Thursday, January 28, 2010

Canada's North Woods

The road through northern Quebec and Labrador goes through some really pretty boreal forests with bogs, ponds, and streams. As a photographer on a road trip, I found myself frustrated because I was seeing pretty landscapes, but under dull gray skies and unfavorable lighting. We weren't in our camper and there were not many places to stay even if we had had time to linger in this wilderness. But I found myself wanting to capture this subtle beauty with my camera.

I took this first shot more as a memory photo. I suspect it was handheld (if you look close, it slightly motion blurred). The setting was pretty, but the lighting not favorable. But I wanted memory photos if nothing else. I actually think this is at Gagnon, a town that ceased to exist. All that is left are some paved roads, an island dividing the road into four lanes, curbs, sidwalks, and parking lots. The buildings are long gone. Considering that the road is gravel before and after Gagnon, it really makes you wonder what happened. When we got back to Texas, we googled Gagnon and discovered that when the nearby mine shut down, the town was dismantled. In retrospect, I should have taken more pictures around Gagnon, lighting or no lighting, because it was interesting and poignant.

As we neared Churchill Falls late in the afternoon, the sky cleared and I knew I had a chance to get some photographs. We got our accomodations taken care of and headed back along the road where I had seen some ponds that might make good reflecting pools for the sunset.

I could tell that the scene was going to difficult to capture the beauty I was seeing. Straight photography would make me choose between the delicately colored sky and the details in the forest and the pool.

So i carefully shot for HDR - shooting sequences of three or more exposures to capture the beautiful delicate colors in the sky and the beauty of the pond. In post processing I needed to go beyond the Photomatics and Photoshop's high dynamic range mreges, because there was a breeze and the combined images had blurred tamarack trees. By choosing an exposure that was close, I could go in, select trees that were not motion blurred and place them where they belonged in the composition, giving me a scene that was true to what I had seen, but what straight photography couldn't produce.

Finding another possibility in this group of ponds, ordinary photography with one exposure produced this:

Shooting multiple exposures, combining them, some artistic filters from Topaz produced an image much more like what my eye enjoyed.

I was so pleased when we woke up to sunny skies. I finally had an opportunity to capture the feel of northern Canada with this shot at Ozzie's Brook, east of Churchill Falls.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Canadian Shield Images of Mystery & Wonder

I now do motion blurs as part of my methodology as we travel. I was curious what kind of images I could capture as we drove through areas of the Canadian shield on our way to Labrador. Rocks have interesting cracks, lines, grain, and layers. Add motion and I discovered that you can really end up with some interesting images. Naming these images? That's another story. Everyone sees something a little different. As a photograher, I need to give each image some kind of name. But Henry keeps reminding me that if I give it too specific a name, that it will ruin it. I've posted some of these at the Digital Image Cafe at the Critique Corner to see what other people see.

I do some post processing on these images, deepening shadowed areas, brighting up areas to enhance what I see. But the basic structure comes from the photographic technique of both moving the camera and zooming the lens.

This first one I've worked further from the image I posted at the Cafe based upon what they saw. My original name for this was "Rock Faces." I was going to change it to "Critters," but I think Rock Faces still works.

I've named this next one, "Pet Rock."

The name for this one will be either Rock Spirit or Stone Spirit.

I have been very surprised with this one. I enhanced with the theme, "Rock Warrior." But everyone sees something very different. It may need a new title.

This last one has the working title, "Emerging."

I will be taking these and others from my collection of Images of Mystery and Wonder to ConDFW next month in Dallas. To see larger versions, check out my gallery of Fantasy Creatures.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Manic Cinq (Five) - Wilderness Oasis

After leaving the St. Lawrence seaway, we were really traveling in an area with few traces of human activity beyond the road itself and the massive power transmission lines. We'd already had a few nights along the trip where we wondered if we would end up spending the night in the car. As it got close to sunset, the map showed nothing much in the way of towns where we were. We began discussing how we'd stay warm in the car since we had not brought camping gear - sleeping bags, tents, etc.

