Saturday, July 21, 2018

Newfoundland Journey 2018 — Phase 5

I'm on a two-month journey in Newfoundland. My goal here is to post some highlights, both in words and pictures, and to try to include some tips if you're planning to make the trek to the Rock.
 You can click on any picture in the blog to blow it up. Most of the pictures are available as large format prints at very reasonable cost. Contact me.

Today is July 15th and I'm starting the next edition of the blog. The weather last night was beautiful so I decided to try a star shoot again. I drove up to the Long Point lighthouse and there they were... scroll down for some pictures.

Nah, why wait? Here they are...

(Click the star pictures to see them on a dark background)

Probably the best Milky Way shot I've ever managed. OK, yes it is. The secret is in the sauce! Seriously, don't skimp on the ISO. This was shot at 20 seconds, f/3.2, ISO 3200, with the wide angle lens set at 22mm. I found a spot where the hot red lights on the other tower (to the East) weren't hitting the camera and where I could include something — this tower — as a foreground element.  

Then I shot what I came for: this is a single long exposure, 3610 seconds (1 hour) at f/11, ISO 100. In hindsight, one more stop (f/8) might have been better.

Here's an interesting factoid: the further North you are, the higher Polaris is above the horizon. Think about it: where's the North Star when you're at the North Pole? So I couldn't find a spot where I could include a foreground element. I'll just have to composite one in! I did the sailboat shot a couple of weeks ago in Back Harbour, it works, so... why not?

some reflections...

Not the visual kind. As I mentioned and as most of you know, I'm on a 2-month journey in Newfoundland and I want to talk about it a bit. I hope I don't bore you, dear readers but this is about insight into me and why I'm doing what I'm doing. Perhaps it will resonate with those of you who are in a similar phase of life, or approaching it. For those of you who are not: you will be, one day!

It's hard not to wake up in the morning and say, "what am I going to do today that's productive"? It's taken me almost a month to realize that the answer can be "nothing". I'm not trying to earn a living from this trip. If I come home with some pictures I'm proud of, then great. If I come back with some memories and experiences to use as inspiration, wonderful. Inspiration for what? Well writing comes to mind, not so much painting and drawing since I'm still working on the left-brain side of those skills. No, this is really a vacation.

Except when Amin was here and there was reason to go out and see things and photograph them — I don't have to DO anything. I had a grand plan to get up before dawn, go out and shoot pictures, come back and relax during the day and go out again for those sunset and night shots. I haven't yet (gotten up before dawn), except to go to the bathroom and back to bed!

It's taken me this long to figure out I don't have to feel guilty doing nothing. Sure, this is costing me money, but I have enough (I hope!). I'm trying to stop thinking that I have to get my dollar's worth. Sitting here at the computer and writing this is what it's all about. Or editing — playing with — pictures or just reading a book or sitting in the sun.

And people ask me, "since you're retired, what are you taking a vacation from"? Exactly. My goal here is to feed and free my mind. Change my attitude. Just enjoy life. No pressure. Back home, the pressure is always there.

Of course that's never entirely true. My house hasn't sold yet, that's a pain in the ass, it puts a crimp in my plans for the fall and onward; I still have to make sure there's enough money in the chequing account to cover the mortgage payment, I have to remember that next Monday I have to get on the road to Trinity, I need to decide what to have for dinner. And for health reasons, I need to get out of the house and walk a little. I will after a few more paragraphs.

...speaking of walking

If you're a hiker or like to walk, Twillingate is the place for you. Pretty well everywhere that isn't developed is criss-crossed with hiking and ATV trails. Some of them are official and others are just "there".  Pick a road, drive to the end, you'll find a place to hike. Two friends of Amin's from Haliburton dropped in to Twillingate for a couple of days (Lorrie and, Nancy I think: I'm SO bad with names). These two beautiful ladies — who claim to be a lot older than they looked — asked me to recommend places to hike and I pointed them to French Head (scroll back a couple of blog posts to see pictures from there) and up at the Lighthouse in Crow Head. I was not wrong, but a few days later, exploring by car, I came to some other great spots. 

Even in town! This is shot from the waterfront in Durrell, up towards the museum and you can see the hiking trails on the hillside above the boring, blandly coloured house and buildings... 

On the other side of town, across the Tickle bridge to the west side of the harbour, there are a couple of steep roads leading up the hillside. Naturally I had to drive up them, and I came to this place where I shot a "Subaru Ad".  Surrounded by hiking trails, and astonishing views. 

