Favorite Canadian Places #1
May 30, 2016     0 comments

Quirpon island, Newfoundland & Labraodr, CanadaWith Canada's 150 birthday just seven months away, I thought I'd start an occasional  series featuring some of my favorite Canadian destinations.  Over the course of my thirty-year career in photography I've had the good fortune to visit every Canadian province and territory, and while I've experienced favorite moments in every one, some memories have  endured more than others. I'll try to focus on the enduring favourites.  Starting on the Atlantic coast, I'll work my way westward.  I've visited Newfoundland and Labrador more than any other province, so it seems like a good place to begin.    
A few years ago while on an editorial assignment for Coastal Living magazine I had the opportunity to visit Quirpon Island, a small island located at the tip of the Great Northern Peninsula.  The island's lighthouse station has been converted into an inn where I spent three idylic days photographing the every-changing landscape.  The lighthouse and inn are perched on cliffs overlooking the Strait of Bell Isle, a perfect location to watch icebergs drifting south on the Labrador current and I was lucky to capture some of my most memorable iceberg images here.  It is also an excellent loction for whale watching and every day we saw humpback whales breeching and slapping their tails playfully on the water while feeding on caplin.  When the fog rolled in you could stand on the cliffs and listen to the eerie sound of whales exhaling as they came up for air. In a province with many awesome destinations for iceberg and whale-watching, Quirpon Island is a stand-out. The great food and hospitality on offer at Quirpon Island Lighthouse Inn is a bonus. Be sure to try some "toutons" and partridgeberry jam. http://www.linkumtours.com/quirpon-lighthouse-inn/    
Captions (top to bottom):  A tour boat amongst the icebergs; The landing at Quirpon Island; A pair of humpback whales come up for air.


              JSP-1301-8705                                         I’ve neglected this space for a while,  but this news that arrived in my in-box a couple of days ago seems like a good reason to post. I've learned that "Piha Sky," an image I made in January 2013 on the North Island of New Zealand has been “Highly Honored” in the Landscapes category of Nature’s Best Photography 2015 Winland Smith Rice International Awards. Of the 20,000 images entered from photographers in 54 countries, 97 finalists were chosen to be published in the Awards issue of Nature’s Best magazine later this month.  I made the image on Piha Beach a few days after we arrived in New Zealand. The clouds were spectacular that evening.  I later learned that the unusually intense colour was the result of Australian bush fires sending ash into the atmosphere that drifted east over the Tasman Sea to New Zealand’s west coast. A few minutes after making this image, my camera quit! But that's another story.        

Go West!
March 03, 2015     0 comments

coastal view near North Cape, Prince Edward IslandI'm relocating my July 17-19 photography workshop to Northport, Prince Edward Island. We'll be based at the beautifully situated Northport Pier Inn, overlooking Cascumpec Bay. northportpier.ca I've been wanting to host a workshop in western Prince Edward Island for some time and we were finally able to make it happen this year. We should have a great time exploring the coast and harbours of this beautiful part of the Island. Full information is now on my Workshop page. Image: Waves, coast and wind turbines near North Cape, Prince Edward Island

2014 Favorites
January 07, 2015     0 comments

The great american landscape photographer, Ansel Adams, famously stated, “Twelve significant photographs in any one year is a good crop.” I’m not sure if I created a dozen “significant” images in 2014 (sometimes the significance of an image isn’t apparent until much later), but there have been a few memorable moments and images. Here are a few favorites from 2014.  

 

 

 

black sand beach and  mountains, Stokksnes, Iceland In June, I spent a week in Iceland, traveling along the country’s south coast, from Reykjavik to the fishing community of Hofn and back. Of course, a week is not nearly enough time in Iceland, but it was certainly enough to know I want to go back. One of my favorite locations was the black sand beach and dunes at Stokksnes. In this image a fresh water stream seeps across the beach reflecting the Vesturhorn mountains while warmth from the mid-morning sun causes mist to rise off the wet sand.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In July, the Nova Scotia writer, Sandra Phinney, contacted me to see if I would do a portrait photo shoot on spec for a magazine article she planned to write. I don’t usually do assignments on spec, but Sandra and I had worked together before on magazine features – and if anyone can sell a story, she can – so I said I would. There was some urgency to the endeavor as the young woman to be photographed was leaving for Europe in a few days time. Sandra was intrigued by this young woman’s personal story of overcoming a debilitating illness and turning her life around. She also had a striking – and photogenic – full body tattoo. I converted this image from the photo shoot into black and white (using Silver Efex Pro software) to emphasize her form and the tattoo’s graphic design.  

