear message in graffiti:

As you can see from the photograph, there are steel gates in place, preventing entrance. One of the gates has been broken open (someone cut the welds as they were all welded shut), and a small hole was broken open at the bottom of the interior door, not visible from this angle. This was our point of entry.

Desi did not want to go in, and with good reason; The building is in such a poor state, we were both worried for our safety. Thankfully she didn’t let me go in alone, and we entered together. The bottom level of the building was very dark and it took a moment for our eyes to adjust. This area was completely in ruin and not even worth a photograph, but we could see stairs leading upwards in every compass direction. Picking what appeared to be the most-often used stairs by trespassers like us, we headed upstairs to see this:

In a sad state of neglect and destruction, I can only imagine how it would have looked in the ’80s. Some of the fresco mosaics look to be intentionally defaced (literally), and some have been ravaged by the elements and time. The hammer and sickle is still emblazoned on the ceiling, even though much of the roof is missing and nearly collapsing. This was a scary place to be in when the wind picked up. The top of this mountain is a windy place, and the roof is covered by only loosely attached sheet metal. The wind rattles the roof so loudly it feels like pieces may come falling down. Thankfully, everything stayed in place long enough for me to set up for a large panorama of the interior:

After exiting, I took another panorama of the landscape in which this derelict building sits – breathtaking. If we came only for this view I would have been content:

While making this final image, we realized we were not alone. Another couple was walking up the same pathway as we did, simply to visit the monument. Another couple, much to our surprise, drove their car up to the building – there is a perfectly serviceable road that I had assumed would have been blocked. Ah well, the exercise did us good. 🙂

Last year the Bulgarian government, not having the money to either repair or demolish the monument, gifted it to the current socialist party. It’s their problem now. For the time being, it’s an off-limits destination only for the adventurous.

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