If you look back towards the town, this is what you see. That's French Head across the harbour. And Twillingate is your typical small Newfoundland community where everybody knows everybody and their families have lived here for generations. I posted this picture on Facebook and someone came back and said, "Isn't that old Henry(?) Stuckless's house?".  Since I was on "Stuckless Road", probably yes!

Turn around the other way and climb 100m and you discover that you're overlooking Back Harbour. That's where I shot that moored sailboat I used in a previous blog post.  

I returned there another time for these spectacular landscapes of Back Harbour. 

...and again for this blue hour shot of Twillingate and the harbour. 

Just south of the Lighthouse at Long Point is what appears to be a public camping area. It's unserviced — people "boondock" there — but they did install a few street lights here and there. Unfortunately, because until I saw the lights, I thought it was an ideal area to shoot the Northern star trails. 

I later learned that it was called the "Sea Breeze Municipal Park" and was commissioned by the town of Crow Head in 1972. There used to be a community fishing stage there and it was a big jumping off point for fishermen, both in small boats and longliners, dating back a couple of generations. They preserved and painted some of the old equipment in bright colours.

I learned that because I read a book written by Curt Sharpe, called "Memories in the Life of a Twillingate Man". You think you lived a hard life? They thought nothing of trekking, on foot, across 30 miles of sea ice in mid-winter to get home. There was no other way to get here back in the 30's and 40's. His book was fascinating: especially to someone who doesn't remember names. Curt listed the life history of pretty well everyone in this community he had met over 50 or 60 years.

"Gus Rideout married Flora Hamlyn, raising one son Wilson and a daughter Marion. Gus grew up in Lower Head and even though most of the residents of Gus's generation moved out of Lower Head in the 50's, Gus died before that time came. Gus was a fisherman for most of his life, operating cod traps with John Dove. Gus was a good codfish splitter and I can remember him removing the sound bones from the fish and there weren't many fishermen around that could outdo Gus. When the fish were plentiful years ago with no time to waste, while Gus was splitting the fish, his wife Flora would remove the pipe from his mouth, fill it with tobacco, light it and put it back in his mouth, where no time would be lost."
...excerpt from Carl Sharpe's book
Pretty well everyone you meet here has a surname mentioned in the book, and most of the streets bear their names as well!

Hiking trail leading South from Sea Breeze Park. That red and yellow building is one of those painted artifacts. And before you ask, "no, I did NOT hike up there." Carl Sharpe helped build this place.

Ocean vista from Seabreeze Park. 

 by the way, the cover photo for Carl Sharpe's book was taken at the Crow Head community pier: I watched fishermen come in and out, then clean their catch on the dock (the 'flake'?).

Last week I wrote about the Capelin rolling in on Wild Cove beach. They were still there this week, but didn't come right in. Still it was entertaining to watch the gulls fighting over the ones that strayed too close to the surface.

The gulls dive bomb the fish. I spent several hours trying to capture "the moment". I need a D5 with 14 fps or a better sense of anticipation! Anyway, I did get a couple of shots.

Before we leave Twillingate, I want to mention some good places and things in this town. In no particular order...

  • Cozy Tea Room. Best homemade bread in town.
  • Westside Fish Market (near the theatre). Wholesale fish supplier, live or cooked lobster under $10/pound. Make sure they split it for you: it's a pain to do it yourself!
  • Sansome's, about 12km South of town: best seafood restaurant. Try their seafood chowder!
  • Auk Island Winery. I didn't sample their 'berry wines' (not my thing) but they have the best souvenir/gift shop in town. I couldn't resist yet another waterproof jacket!
  • Freshmart. Fresh produce is non-existent in this town. Same thing with fresh meat. However these guys have huge bunkers of frozen meats and their steaks are good.
  • Scenery: just to mention a few spots — Durrell Harbour and the Museum; Back Harbour; French Head; Long Point; Sleepy Cove; Wild Cove and any road that leads up a hill.
and look up Lucy's Ocean Vista in Crow Head if you're looking for a great place to spend a night or 20. Tell Goldie and Doug I sent you.

Parting Shot

I really like this image of a longliner approaching Gull Island off Long Point.  

Until next time!

— 30 —

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Newfoundland journey 2018 — Phase 4

I'm on a two-month journey in Newfoundland. My goal here is to post some highlights, both in words and pictures, and to try to include some tips if you're planning to make the trek to the Rock.
 You can click on any picture in the blog to blow it up. Most of the pictures are available as large format prints at very reasonable cost. Contact me.

