PRS Images: Blog en-us (C) PRS Images (PRS Images) Fri, 29 Jun 2018 19:22:00 GMT Fri, 29 Jun 2018 19:22:00 GMT PRS Images: Blog 96 120 Hoy & South Walls, Orkney, UK Hoy and South Walls (Orkney, UK)

On 10 May I joined the Hoy Island tour organized by Steven Rhodes and led expertly by Jo Jones.  Hoy derives from the Norwegian for high - its large rounded hills are the highest in the Orkney Islands (off the coast of northern Scotland) and are visible from many locations. The hilly area of north Hoy and west Mainland now form a designated scenic area of Scotland.

This is an example of travel photography, which is both an opportunity and a problem for those who do it. I started taking photographs because my visual memory is so poor that I felt the need for this record of what I saw. That is good enough reason. However, we may also wish to take images that are in themselves interesting or attractive. Unless our travel allows extended residence in an area, this requires quick observation and execution as well as luck with the lighting conditions. I am content with the first reason as I am aware that residents or longer term visitors are able to use their greater knowledge of the area and choice of conditions to make better images. On the other hand, I am the only person standing at a particular spot at that moment and I have to make the best of it. Sometimes I am lucky. On to Hoy.

At this point, the slide show presents the images in my gallery of the trip. For full size viewing, please hover and click the bottom right button. Below the slide show I extract some individual photos with comments.

Cool but glorious sunshine greeted me early in the morning as I made my way to the Houton ferry terminus and then onward to Hoy. 

Hoy Bound May 10 2018Hoy Bound May 10 2018 The Scapa Flow museum was closed for renovations, which was unfortunate, but it did allow more time for other stops. Our first was at the village of Longhope on South Walls, which is connected to Hoy by a natural causeway. The harbour includes a number of small fishing vessels as well as the area’s lifeboat. I was surprised to learn that British Lifeboats depend on a voluntary organization to fund their operation. A short distance away is a small building that houses the Lifeboat Museum where you can see the boat that served this area from 1933 to 1962. 

Longhope May 10 2018Longhope May 10 2018

The southern part of Hoy and South Walls is mostly low lying farmland like most of Mainland. We stopped at a cemetery in which the statue commemorates the local men who died in the lifeboat disaster of 1969. The lifeboat-man here is looking out to sea - calm on this day.

Hoy May 10 2018 11Hoy May 10 2018 11

Scapa Flow is the world’s second largest harbour and a core base for the British fleet in the wars of the last century. It is basically the calmer waters inside a ring of islands some now linked by causeways.

on one of Hoy’s hills, lookng to the east, I took this picture.

Scapa Flow May 10 2018 31 1Scapa Flow May 10 2018 31 1

On to Rackwick Glen, where we made the short hike to the Dwarfie Stane. It is a tomb carved from stone and deposited in the glen by a retreating glacier. It is unique in northern Europe and its name derives from a legend that it was the home of a dwarf. 

Dwarfie Stane May 10 2018 40Dwarfie Stane May 10 2018 40

Rackwick Bay is stunning on a sunny day when waves still pound the shore and cliffs. I saw some of the 120,000 seabirds that frequent Hoy.

Rackwick May 10 2018 57Rackwick May 10 2018 57

This old stone house is close to the shore with the end facing the water. It is used by campers. 

Rackwick May 10 2018 71Rackwick May 10 2018 71

Beyond the north side headland, a walk of some 1.5 hours, sits the famous sea stack known as the old man of Hoy. I was content to see the other sites of the island including the crofting museum high on the hill above the bay. 

Rackwock May 10 2018 64Rackwock May 10 2018 64 In the afternoon we returned to to Walls with time for a coffee break before walking along the southern cliff tops and visiting Melsetter House. It includes a small chapel with stained glass window. If you go to Hoy, don’t miss Emily’s Tea Room for excellent coffee and desserts. Suddenly it was time to return to Mainland.