 

 

JSP-0814-8027.3  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here in Prince Edward Island there is a new Elephant Rock. In the 1990’s cliff erosion near Nail Pond in western Prince Edward Island created an “Elephant Rock” formation that became a very popular tourist destination, until the elephant’s trunk finally eroded away during a winter storm in 1999. The new “Elephant Rock” is located at Kildare Capes, also in western PEI. In August, fellow photographer, Evan Dickson, and I got up very early to drive to Kildare Capes for sunrise. We were rewarded with a perfect morning and the added bonus of a fog bank that drifted over the scene, adding a moodiness to some of our images. It remains to be seen if this new Elephant rock will become as popular with visitors as the previous one, or how long it will last before it too succumbs to the elements.  

 

 

"Elephant Rock"  Kildare Capes, Prince Edward Island  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I traveled to western Newfoundland in September, visiting some old haunts, such as Gros Morne National Park, but also visiting a few new destinations: Rose Blanche, the Port-aux-port peninsula and Burgeo. A tropical storm was unleashing it’s fury on Newfoundland the day I made the long drive to Burgeo on the province’s south coast. High winds and heavy rain threatened road washouts in several places and I was feeling a little glum about my chances of getting any images under those conditions. Nevertheless, I rose early the next morning to see if I could catch the sunrise – if there would even be a sunrise – in nearby Sandbanks Provincial Park. There was a spectacular surf in the wake of the storm, and oh so briefly, the sun made an appearance, bathing the scene with it’s warmth.  

 

 

Nfld Sept

Newfoundland in the fall
October 02, 2014     0 comments

Nfld Sept 2014.2“It was not an exceptionally bad day. There were hurricane force gales, high seas and poor visibility, but for Newfoundland in the fall it was normal.” This understated quote from an interpretive sign on the Harvey Trail on the southwest coast of Newfoundland just about sums up my recent trip to that province. I experienced some of the most challenging photography conditions I’ve ever encountered. The high winds along the coast made it very difficult to keep camera and tripod steady and salt spray coated my lenses resulting in many a “soft focus” image. Fortunately I brought along some “wet wipes” which proved invaluable for cleaning salt off the glass and camera gear. I lived in constant dread that the salt spray would fry my camera, but it performed admirably despite the onslaught. The upside of the challenging weather was that I did mange to get a few dramatic images. In addition to visiting Gros Morne National Park, a place I have returned to for more than 30 years, I also visited a few places I hadn’t been to before: the Port-au-port peninsula on the west coast and the communities of Burgeo and Rose Blanche on the southwest coast.  

The Rose Blanche lighthouse must be one of the most beautiful in Atlantic Canada. The granite stone structure was designed in 1871 by D&T Stevenson of Edinburgh, Scotland, the family of Robert Louis Stevenson. It stands sentinel on a promontory with a commanding view of the rugged SW coast. While in Rose Blanche I also had the opportunity to visit an abandoned coastal community, The Petites, which was resettled in 2003. We took the three mile boat journey from Rose Blanche to The Petites with local fisherman, Austin Bennett, who had grown up in the community and was eager to show us his home. He still maintains a house there which he uses during the spring lobster fishing season. He also had a wonderful collection of historical photos of the community. Unfortunately rising winds forced us to cut our visit short and return to Rose Blanche, but it was a privilege to get a brief glimpse at what life was like in a remote fishing village in earlier times. All in all, it was an exceptionally good trip, which I can safely say, for Newfoundland, that's normal.  

Images, top to bottom: Rose Blanche lighthouse; stormy seas in Gros Morne National Park; dramatic sky on the Port-au-port peninsula.

Landscape & Light: Book Launch
August 06, 2014     0 comments

landscape-and-light-hardcover-preview2I’m celebrating thirty years of photography in Prince Edward Island and am very pleased to be releasing a new book of images featuring the unique scenic beauty of my Island home. The book launch takes place Friday, August 15, 7:00 at the Prince Edward Island Preserve Company in New Glasgow. Everyone is welcome.