Today is July 14th, three weeks and a day into my voyage. Pretty smooth so far, although not without challenges. For example, I've had a head cold for the past 4 days or so, annoying but a boon to the Kleenex industry. More disturbing is a tooth that Dr. Ron said, "it's gotta go... don't know how long this fix will last..." (the 1-6, Ron) which is hurting me. Hope it hangs in there until I get back.

Last time I talked about 3 incidents... forgot one! I stepped on my iPhone. Suffice it to say, thanks to Bell I now have a new iPhone 6 and a 2-year extension to my contract commitment.

Speaking of eating (we were, weren't we?), I've been doing so with some abandon, and yet, due to my activity level, I don't think I've gained any weight. I don't have a scale but my pants still fit! I've had lobster 3 times since arriving, two in Newfoundland which were purchased from a lobster pound at wholesale prices. They'll cook it and crack it for you but you still need the proper tools to eat it easily.

$9 per pound. Amin is holding $40 worth... 

Fresh produce is non-existent here. Ditto meat, but you can buy decent steaks at the FreshMart except they're frozen. Getting perishables here is a challenge, I suspect. When I dropped Amin off at the Gander International Airport (which make Buttonville seem big!), I found a Co-op with fresh stuff and stocked up.

The Capelin are Rollin'

If you're a stranger to Newfoundland, that sentence is meaningless but to a Newfie... you could Google it but briefly, there are untold millions of little fish called Capelin that 'roll' up on the beaches every year to spawn. They're followed by whales, seagulls, bigger fisn and Newfies who gorge on them. People eat them a variety of ways (salted, cooked fresh, dried...) but it's not my taste.

sometimes there are big crowds and big parties when the capelin are rolling 

Capelin being dried
Newfies (by the way, they don't find that term derogatory, although you can use it in a negative sense. I'm not doing that here.) hang around beaches where the capelin rumoured to be rolling. You can see the waters turn black with endless schools of them — they're black on top and silver on the sides.

Eventually they roll right up on the beach. 

People use dip nets when they're within reach, 

cast nets when they're just off shore 

or just their hands when they're right up on the beach 

Everyone gets in on the action. 

More exciting are the seagulls. They flock in by the hundreds to gorge themselves. They attack any bird that has managed to catch a fish.

Fishin' with the boss

John Gillett called and invited us out for another boat ride. He didn't tell us we'd be fishing or we'd have brought gloves with us! The three of us rode out to his 'spot' on the shoal just outside the Twillingate harbour. Because he had us on board, his quota of 5 fish was suddenly 15! No problem filling it.

It's not exactly like fishing in the lake. First of all, there's no rod and reel, there's a wooden frame around which a couple of hundred feet of 100lb test line is wound, which terminates in a heavy shiny fish-shaped weight and an unbaited hook called a "jigger". You drop it down to the bottom then lift up a couple of meters and jig it up and down. If you're in the right spot (that's the trick!) a cod will hit it, then you bring it up, hand over hand without releasing the tension or you'll lose the fish. The cod weight anywhere from 5 lbs (a little one) to 50 lbs (a BIG one). That's what I meant about the gloves!

Here's John, showing us how, with a 15 pounder. HE'S got gloves... 

Our turn. Didn't take long to catch our limit, here on John's spot!

Here's Amin with one 

and me. Good thing I brought the wide angle lens. No way we could capture a picture with the 70-200mm Amin brought! 

John took this shot of the two of us. 

When we got back in, John started cleaning the fish and gave us the filets from one. Three meals worth!

Straight out of the camera (the iPhone!). Ain't window lighting grand? That's our filets. 

This was my lunch yesterday. Fresh-caught pan-fried cod. Mmmmmmm. And I'm not even a fish eater!

While we were out there, another boat came by. John and the other fisherman carried on a conversation for about 5 minutes and I have to say I did not understand even one word! Theyspeakwaytoofastwhenthey'retalkinginNewfoundese!

I took this photo of the other boat, then I decided to make an oil painting of it. Not photoshop. Oil paint and brushes and canvas...

See why I stick to photography? 

On the way back in we saw the waves crashing on the rocks at the harbour entrance. I wish I could have stayed out there and shot more...


Painted in Topaz. Waves look amazing when you shoot them from the other side (the sea side!) 

Saturday we drove to Wing's Point and Victoria Harbour.


We ended up at Back Harbour again at sunset (the place with the sailboat last week)



Next day we drove down to Bridgeport and Moretown's Harbour. On the way we passed by Virgin Arm, Dildo Run and the Trump Islands. I love place names in Newfoundland! I'll show you those pictures next time!