Melsetter Chapel May 10 2018 125Melsetter Chapel May 10 2018 125 South WallsMay 10 2018 114South WallsMay 10 2018 114

(PRS Images) buildings hills hoy landscape museum orkney seascape Fri, 25 May 2018 18:12:55 GMT
A Walk in the Wind and Rain, Orkney Scotland It was a wet and windy day when I decided to walk down to the shore from our B&B in the district of Gorseness on Orkney's Mainland. It seemed a good idea to test my rain gear, which had not yet seen use in three weeks of our visit to Scotland.

A straight narrow road led down to the shore. Looking southeast, the day appeared much more inviting than it felt.

Gorseness Orkney 2Gorseness Orkney 2 After a while I remembered that it is wise to turn around and then I discovered both the imminent arrival of more rain and the prospects of a break. Orkney's weather is highly changeable.

Gorseness Orkney 3Gorseness Orkney 3 A glance to the right showed more evidence of the rain but also sunshine on distant Kirkwall.

Gorseness OrkneyGorseness OrkneyIt was a windy wet day when I decided to walk down to the shore from our B&B on Orkney's Mainland. Looking down is also a good idea - I saw this bank of wild primroses among the grass.

Gorseness Orkney 4Gorseness Orkney 4

It is common to find daffodils planted along the edge of fields.

Gorseness Orkney 5Gorseness Orkney 5 Now there was serious rain.

Gorseness Orkney 9Gorseness Orkney 9 Down by the shore, the road ends with a farm house to the right.

Gorseness Orkney 12Gorseness Orkney 12 To the left a much older farmhouse with stone outbuildings. By the shore is a simple stone building that was probably a fishing shed and a little further an ancient cemetery (see slideshow at end).

Gorseness Orkney 14Gorseness Orkney 14

As I turned to walk back, I noticed a simple landscape that captured at least part of what appeared important about Orkney to me - the use of stone, the centrality of the land, and a sky filled with rain.

Gorseness Orkney 16Gorseness Orkney 16 A final view as I climbed the hill.

Gorseness Orkney 19Gorseness Orkney 19

To see the full set of photos from this walk, please check the slideshow:

Technical Note: All photographs with Nikon D850 and Tamron 45mm, edited in Capture One Pro 11

(PRS Images) agriculture buildings farms flowers gorseness landscape orkney road Sat, 19 May 2018 16:30:56 GMT
Interpreting with Topaz Impressions Interpreting with Topaz Impressions

Examples from Simms Park, Courtenay, BC

The slideshow gives a quick view of photographs before and after application of Topaz Impressions 2. Larger versions are available in this gallery:   OR just click the arrow at the bottom right of the slide show screen.

Many people believe that the task of photographers is to record the world observed as accurately as possible -  to produce an image that anyone in his or her position would see. Yet no photograph is free of human judgement in its production. Cameras don't record all detail in light and shadows that is visible to the average human. The software that translates the light recorded on millions of photo diodes produces results varying in detail, brightness and colour when displayed on electronic or print media. We can't know what is outside the frame and what might have been removed by the photographer. My memory is too poor to state whether my own photographs are accurate documents in all respects; I have to be satisfied with good enough.

I often want to record an event, object, action or scene simple because it is part of the world I encounter. Sometimes I want to create a mood, an emotional connection, a simplified view, a sense of motion. Often I want to stress part of the frame and exclude sections that distract from my primary focus. On these occasions it is really helpful to have software like Topaz Impressions (version 2) that make this work easier.

All digital images are processed at least by the camera designers and the creators of software for displaying the results. Standard adjustments attempt to extract as much detail as possible from the sensor that receives the light and allow correction for various distortions. The more creative adjustments are those that simplify and focus attention on part of the image or alter it to stress a mood or emotion, sometimes adding what was not in the original image. That is what pictorial artists have always done; photographers should not feel reluctant to take this path. Topaz Impressions is a set of filtering tools that allow the photographer to add a painterly or sketching style to an image base. 


