Category Archives: photography

Gordon Oakes Red Bear Student Centre on the University of Saskatchewan campus

Gordon Oakes Red Bear Student Centre on the University of Saskatchewan campus

Gordon Oakes Red Bear Student Centre on the University of Saskatchewan campus

Gordon Oakes Red Bear Student Centre on the University of Saskatchewan campus

I have been walking by this building for the last couple of weeks but it is a pain to photograph in late afternoon.  The College of Medicine throws a long shadow and this was one of the few times I have been able to shoot the Gordon Oakes Red Bear Student Centre.  It home to the aboriginal student’s union on campus and was designed by Ottawa architect Douglas Cardinal.

Hiking the Spruce River Highlands Trail

Yesterday we got up early, grabbed our travel backpacks and headed north to Prince Albert National Park.  The line was long to get in but we by-passed it since we already had purchased our Parks Canada Discovery Pass on Mother’s Day.

We drove through Waskesiu and headed back down Highway 263 where we stopped at the trailhead for the Spruce River Highlands Trail.  It is a 8.5 km loop through a glacier shaped terrain.

About a kilometre in the trail there is a 10 meter tower that let’s you gaze over the forest. Many people only take this short trail, but I encourage you to explore the entire trail.

I expected it would take us three hours and in fact, it took four.  The trail is rated as moderate to strenuous and that’s about right.  It was a tough hike with few rewarding views.  You can get a nice view of Anglin Lake an it does drop down to the river bottom for about 100 meters but in the end, it was a tough slog.  Some of trails are either straight up or straight down which is why it so slow.  In other places the trail is at a sharp angle as it goes along the hillside.

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The trail does have one challenging bog crossing.  I came out of it with muddy shoes and attacked by bugs but I considered that to be a lot of fun.  Also as Mark and I were crossing, Wendy and Oliver had walked ahead and had a really close encounter with an adolescent moose which made Oliver’s day.  The dog had the bear bell on her and there wasn’t any wind so the moose should have heard them coming.  Then again, it may have as according to Wendy and Oliver, seemed to check them out and then walk away.

We took the hike to see how my ankle responded (good) and how Oliver does on longer hikes (he did good as well) but this was a big test for Marley.  Last year as a puppy, every trail was a struggle with her and she was out of control with pulling and chasing every single noise.  This hike we put the dog backpack and bear bell on her (which we thought she would hate) and she was chilled out and relaxed for every single step, even when she came face to face with the moose.  She behaved better than I had ever hoped. 

With that figured out, I am a lot more confident in taking her to Grey Owl’s Cabin in June and Banff National Park in July.   The walk did wear her out.  She got out of the car, made it halfway across the living room to her bed, laid down and went back to sleep. 

Back to the trail.  We ran into several hikers going both ways and the hikers we ran into without walking poles all wished they had one.  It make a big difference crossing the bogs and walking along the trails on a steep pitch and angle.  Personally I didn’t need for them going up the trails but going down they were amazing, especially with my balance a work in progress.

I should have expected this for May Long weekend but there were no trail guides at the trail head and all of the markers had been removed, probably for maintenance.  I thought about grabbing my GPS but I had a compass and wasn’t worried about getting lost.  What I didn’t expect was that unlike several other Prince Albert National Park trails, there wasn’t a lot of landmarks that would make it easy to calculate distance back to the trailhead.  Without markers or a map, I had no real idea how much longer it was going to take which made it seem longer than it was.  It did for me.

That was kind of exasperated by the fact that we ran into some exhausted and uptight hikers on the trail who weren’t equipped with proper equipment or footwear and weren’t expecting the trail to be as difficult or as long.  So if you are thinking of taking the trail, bring a stand alone GPS (there is no cell coverage in that part of the park) for no other reason than just knowing how long the trail will be and where you are on it.

The only upgrades I would make the trail would be a couple of red chairs on the ride that overlooks Anglin Lake and then down by the river with some signage letting people how much longer.  Both would be amazing rest/reading spots.

Yashica Mat-124 G

I never shoot film.  I have taken probably 100,000 photos in my life and since I bought my first digital camera, I have never shot a film camera.  I had no desire to do so.   That being said, I have always wanted a Twin Lens Reflex camera.  My grandfather had one (probably a Kodak Dualflex) and I have always loved the look of Rolleiflex cameras.

The other day while working on something at Don’s Photo, a customer came in with a large collection of gear.  One of them was a Yashica Mat-124 G twin lens reflex camera.

Yashica Mat-124 G

It is a medium format camera (way bigger negatives than 35mm film) and not exactly the easiest to use but they are fascinating to me and I find them incredibly cool.   The gentleman wanted to sell it on consignment and after taking a look at it and the price, I decided to purchase, if only to own a piece of history.  Also, as Paul McCartney shows, it’s a great selfie camera (I’m kidding).

Paul McCartney taking a selfie

The first step was to load some film into it.  Which I’ll be honest, I had to ask a colleague on how to do.  it isn’t the easiest process to master.  After we did that, the camera is extremely easy to use and still meters.  It’s not a point and shoot but it is really easy to use. 

Since the Yashicamat camera is basically a Rolleiflex copy, the controls take a similar configuration. Build quality is very good and when the lens is stopped down, it takes excellent photos.