— 30 —

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Newfoundland Journey, 2018 — Phase 3

I'm on a two-month journey in Newfoundland. My goal here is to post some highlights, both in words and pictures, and to try to include some tips if you're planning to make the trek to the Rock. 
You can click on any picture in the blog to blow it up. Most of the pictures are available as large format prints at very reasonable cost. Contact me

I've started writing this on July 9th. Amin is, as I speak, winging his way back to Ontario. We spent a couple of weeks of awesome adventure exploring this place, although I regret we've only seen a couple of icebergs and whales, both from a very long distance. Perhaps when he returns mid-August for the tail end of the journey, we'll have more luck with the whales. Icebergs: another year. By the way, he left 'way too many snack foods here. I may have will power but I don't have "won't power"!

There are things we had planned to do but didn't: for instance, I've yet to get out to shoot a sunrise. We didn't plan to go out on small boats 3 times this week but we did; we also shot almost every sunset and did one blue hour night shoot in Twillingate, as well as an attempt at some star trails.

I had an incident. In all the years I've been shooting, I've NEVER dropped a camera. I had mounted my camera on the tripod but neglected to properly tighten one of the leg segments and it collapsed. You know that feeling you get when you're two steps too far away to catch it and you watch it fall in slow motion? Here's the result:

It could have been worse. The lens itself still functions (it's my 17-35mm f/2.8 Nikkor wide angle). The Xume magnetic ring adapter screwed into the filter thread is beyond repair and worse, I can't unscrew it. The lens is sticky when you try to get to 17mm but it works. It focuses, it's still sharp, but I can't use a filter on it. I ordered a replacement Xume ring so I can use my ND 10 and my polarizing filters on my 70-200, it'll arrive from Amazon soon. The D800 seems to be undamaged.

There was one other "almost" incident. Flashing blue and red lights in the mirror... but the nice RCM Policeman took pity on a tourist not familiar with the surprise 50km zones and let me off with a warning. It's hard to spot those signs when you're busy slaloming around bottomless potholes. Watch out for the ones painted orange (marked for repair).

And one more: a screw sticking out of the tread of a tire. Fortunately, it had only just penetrated and it wasn't in the sidewall, so $7 for a quick patch and we were on our way.

That's three. I'm done, right?

On July 1, we moved to our new digs, a beautiful 2-bedroom house in Crow Head, across the road from the Crow's Nest Café and in walking distance from the point of land overlooking the bay. The view from the deck is awesome.

This is DEFINITELY going to get printed in large format. Contact me to reserve your copy. I'm also planning a sketch and/or painting of this scene.

The location is about 1 km south of the Long Point lighthouse. That's walking distance if you discount the steep hill enroute. But there are some interesting critters living at that hill:

This is a mixed-race family of foxes. The male (I think) has the coloration we're used to from the Algonquin Park area, it's a red fox. Mama and kit have cross-fox coloration.

These foxes are very skinny compared to the ones we have at home: but they are acclimatized to humans just like our old friend "Papa Fox" from Algonquin. And, I fear, they'll suffer the same fate. Cars come over that hill at 60 to 80 kph and the foxes like to sit right in the middle of the road. They accept food from people, coming just short of taking it from the hand.

The Kittiwake Coast
The Road to the Shore

We drove along the "Loop" that skirted Hamilton Sound (Carmanville, Musgrave Harbour, Deadman's Harbour, Lumsden) then North Bonavista Bay (Cape Freels, Newtown, New-wes-valley, Greenspond). We ran out of time so turned back at that point.

The first part was a little boring... endless tracts of forest. We went into Carmanville... not much to see... then continued towards Musgrave Harbour. Best image from there was this one:

Laundry day in Musgrave Harbour. Classic handmade Newfoundland quilts drying in the ever-present wind. We saw quilts like these in the museum in Durrell, priced around $500. I plan to try to paint this image.

I spotted this shed and fence row along the way and thought it would make a good painted image.

Back on the road, what's that in the distance? An actual iceberg, just off Deadman's Harbour! It was really far away (some 15 miles out, according to a local) and had been grounded there for some time.

Atmospheric effects prevented a sharp image — it was really far away. This was shot carefully with the 400mm on the tripod, I waited for the two cormorants to enter the frame. 