(PRS Images) art british columbia courtenay documentation forest nature park river topaz impressions vancouver island winter Sun, 19 Feb 2017 06:54:34 GMT
Views of Chicago Downtown On my most recent visit to central Chicago, 28 October 2016, I walked as usual for several hours along the streets taking photos of buildings, the river and the people. This collection is mostly about the architecture and includes several different interpretations of the same scene in a number of cases. 

Whenever I visit any place I always remind myself that local photographers are likely to know it much better, can choose varied lighting conditions, and can shoot at different times of year. They also have a better grasp of the people and which types of photography are acceptable. I just hope that there is some advantage to an outside view on scenes that may be so ordinary for residents that they no longer see them as photo subjects, or perhaps don't see them at all. Still, I just report what I see and help my own memory of the experience. So here is what I saw followed by comments on some of the images.

At first, I resisted taking a photograph of the opera building as seen from the opposite side of the river because so much of it appeared as a blank wall. Then I looked more carefully at the fine detail of the building and took several shots. The first presented below still looked rather flat on my basic edit so I decided to use Topaz Impressions 2  with an overlay that added painterly texture. I like this version much more, even if it is less accurate.


I walked a little further and took the building from directly opposite, showing it rising almost out of the water. I'm still unsure about that large featureless area at the core of the image, but I do like the contrast with the complex frame that the rest of the building provides.



Stopping a short distance in front of the Madison Street bridge, I liked the line of receding buildings, but not so much the natural daylight colours. So I have posted two other versions which may appeal in different ways. It was a chilly, windy, dull morning and this I emphasized with a somewhat desaturated grungy look from Topaz Textures 2. 

Chicago by the riverChicago by the riverTT2 Desaturated portrait grunge

A warmer look that hints at an old print provides a radically different version. 

Chicago by the riverChicago by the riverTT2v dirty sunset

Photographing buildings raises the problem of how to deal with converging lines when you have to tilt the camera to take in the whole building. As in the previous image it is often best to avoiding covering too much. In the previous photo I only had to introduce a minor perspective correction in software. Sometimes correcting the perspective produces severe cropping and elongated buildings that look unrealistic and unattractive. in the next shot this was indeed the case when I tried to correct it. It is not outstanding in any way but the image I have included is the best I could achieve. As with several others, I decided to make a key central line vertical and accept an unrealistic but reasonably pleasing overall effect.

Chicago Oct 28 2016 6 1Chicago Oct 28 2016 6 1OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I quite like the following photo of people walking in a street of mixed older and modern architectural styles. However, my eye is drawn straight to the women wearing the neon green jacket. As an alternative the toned monochrome image (Topaz Textures 2) restores what should be the main focus of the street scene - the mix of people and styles with no strong domination of any part.

Chicago streetChicago streetOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Chicago streetChicago streetTT2 Oh so dramatic

Black and White processing is abstract and valuable for many purposes, including occasions when I want to emphasize structure and texture. 

Chicago RiverChicago RiverOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I enjoyed walking the path along the Chicago River as the city looks different from that level. In this shot (below) I used Topaz Texture 2 and the spotlight preset to turn the dull day into something much warmer, perhaps romantic.

Image Date (MMM dd yyyy) Chicagoland 163Image Date (MMM dd yyyy) Chicagoland 163TT2 spotlight

35 East Wacker is a building I have photographed several times and always with disappointing results. I almost threw this one away until some cropping, straightening and clarity applications produced what is now my favourite image of the day with its detailed stonework and abstract window reflections.

WackerWackerTC exterior texture

Countless photographs must have been taken on the Michigan Avenue bridge. Mine captures people with something on their mind - and the inevitable cell phone conversation taking place. The Cubs were yet to comeback and win the world series. Perhaps the people were more upbeat a few days later.