As we were thinking about how we were going to manage our night, how far to drive, etc, we rounded a bend in the road and felt that God had really provided for us. We had reached Manic Cinq, a wonderful oasis for weary travellers. There was a gas station convenience store, a restaurant, and best of all a motel!

My barely adequate French got us a room and ice. We were placed in the upper set of rooms, and the lady wanted to be sure that I knew where to go. Since I spoke and understood French so poorly, she went outside and gestured to let me know how to drive up to our room. I could hear them chuckling about my French, but, hey, I could ask for a room, tell them I wanted to buy ice . . . there was SOME communication going on in French. And since, they knew no English, it was a good thing I knew a tiny bit of French.

We got settled in, ate dinner from our ice chest. Henry had been meeting neighbors in the parking lot. He came in and told me someone wanted to use our computer to make reservations for the ferry. (YES, in this remote location we had internet!!!!!!) When they came in, I started addressing them in French, wondering if we'd be able to communicate well enough for them to do what they needed. They immediately said, "English, English!!!!" Turns out they were from Wisconsin. And it was such a God sent blessing that our paths crossed here. They had been planning their Labrador - Newfoundland trip. They not only had information, but maps and official tour guide books from the provinces. And, they shared some of their resources with us!!!! Since we had not known at the beginning of the trip that we were actually going to go to Labrador and Newfoundland, I hadn't done my homework. We saw and enjoyed our journey through these provinces so much better because we met these great folks from Wisconsin. After talking with them and getting their reservation for the ferry booked, I got our ferry reservations booked as well. We would make the crossing a couple of days before them, because we were on a tighter time schedule.

The other neighbors lived in Churchill Falls, Labrador. They also spoke English. We learned a lot about what life is like in a company town in northern Canada.

Our accomodations were wonderful. The hotel is actually a series of modular units, brought in fully furnished, and ours appeared brand new.

The table and sitting area were great for the evening internet and meals. The beds were comfortable. Even the bathroom was nicely appointed.

In retrospect, it isn't surpising that there would be such a well equiped stop along this wilderness dirt road. This is the only land route to Labrador. It is a long way from the St. Lawrence to Fermont, Quebec and Labrador City. This is a much needed stop for rest, bathrooms, and gasoline.

Our fellow travelers warned us that there were no bathrooms between Manic Cinq and Fermont!

Our Wisconsin friends took a tour of the Daniel Johnson Dam and power generating plant. Regretfully, we knew that our time to see Labrador, Newfoundland and the other maritime provinces was short. But this way station truly out in the middle of nowhere holds a spot in my heart - friendly people, good night's sleep, a tiny piece of civilization in the northern wilderness. What a blessing it was!

Friday, January 15, 2010

North to Labrador

When we turned north from the St. Lawrence seaway, we entered a beautiful unpopulated area. The clouds had come in, so for the most part we drove the almost deserted road and enjoyed our surroundings. We knew that we would be going by the large Manicougan Crater.

The Manicougan crater has a lake filling the deeper parts. When we were on the edges, the terrain had steep almost mountainous hills to climb. The crater is so large, that you might not realize you were climbing the sides of the crater if you didn't know from the map. Skies were dark, gray and foreboding . . . so I didn't try to get any shots of the rim of the crater. In retrospect . . . I should have tried.

I had a few windows for photography. The scenery is peaceful sometimes flat, sometimes rolling hills, with many lakes that appear as you cross the bends in the road.

I can't resist trying to photograph rainbows. There is just something magic about seeing a rainbow . . . the beauty . . . the symbolism of God's promise . . . the wonder of the phenomenon itself . . .

As we drove along the road, the skies stayed pretty gray, I knew that doing straight photography would leave me with memory photos that wouldn't really show others the beauty of this area. But the in camera motion photography can capture some unique things even when the lighting is less than optimum.

While the lakes tend to look the same as you go down the road and I know that lake photos can also have a "sameness" from one lake to another. I wanted to try something to make a lake image that would stand out as memorable. I think this attempt, a motion blur enhanced in Photoshop with Topaz artistic filters makes a pleasing image of one of those lakes along the way.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Canada's Hydro Power

As we drove east through Canada we kept seeing these huge power transmission lines - usually three abreast (rather than the two seen here). Huge swaths had been cut through the native forest going up and down over the mountains. We wondered where the lines were going to and where they had come from. As we drove north through Quebec toward the sparcely populated Labrador, these huge transmission lines were still going - even though we were heading away from the populated areas. We were puzzled . . . we couldn't quite figure it out.