Iceland
June 19, 2014     0 comments

IcelandI have to say that after spending only a week in Iceland, the country lives up to its reputation as one of the world’s great photography destinations. We spent the week exploring the south coast along the Ring Road from Reykjavik to just past Hofn in the southeast. It was a great time of year to be there. Close to the summer solstice, we had almost twenty-four hours of daylight and hours of “magic hour” light in the late evenings (when it wasn’t raining). The lupins were also at their peak bloom. I’d heard about Iceland’s lupins, but still wasn’t prepared for the extravagent display of flowers. From the time we landed at the airport, where lupins line the runway, we saw hectares and hectares of flowers blanketing the landscape everywhere. Icelandic weather lived up to it’s reputation too. It rained almost everyday, but there always seemed to be a window of light, however brief. For the most part, the waterfalls and flowers looked beautiful in the muted overcast light. My only disappointment was that on the morning we visited the black sand beach at Jökulsárlón glacial lagoon it started to pour rain and I had to abandon my photography and run for cover. Ah well, I’ll be back again someday. Images (clockwise from top left): Lupins near Hofn, Skogafoss waterfall, Fjallsárlón Glacier Lagoon, moonrise over sea stacks near Vik.

The Buoys of Spring
April 27, 2014     0 comments

Buoys of SpringApril, the “cruelest month,” is just about over and in Prince Edward Island that signals the beginning of the lobster season. For me personally, it signals the beginning of the “photography season,” when I shake off the cobwebs and make a concerted effort to get out and photograph more frequently than I have through the winter. Yesterday, I drove to Tignish and Seacow Pond at the western tip of the Island, where I spent a very enjoyable afternoon and evening photographing the colourful lobster buoys unique to that part of the Island. The lobster traps and buoys (which are used to mark the location of the traps in the water) were piled high on the wharves ready to load onto boats before “Setting Day,” April 30. I’ve always wondered why the lobster traps in these harbours are more colourful and display a greater variety of colours than in other Island ports. Some fishermen have up to eleven different colour combinations for their buoys. Most have at least three or four. The explanation I received from fishermen, when asked (and not everyone would answer my question) is this: Tignish has the largest inshore harbour in Atlantic Canada, which means it has the largest number of boats and lobster licenses, so it’s a very competitive fishery. The idea is to outsmart your competitors. If a fisherman sees a concentration of one colour of buoys on the water, he’ll think it’s good place for lobsters and put his gear there too. With a variety of colours, they can mix it up and keep the competition guessing. At least that’s the theory. It’s difficult to believe that they wouldn’t know the other fishermen’s buoy colours in such a tight knit fishing community. As one fisherman said to me,”They’re not fooling anybody!” For this photographer, the reason doesn’t really matter, I’m just happy to feast my eyes on some bright colours and leave the drab days of April behind. I’m also looking forward to my first feed of lobster!

A Photographer's Guide to Prince Edward Island
January 28, 2014     0 comments

A Photographer’s Guide to Prince Edward IslandA few years ago Stephen DesRoches approached me to see if I’d be interested in collaborating on a project to produce an eBook guide to photographing Prince Edward Island. Stephen is a designer and talented photographer himself and had already designed several eBooks about the Rocky Mountains for photographer Darwin Wiggett. Naturally I was interested and immediately began writing the text, however, the project was soon interrupted by other priorities – assignments and travels –  and slipped down my priority list. When I found myself with time on my hands this past fall while convalescing from surgery I decided I should make productive use of this “downtime” and finish the project. I’m grateful for Stephen’s patience and delighted with the result. He’s done an excellent job with the design and some of his images are also included in the guide. A Photographer’s Guide to Prince Edward Island is now available at: photographersguidetopei.com

Fred Bruemmer 1929-2013
January 07, 2014     0 comments

JSP-0810-1191                         On December 17 one of Canada’s finest and most accomplished photojournalists, Fred Bruemmer, passed away at the age of 84.  

I first met Fred on the pages of Weekend magazine, a supplement that came with our Ottawa Citizen newspaper in the 1960s.  His beautifully photographed stories about life in the Canadian arctic captured my youthful imagination and so began my life long fascination with Canada’s north.  