Chicago Oct 28 2016 17Chicago Oct 28 2016 17OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

(PRS Images) Chicago buildings downtown people Wed, 23 Nov 2016 20:10:09 GMT
Topaz Glow 2 at Deep Bay, BC I am continuing my experience with Topaz filters. Here I present some results of using the recently released Glow 2 presets. Glow 2 expands the number of presets and introduces a much wider range of blend modes. In some cases I change the blend mode of the preset and make other adjustments to taste - usually  reducing the strength of the filter. In this collection I show the conventionally edited image before or after the Glow versions. I don't always prefer the Topaz effect. 

The original images are, to my taste, acceptably composed documentary shots of the harbour at Deep Bay. Although there is no point in taking a poorly structured photography and applying filters to it, I believe the Glow filters can make an image more interesting and more attractive - even if that change is merely decorative rather than carrying a message. To see the filter used, you can go to the gallery and check the subtitles - 

(PRS Images) British Columbia Comox Valley Topaz harbour people water Tue, 30 Aug 2016 17:45:27 GMT
Classic Car Show - Topaz Effects This was my sixth year at the Classic Cars display in Courtenay, BC, and I wanted to do something different. So I decided to try for a more creative approach in which the cars were a base for hopefully interesting combinations of colour, shape and texture, which were neither too close nor too distant from what I observed. This took me to a wide range of Topaz special filter effects using B&W Effects2, Impressions2, Glow, Textures and Simplify. Often I reduce the opacity of the effects or change some of the parameters as Topaz makes it possible to use the presets as a starting point to create versions to your own taste. Here's what I came up with.

(PRS Images) British Columbia Comox Valley Courtenay Topaz Vancouver Island cars Mon, 01 Aug 2016 23:44:47 GMT
Exposure at Waterfalls - Brown's River, Vancouver Island Brown's River Jun 11 2016 2Brown's River Jun 11 2016 2OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Brown's River Falls, Olympus OMD EM-1, F8, 1/13 seconds, ISO 200, hand-held

On 11 June, the Comox Valley Photographic Society went to Brown's River Falls, a short drive from Courtenay and then a 20 minute walk. I have been there many times and decided to limit my photography on this occasion to a single lens and check out what slow shutter speed is possible, hand-held, with my Olympus EM-1. Generally, I prefer running water captured between 1/2 and 1/15 of a second depending on the speed. This allows for a sense of water moving quickly rather than the more popular cloudy or misty renditions at slower shutter speeds. There are times when I will use slower speeds or much faster speeds for different effects. However, I keep coming back to my preferred range.

I don't like carrying my tripod on a hike or when I have to use a rope to descend some steep rocks as in this case. I used only the Lumix 20 mm, F 1.7 with a variable neutral density filter. For those unfamiliar with the filter, it limits the amount of light entering the lens to varying degrees and without affecting the colour tones. You simply rotate the filter to increase or decrease the amount of light that will be included in the exposure. In bright conditions this will allow a longer shutter speed without forcing the photographer to close down or narrow the aperture to the point where significant sharpness is lost. 

I know that the EM-1 has outstanding stabilization that should lead to acceptable images, hand-held, at shutter speeds lower than was possible with earlier technologies. However, I have not tried it out with running water. I was surprised to get the occasional sharp image at 0.4 to 0.5 seconds. Anything longer produced evidence of camera shake, although some images were still attractive. At 0.2 and faster, I found no evidence of camera movement in the image as long as I concentrated on remaining still. So the result is that I can leave the tripod in the car when I want to photograph moving water at the speeds I prefer. Here are my favourited shots from Brown's River on this occasion.

