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This weekend I went to Algonquin Provincial Park with a couple of friends/family from our little photography group. Our plan had been to see the spectacular fall colours that, on average, reach their peak on the last weekend of September. Well, unfortunately, Nature has been so good to us over the summer that she’s now taking back when it comes to the Fall, so the peak change is going to be later than average this year. But, we had our hotel reservations which are impossible to change at this time of year, so it was then or never for us. Determined to make the best of it, we set off early on Saturday morning. When we reached the park about 3 hours later we saw that there was a decent amount of colour change, not anywhere near the peak that we’d hoped for, but enough to give us some excitement.

The two girls in the group had never been to the Park before, so this was all new for them. I’ve been a number of times so I’d actually wanted to do something a little different this time, and I’d planned a weekend of long exposures, ICM, multiple exposures and all-round ‘arty-farty’ (as my wife calls them) pictures. I had also just read up on a new technique being pioneered by a couple of photographers, Pep Ventosa and Stephen D’Agostino, called Photography In The Round which consists of circling a stationary object, say a tree, taking shots from all points of the circle and then combining them in PS to produce a very impressionistic single image. I was excited to try this and the other techniques, so the lack of colour didn’t matter that much to me.

Then there was the light. Everyone knows that landscape photographers only go out at dawn and dusk and never shoot anything in between because the light is so bad. Correct? No. At a seminar given by one of my inspirations, the Canadian landscape photographer Darwin Wiggett, he said – and I paraphrase – that there is no such thing as bad light, there’s only what you choose to do with it. So when we found ourselves on top of The Lookout in blazing sunshine in the middle of the afternoon with not a cloud in the sky, well then, we started to practice backlit portraits and fill flash, intentional camera movements and abstract photography. No, we couldn’t get the scenery we wanted, but we certainly could take photographs. We drove a long way to spend the weekend making pictures, and that’s what we did.

Editing is key too. I shot around 300 pictures. Most of them are technically sound; around 10% are what I consider keepers. They are the ones that show me something I haven’t seen before or that I haven’t achieved before. The rest, well they’re part of the journey. They’d make nice snapshots, but they wouldn’t generate a lot of interest. I’d rather have 25 good-to-great (in my not-so-humble opinion) pictures than 200 shots that were simply OK. But heck, it was fun and we made the most of the trip, the landscape, the environment and the opportunity to shoot for ourselves without boring the pants off our poor families.

Same time next year?

Algonquin road trip

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I spent some time wondering what to use to illustrate J but couldn’t think of anything that really fitted what this blog is about. Oh yes, there was Jay, as in Blue Jay, a ubiquitous bird in cottage country to the north of us. I’ve many shots of jays sitting on the hard drive, but quite honestly, it didn’t seem to have any ‘wow’ about it. Then this week I spent a couple of days in Algonquin Park. I was there two years ago for the fall colours and missed them by about a week. I still managed to get some reasonable shots but the landscape only hinted at what I could have seen a week before.

Blue Jay

This year I was determined to get up there at the peak time and took a couple of days off work. But, once again it seemed that nature was conspiring against me and the weather report was just lousy. I drove up on Thursday, the 400 and Highway 11 were clear, quick and the sun was out. Oh good, I thought, maybe the forecast is wrong again – wouldn’t be the first time. But as I turned off the 11 on 60, the clouds came in, the light disappeared and drops of rain started to hit the windshield. On Friday morning the weather was worse. Clouds and mist obscured the scenery and dampened the vivid colours so that the whole place looked like a misty, damp English morning.

Then, at 10 o’clock, just as forecast by the Weather network (and how often can you say that?), out came the sun, the wind blew away the clouds and the sun struggled through. The rest of the day was glorious, cool, sunny and perfect for walking some of the many trails Algonquin has to offer.

Towards the end of the day I’d walked a couple of trails and almost packed up to go home but on the way back down the 60 towards Huntsville I decided to stop at the Whiskey Rapids trail. It was a short one, a couple of km, so I could do it before heading back. And how glad I am that I did. It didn’t have the spectacular views of some of the other trails, just meandering past a quiet river (no rapids here, although I think it would be different during the spring melt) and through the most glorious, golden woods where the sun came through the trees, the leaves carpeted the ground and there was hardly a sound to be heard except for the tapping of woodpeckers and the calling of small birds. Absolutely peaceful. If I had only walked that trail that day I would have been happy. This is why I find nature photography so rewarding. It’s more than a technical challenge, it’s a sheer pleasure to create even mediocre images in this environment.

Whiskey Rapids trail

Carpet of leaves

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