At the Anticipation World Science Fiction Convention, there had been a panel about how successful Canada had been with hydro power. We discovered that we were on the road that linked a number of huge dams with this amazing power grid.

The Daniel-Johnson Dam is the largest multiple arch and buttress dam in the world. It is the second tallest dam in Canada. 214 meters (702 feet) and a length of 1,300 meters (4265 feet). (Stretching two miles long, Buchanan Dam on Lake Buchanan is the longest multiple arch dam in the United States. It is only 145.5 feet high))

In doing some research about Canada's hydropower I found this online brochure from

From that brochure I learned that:

Canada first used water to generate electricity in 1881 at Chaudieres Falls. In 1965, the world’s first 735-kilovolt power transmission line ever built, about 600 kilometres long, linked the Manicouagan and Outardes generating stations to the metropolitan areas of Québec City and Montréal. It was one of the ten major engineering feats in Canada during the 20th Century, a breakthrough that allowed electrical power to be transferred long distances across Canada.

Canada generates most of its electricity with water for five main reasons:
1. water is abundant,
2. the technology is efficient,
3. the service life of stations is long,
4. the cost is competitive
5. and the electricity produced is renewable and clean.

Apparently, hydropower converts 95% of the rivers energy into electricity, while the best fossil fuel plants are only 60% efficient.

Only China produces more energy from hydro than Canada. The top countries in order of production: China, Canada, Brazil, and the United States.

This brochure says that there is still more potential areas for Canada to produce power from water. At the science fiction convention, the consensus was that probably hydro was already tapped out. The beauty of hydro is that it produces "clean" energy. But, I can see issues with habitat loss along the power grid transmission lines with the need to keep the area deforested. I'll talk more about Churchhill Falls, but they totally rerouted the river at Churchhill. I don't know whether migrating fish go up that tremendous waterfall or not, but certainly placing dams on other rivers can impact fish migration. In Washington state they have fish ladders around some of the dams. In the United States there has been a lot of resistance to building new dams and a lot of study as to what existing dams have done to riparian zones.

These major hydroplants are in areas largely unpopulated - and for the most part I think it is wonderful that this technology is being developed. It is amazing to me that these large generating facilities provide power not only for Canada but also for the northeastern United States.

Friday, January 01, 2010

A New Year - New Beginnings

I like the psychological boost that comes with a new year: The new year is new, fresh, unspoiled, filled with opportunities. While every day is a new beginning, the first of the year brings the hope that I can accomplish good things. The past year is over, the slate wiped clean. I can be the person I choose to be, hopefully the person that God wants me to be. I can set new goals, knowing I won't accomplish all of them, but knowing that even if I only accomplish some of them, I will be a better person for the effort.

New Year's Day is a great day to contemplate what you want your year to look like, a good day to establish new habits and new routines, a good day to rejoice in the blessings God has given, and a good day to look to the future with hope.

I've got my new planner set up. I'm going to start filling in the calendar. I'm going to set some goals for the year, the month, the week, and even for today. I am not going to let past failures, past defeats, past inadequacies, or past procrastination pull me down. Will I be "perfect" this year? No . . . but I can live in the present, I can do the best I can, and I know that God will help me make this a good year.

I wish for you, my readers, to take advantage of all the psychological boosts that the changing into a New Year can be. Try something new. Try to improve one of your skills. Reach out to someone around you. Set some goals for yourself. And, above all, choose a positive attitude. Believing that 2010 will be a great year is the first step into making it a reality!

Go for it!

Happy New Year!

My wish for all my faithful readers and all my new readers:

May you have a very blessed, happy, healthy, and wonderful New Year filled with boundless opportunities, special family moments, quiet times with family and friends, and spiritual growth! May you find joy, peace, and hope as you go about your daily routines!