(PRS Images) British Columbia Brown's River Falls Comox Valley river water waterfall Sun, 12 Jun 2016 21:53:13 GMT
Point Holmes Beach - Topaz Effects Pt. Holmes BeachPt. Holmes BeachT Glow Brilliant Fibers The image above shows mother and child at the water's edge on Point Holmes Beach, Comox, Vancouver Island. Sometimes I like to transform basic images with special effects filters, which I apply with varying degrees of intensity. Apart from this opening shot, I will present the base or initial photographs with conventional editing in Capture One Pro 9, which is my normal editing software. You can then compare this image with the filtered effects, all of which are provided by Topaz Software. The opening shot features intense, dramatic colour with an almost electric effect. Topaz Glow is a set of filters that provide a wide range of high contrast, colourful and simplified images. The filter used here was Brilliant Fibers III. I am not providing the original in this case to preserve the anonymity of people. (Full size images can be viewed here if desired -

The next two images show an overview of the beach looking towards the Beaufort Mountains. Here the secondary processing is provided by Topaz Texture Effects, in particular a filter called Forest Light II, which provides lower contrast and altered colour. Even images straight from the camera are necessarily interpreted by software, so I don't hesitate to add my own rather than worry about what the original really looked like through my eyes. The left side colour is unrealistic but pleasing to me. In this case I prefer the unfiltered original - not by much though. 

Pt. Holmes Beach-6Pt. Holmes Beach-6

Pt. Holmes Beach-7Pt. Holmes Beach-7T Texture Forest Light ii

Now let's look north towards the point and the mainland beyond. The second image is once more based on Topaz Textures, this time a filter called desaturated portrait grunge. Topaz provides many options to control the degree to which the filter is imposed on the image. In this case I was content with the default, but it is fun to experiment with the controls. 

Pt. Holmes Beach-2Pt. Holmes Beach-2

Pt. Holmes Beach-3Pt. Holmes Beach-3

I used to paint and would struggle for days to create effects now available so easily (minus texture) with programs like Topaz Impressions. The next photograph uses colour pencil I followed by the base version. I like the airy feel to the Impressions sketch.

Pt. Holmes Beach-4Pt. Holmes Beach-4Topaz Impressions Coloured Pencil

Pt. Holmes Beach-5Pt. Holmes Beach-5

The Georgia O'Keefe filter no. 2 in Topaz Impressions is one of my favourites as it provides a smooth, dynamic effect. See especially the beach and houses in the next pair. The conversion to jpg has produced slight banding or layering in the sky (rather than smooth transitions) that is not visible in the TIF source file.

Pt. Holmes Beach-8Pt. Holmes Beach-8

Pt. Holmes Beach-9Pt. Holmes Beach-9Topaz Impressions O'Keefe 2

Now let's move to a much sketchier look. I worked these beach logs with Impressions Quick Sketch filter and then reduced the brightness. The result is like a coloured ink sketch with a fine nib on the pen.

Pt. Holmes Beach-10Pt. Holmes Beach-10T Impression Q Sketch less bright

Pt. Holmes Beach-11Pt. Holmes Beach-11

Next, a set of three beginning with the base image shot straight into the light. A surprising amount of detail is recovered but I felt that more was possible with this shot. On to the second image.

Pt. Holmes Beach-12Pt. Holmes Beach-12

Topaz allows its effects to be more or less visible. Often the best result is obtained by backing off from 100% application. In the second version, I use Topaz Glow Brilliant on Black reduced to 70%. I think it is still too much, so on to the third version.

Pt. Holmes Beach-13Pt. Holmes Beach-13T Glow 70% Bril Black This time I reduced the intensity to 60% and made another important change. Many Topaz filters allow a choice of blending modes - how the filter effect will be integrated with the base original. Up to now, all images have been 'normal.' This time I am choosing soft light blending which produces a much gentler but  still noticeable change. Pt. Holmes Beach-14Pt. Holmes Beach-14T Glow Brilliant blacl 62% soft

The next two show how the coloured pencil filter in Impressions can smooth out detail and simplify the structure of an image. Look at the bubbling surf on the sand. The filtered shot loses the bubbles almost entirely in favour of a streaky texture. I think the original looks a little better in this case.