Now all I need to do is grow a beard, wear tight jeans, and some flannel, ride a fixie and I too can take part of the hipster revival on 20th Street. 

Peer Pressure

SMC_Pentax-DFA_50mm_F28_MacroI bought a SMC Pentax-D FA 50mm F2.8 Macro lens today from Don’s Photo.  That isn’t that big of news.  What is news is that I don’t even like shooting macro photography.  I really had no interest in ever owning this lens.  I bought it because of peer pressure.

I don’t even know how it happened but in talking with Glen, I was adamant that I did not like taking macro photos and the next thing you know, it was brought up that this was a character deficiency and suggested that this would come back later in my life that because I don’t like taking macro photos, I would not be hired by CSIS.

The reason that I don’t want macro lenses in my life is Wendy.  I envision us being gone for a six hour hike and because Wendy is taking pictures of bugs and leaves and crap, we would not have left the parking lot by hour four.

So today, I still had no intention of buying the lens but after more peer pressure by colleagues, I bought the lens after I talked myself into it (I must really want a job with CSIS).

It’s not that I listened to everyone before.  I bought a great Pentax 10-17 fisheye lens last year against everyone’s advice who told me that I would never use it.  They were right, I never used it.  Of course last summer was not one of my best.  Hopefully I use both of them a little more in 2016.

Exploring Saskatoon

Last summer on one of the rare days the infection in my leg was under control, I went out walking with Wendy in Mount Royal for several hours we our cameras.  We were just taking in the neighborhood and capturing some of the more interesting buildings (there are not a lot) for Bridge City.  Two things of note while on that walk.  Mount Royal has some of the widest streets in the city which totally messes with the scale of the neighborhood.  Mount Royal is for driving.  Secondly a week later someone asked me if  I was running provincially or municipally against Troy Davies as they had seen Wendy and I out door knocking.

The answer was that I am not running for either but I got a kick out of the observation and question.  I was out trying to get some shots on this ridiculous project I am trying and that is to document every neighborhood in Saskatoon of it’s interesting buildings.  In the process I am learning a lot about each neighborhood and what makes it tick.

Last weekend I created a shot list of almost 200 churches, buildings, and structures that I wanted to capture in 2016, all organized by neighborhood.  This means that if you see Wendy and I out, we are not door knocking or running for office but capturing some of the buildings in the neighborhood for Bridge City.  We have probably parked our car and are walking the neighborhood rather than driving it.

By far the worst neighborhood to photograph so far is Mount Royal.  Not only is it huge but it has several buildings in it that are worth shooting.  They are also evenly distributed across the neighborhood which means that you can’t park and knock off five or six of them quickly like you can in Nutana.  

The blandest neighborhood so far is either Lakeview.  Mostly residential, not much interesting other than Holy Spirit and the Lutheran church, cookie cutter schools, and the access to their lake is a bit of a pain to get into.  There are the McMansion’s but I don’t generally photograph not historic residential.  That and the Saskatoon Police really don’t care about me walking around downtown with a camera but I imagine there would be a call if I started snapping photos of people’s homes in the burbs.

Another one is Westview.  Gorgeous neighborhood with so much character but other than the park and a nameless strip mall, it has almost nothing of interest in it.  It’s weird, I’d like to live in it but it just isn’t that photographic.

Oddly enough, another one that I find bland is Montgomery.  It has the VIA Rail terminal in it but not much in terms of great non-residential architecture.  The school is bland and there isn’t any interesting other buildings.  In the end  I have walked a lot out there and haven’t really had a great payoff.  That being said, it is a great history lesson for Mark as I grill him on street names and why they were significant.

Perhaps the worst thing to capture are schools in that you can really only ever do it over the summer or on weekends.  Some (actually many) of their entrances face the wrong way which means you have limited light to get a good shot before they get overrun by shadows from the homes across the street or you are shooting into the sun.   There are also a couple of churches that are that way.  They face north and their design and landscaping means their entrance is really, really dark and hard to get a good picture of.   That and some are really ugly.  If I was the City of Saskatoon, I’d start banning the warehouse type churches that you see in some neighborhoods.  They really are atrocious.  If churches can’t build something that enhances the neighborhood (and most do), then maybe they should be restricted to the industrial areas if they want to build a warehouse.

Lastly, some of you share my obsession with the architects of great and not so great buildings in Saskatoon.  My biggest goal this spring is to find out a list of Saskatoon and Catholic school board architects without having to go into each school.  It seems to be a well guarded secret.

Top 31 Photos of 2015: #30 – Third Avenue United Church

Top 31 Photos of 2015: #30 - Third Avenue United Church

Back in January I was out for a walk on a warm winter day.  I captured this with my Pentax K-30 with a 28mm f/2.8 manual focus lens.  Flickr seemed to like this more than I did.  That being said, Third Avenue United Church is a hard building to photography from the street.  The ugly pine tree and overhead wires take away a lot from a photograph of the building. 

Top 31 Photos of 2015: #31 Scotiabank in Downtown Saskatoon

Scotiabank in downtown Saskatoon

According to Flickr, this was my 31st most interesting photo of 2015.  It was taken with my Pentax MX-1 while walking along 2nd Avenue in March.  If I remember correctly, the Google Street View car glared at me when I pulled my camera out which confused me since he was driving a giant camera himself.

I’ll be counting down and posting a new one each day until the end of 2015.