I was thrilled, and somewhat intimidated, therefore to finally meet Fred in person, in Churchill, Manitoba in 1981, while working as an assistant to British photographer, Bryan Alexander. We spent time together photographing polar bears in a tundra buggy along with another arctic veteran, the late Dan Guravich. I was immediately impressed by Fred’s depth of knowledge about wild animals and his complete lack of fear when it came to getting “the shot.” His stories of hanging upside down out of airplanes or fighting off polar bears with a broom stick made me realize that there might be more to this business of wildlife photography than good light and a telephoto lens!  

A few years later, after I moved to Prince Edward Island, Fred was a annual supper guest in our home when he came to photograph harp seals in the Gulf of St. Lawrence every March (He was an expert on seals, having photographed every species in the world). Over a meal of mussels and good wine he would tell us stories of his adventures in the remotest corners of the globe: photographing seals in the Falkland Islands, elephants in Africa, Komodo dragons in Indonesia, monarch butterflies in Mexico, walrus in Alaska and on and on.  However, I believe his greatest legacy will be the remarkable record of Inuit life he documented during thirty years of arctic travel. Throughout the 1960’s, 70’s and 80’s he spent six months of each year in the arctic, living with Inuit families and documenting their traditional way of life and the wildlife on which they relied for a living. He published a steady stream of books (twenty-seven in total), beginning and ending, appropriately, with books about Inuit life: The Long Hunt (1969) and Arctic Visions: Pictures from a Vanished World (2008).  

Over the years of our friendship, Fred revealed only small glimpses of his remarkable personal story, until finally, we were able to read the full story for ourselves with the 2005 release of his award-winning autobiography: Survival: A Refuge Life. It’s not an easy read. He was born Friedrich Karl von Bruemmer, in Riga, Latvia in 1929.  His family, who were Baltic Germans,  found themselves on the wrong side of the border during the upheaval of WWII and its aftermath. His parents were killed and Fred ended up spending his teenage years in one of Stalin’s work camps where he suffered unspeakable brutality. He survived against all odds, finally escaping and making his way to Canada in 1951. He found work in the mines at Kirkland Lake, Ontario, where he spent his days off exploring Ontario’s north country by motorcycle. Eventually he made his way to Montreal and work at the Montreal Gazette. He told his wife Maud, “I can only do this for two years.” His restless spirit could not endure the routine of a daily job. True to his word, he quit after two years and began a freelance career and the first of his northern journeys.  

To say Fred Bruemmer was a photographer and author only scratches the surface of the man’s extraordinary life. He was a true renaissance man, he spoke nine languages, was widely read – he could quote at length from the Bible – was meticulous in his research and had a disciplined work ethic. He overcame hardship and obstacles that would have defeated lesser mortals, including a heart transplant at the age of 57. When recovering from the surgery, he asked his doctor if he could drive. When the answer came back “yes,” he got in his van and drove from his Montreal home to Inuvik and spent the summer on the land with an Inuit family.  He continued with his  rigorous travel schedule, spending several months of each year exploring some remote part of the world, right up until last year when he became ill with cancer.  

Fred’s insatiable curiosity about the world around him, and especially the natural world, was an inspiration to me in my own career. That he was able to interpret that world in elegant prose and beautiful images garnered many honours including: the Order of Canada, Fellow of the Arctic Institute of North America, Honouary Doctorate from the University of New Brunswick, the Queen Elizabeth II Silver Jubilee medal and the North American Nature Photography Association Lifetime Award, just to name a few. His 1964 photo of a baby harp seal was included in the book: Photographs That Changed the World.  

A few years ago, on my way north to Labrador’s Torngat Mountains, I had a few hours between flights in Montreal, so I spent an afternoon visiting with Fred and his charming wife, Maud. When I told Fred where I was going, he said, “Oh yes, I spent the summer of 1969 hitchhiking around the Labrador coast,” which meant, of course, that he hitched boat rides from community to community (there were no roads), from Quebec, north along the Labrador coast to Ungava Bay, a typical Fred Bruemmer journey of exploration. I think of him as the last of the true adventurers and it was a rare privilege to have known him.