Pt. Holmes Beach-15Pt. Holmes Beach-15 Pt. Holmes Beach-16Pt. Holmes Beach-16Topaz Impressions Coloured Pencil

In this final pairing, I introduce one of​ my favourites - Charcoal 1 from Impressions. I like the original and am hard pressed to select a favourite here... perhaps the charcoal version. This filter simplifies certain areas like the upper left and the foreground, while leaving critical detail intact.  Pt. Holmes Beach-17Pt. Holmes Beach-17 Pt. Holmes Beach-18Pt. Holmes Beach-18Topaz Impressions Charcoal 1

(PRS Images) British Columbia Comox Comox Valley Point Holmes Topaz Topaz Glow Topaz Impressions Topaz Texture Effects beach water Tue, 08 Mar 2016 19:28:05 GMT
Serenity Along Courtenay Riverway After nearly five years, I seem always to find some aspect of the light, water or life along the Courtenay River to catch my attention. It was no different this week when I ventured out to take images on the theme of serenity. The trees look so delicate as in this example.

Courtenay Riverway Feb 01 2016 30Courtenay Riverway Feb 01 2016 30

Numerous other people were enjoying this spell of mild weather in early February. An example:

Courtenay Riverway Feb 01 2016 34Courtenay Riverway Feb 01 2016 34 I often make monochrome versions of my landscapes.

Courtenay Riverway Feb 01 2016 24Courtenay Riverway Feb 01 2016 24 And here is the full set.


(PRS Images) British Columbia Comox Valley Courtenay estuary landscape serene water Fri, 05 Feb 2016 02:53:09 GMT
Courtenay Estuary - a Sunny November Day I love November light in northern latitudes, whether grey or sunny skies predominate. In the last few days the sun has been dancing on the waters of the Courtenay estuary. I have been enjoying the views on both sides. The first group of shots were taken in late morning, sometimes directly into the sun as in this initial posting:

The heron's perchThe heron's perch I had no long telephoto at hand to get closer to the heron who is perched on a chunk of driftwood in the centre right. I have recently been experimenting with Topaz Textures, a quick and flexible means of providing a more radical interpretation of the subjects. Here a second shot, taken with the full sun just out of the frame illustrates what I have been trying to achieve.

Estuary Lookout 4Estuary Lookout 4

Several times in this morning excursion, something startled the ducks close to the wildlife observational area and they rose quickly on mass before settling down again. 

[Technical Note: I used my Olympus EM-1 set to low ISO (100) with manual exposure, usually adjusted one stop under the recommended meter level. This worked well in maximizing detail while avoiding the blown highlights that sometimes occur because of the reduced dynamic range at the Low ISO setting.]

Estuary Lookout 13Estuary Lookout 13 The observation deck provides a good view of Golden Hinde mountain  and its glacier to the west of Courtenay. It looks quite close but is actually in the centre of Vancouver Island.

Estuary Lookout 34Estuary Lookout 34 In the afternoon, close to sunset, I walked along the riverway path on the Courtenay side. The light was now much warmer as in this view with Comox harbour in the distance and in the following image looking towards Denman and Hornby Islands. 

Estuary West ShoreEstuary West Shore

Estuary West Shore 10Estuary West Shore 10 By this time the sun had already dropped behind the mountains to the west. Estuary West Shore 18Estuary West Shore 18

There was still ample light reflecting from the water, e.g., where these ducks swam close to the path.

Estuary West Shore 21Estuary West Shore 21 In some areas the water was reflecting the colours of sunset. This gull took in the show.