Newtown is a beautiful place. They call it "the Venice of Newfoundland", because of the Tickle (Newfoundese for 'stream' or 'river' or 'current') that runs through it. We stopped there for lunch. The striking hostess in the restaurant didn't want me to take her picture (Scandinavian look, braided blonde hair, beautiful face and figure) because "I hate pictures of myself"! But I'm learning to ask, and the worst thing that can happen is they say "no".

There's an amazing church in the town, and I caught the reflection in the pond below.

Scenes like this are all around you. 

When I shot the church picture, I thought a better angle might be from the back deck of a café. They of course let me go there... then the store owner got to talking to us and it turned out he gives kayak tours of the Tickle. Amin went with him. It was expensive: $15! They were out almost an hour.

By the way, there are power lines everywhere in Newfoundland. Because of the rocky soil, it's virtually impossible to bury cables here. I could tediously photoshop them out or simply leave them in. 

Curtis, the kayak guide told Amin that a pod of 30 whales had been seen that morning off the causeway to Greenspond. We couldn't get to the car fast enough. But no luck, the whales were gone.

Greenspond is an amazing town, built on an island, steep, windy roads and spectacular views.

I'm hoping to be able to go back there in a couple of weeks to shoot some more. I had actually tried to find accommodations there for a few days enroute to Bonavista but couldn't find anything.

Back in Twillingate

Next day, we went out with Skipper Jim on his 22 foot boat. I've mentioned him earlier: we met last year when we went out on his boat, repeat performance this year. After I read John Gillett's book, I asked Jim whether he was the 'Skipper Jim' mentioned in it. Sure enough, it was him and he's another local with a colourful history in sealing and fishing. Jim's retired from all that and his passion now is the stars — he built an observatory which houses a 16" telescope and he waxed eloquently about what he's seen and his innovative construction. He's viewed galaxies and planets and the moon and, with a special attachment, the sun. Oddly, he's never attached a camera to the telescope so what he's seen remains in his mind or in a few simple sketches. He's very knowledgeable and an easygoing skipper on the water.

We saw bald eagles, Osprey, a seal a waterfall and... a whale!

You can't shoot slow motion milky waterfall shots from a boat bouncing around in the waves. So I shot a string of 10 exposures and blended some of them together to make this image. 

The whale was very far away when Amin spotted him spouting. Jim spooled up the engine and we set off in pursuit but he only came up the once. God knows how I managed to capture a couple of images, holding down the shutter button as we pounded through the waves.  Here he is, my first (of many, I hope!) humpback whales of the year.

That evening we ventured up to the Durrell museum to try for some night shots. A lot of light pollution and then the clouds closed in, but I got this one. 

Back Cove

Next evening we made our way back to Back Cove, where we had scouted for sunset shots. Amin and I shot differently, he focused on brightly saturated skies.

I liked the brightly coloured fishing stages casting reflections in the water 

And here's a pure reflection. 

I did a lot of editing to create this pastel silhouette. But this is how it really looked to my eyes. This will make an outstanding large scale print. 

Later that night we went up to the Lighthouse to try to get some star trails. Clouds moved in and the moon rose around 1am. 

I modified the boat silhouette image and placed it on top of the star trail image. The trail was created with StarStax and added editing in Topaz.

At 2am, before packing up, I shot this image of the Lighthouse and the rising moon.  

French Head

On Twillingate's north island is a point known as "French Head". We hiked up there the next afternoon. It was somewhat challenging given our late night and my knees and hips. OK, and the few extra pounds I carry around.

Here's a shot Amin took of me. Note the cane... I have trouble stepping downhill, especially on uneven surfaces and the cane is a big help. I hate using it because it's an admission of my failing mobility but I have to get over that because it REALLY helps.  

Where I was in the above picture was high atop the crest behind and to the left of the house on French Beach. We had walked a couple of km along that trail you see, then climbed up the slope behind. 

Here's Amin on the path up the hillside. He says he has a rather severe expression in this shot. I like to think that even he was somewhat taxed by the climb. Let's just say that was the reason. By the way, it was about 15° when we left the house that morning and 28° when we got back to the car after the hike. We were both overdressed. 

Another view of the trail. Do you see why Newfoundland is known as "The Rock"? 

This cove was our destination. Still not all the way to the point but as far as we went. When we were out fishing a couple of days later, we saw that we were about halfway along the trail from the house to the point. 

I'll stop this here. Friday, July 7th. On the weekend we saw the capelin rolling on Wild Cove beach, did some more exploration and capped it off with a fishing trip with Captain John Gillett. Stay tuned!

— 30 —