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. 🙂


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.

Greetings from Bulgaria

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While our travels have been entertaining, relaxing, and sometimes adventurous, I haven’t had the time to make a blog post about it!

Heading out for dinner shortly, but I thought I would take a few moments and post some pictures!

The night shots were taken where we are now in Varna, Bulgaria. The other shots were taken during our brief stay in Brussels, Belgium. Enjoy!






New Years in Cuba

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Many of you know that Desi and I had a wonderful vacation in Cuba. We were gone for a week, including New Year’s Eve and had a very relaxing and enjoyable time!

We stayed at Costa Morena, about 40 minutes outside of Santiago de Cuba. The resort was only rated at 2.5 stars, particularly because it didn’t have a beach. This didn’t bother us, and instead we were greeted by beautiful displays of crashing waves just off shore. This made for some breathtaking scenery and a few good photos:

I had decided not to bring my camera, and instead brought mom’s tiny inexpensive point&shoot camera. While it always felt limiting, I was able to get some nice photos… proving that it isn’t the camera, it’s the photographer. 🙂

This little critter was found near one of the buildings far away from the water, likely to die there if we hadn’t come across it. Desi and I decided to bring it back to the water and give it another chance at life, and with the help of another guest at the resort, named him “Charlie”. We both picked him up, it was one of many spontaneously fun moments in our trip.

We did a bit of traveling on our vacation, to the nearby city of Santiago de Cuba and to a nearby aquarium to watch a display with Dolphins and Seals.  When in Santiago, we traveled with another couple, Katarina and Egor (you still have to e-mail me! 🙂 ) which was a blast, they are very fun people. We checked out a nearby castle as well, which was great for pictures:

We met wonderful people on our trip, including a delightful older lady named Rosemary, which we weren’t able to visit due to crazy prices for “official” taxis. A shout-out to Leigh and Dennis as well, who were always a source of great information.

I know that Desi and I enjoyed our stay very much. Good food, great people, near-perfect weather and only a few things that we wish were better. There are so many stories, but I’ll let the photo gallery below tell as many of them as possible:

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