Estuary West Shore 23Estuary West Shore 23 To see all 24 photos in this set, you can check out the slideshow:

(PRS Images) British Columbia Comox Valley Courtenay estuary landscape ocean sun water Fri, 27 Nov 2015 03:21:46 GMT
Drumheller Badlands Early October in Alberta and on the southern prairies scattered yellow aspen signalled autumn under a blue sky. I had never been to the badlands - the eroded sandstone valley of the Red Deer River famous for its dinosaur fossils and hoodoos. We set out from Calgary and travelled across the sweeping, undulating prairies lands towards Drumheller and Midland Provincial Park, one of the core badland areas. Approaching from the west, we drove a short distance close to the river before crossing to the other side - not on a bridge, but using a cable ferry that is probably one of the world's shortest.

Crossing the Red Deer RiverCrossing the Red Deer RiverI think this is the shortest ferry ride I have ever taken. The park was our next stop. With time limited by infant Abigail's needs we decided to walk the park trail rather than visit the museum on this occasion. I chose not to hunt for fossils; rather I focussed on the spectacular scenery and semi-desert plant life. 

Midland BadlandsMidland Badlands

Shades of yellow to brown dominate the landscape as in the above photo. I was surprised to see cactus so far north as well as several late blooming flowers.

Northern CactusNorthern CactusOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA More hilly landscape with rock strata and erosion lines clearly visible along with minimal vegetation. 

Midland BadlandsMidland Badlands

As we completed our walk, a small cloud moved over one of the outcrops, which gave it the appearance of an active volcano. Sometimes in photography you get lucky.

Midland BadlandsMidland Badlands

To see a wider selection, including several images of Drumheller, check out the slideshow:

(PRS Images) Alberta badlands Drumheller aspen autumn Fri, 16 Oct 2015 15:34:08 GMT
Chicagoland: Suburban Summer This year in late summer Gladys and I visited our family in the Chicago area. However, we didn't see the city centre on this trip due to hot weather followed by rain and other commitments. So this year we focussed exclusively on the suburbs for outings and photography - in Aurora, Geneva, Naperville and Wheaton. The results are a varied mix of street photography.

The expanded outlet mall in Aurora is a mecca for brand name bargain hunters. In contrast to my first visit on Labour Day weekend, there were relatively few people on this sunny morning.

We made two visits to Geneva, which is on the Fox River and capital of Kane County. This is an attractive town known with many local businesses in the historic centre. Some buildings are vividly painted - like this green example on State Street.

Geneva GreenGeneva Green

Even the fire hydrants are works of art.

Geneva IL 1Geneva IL 1

A country music festival by the river ended with this dance.

Naperville is always a favourite visit for me. Here the giant murals often portray local history.

For several blocks, the street along the DuPage River was closed to traffic in favour of this labor day festival. It was a colourful display of booths and people on a sizzling hot afternoon.

A brief shopping visit to Wheaton gave one of several opportunities for interior shots - here taken while waiting for my cappuccino. 

While waiting for Gladys to check some stores in Geneva, I parked myself on a bench to listen to an excellent country-pop singer outside the court house and observe others on the street or taking a break.

You can check out the full gallery in this slideshow:

(PRS Images) Chicago USA buildings people street photography suburban summer Wed, 16 Sep 2015 21:44:23 GMT
Scotland 2015 In July, Gladys and I visited Scotland where I lived most of my first 25 years. This time we went to several places that were new to me. The blog contains a record of the trip. If you prefer to avoid the text and see many more photos, just select the 2015 galleries at

South Ayrshire

It was chilly windy, damp and green when we landed in Glasgow on July 7th - and it stayed that way punctuated by occasional hints of summer, much as I remembered Scotland in July. We hired a new Ford Focus, which is full of sophisticated electronics, but doesn't cope by itself with the pile of travel circles I encountered right away. However, we made it to Troon with just one scare. The idea was to start the trip with minimal driving and to visit southwest Scotland for the first time. In Troon, the Lido Cafe proved a welcome stop once we managed to find a parking space, which proved to be a common problem. It was upscale in decor and the breakfast welcome after our overnight flight. Next we escaped some rain and fought with the wind to view Troon's attractive but deserted beach.


Tired out, we covered the short distance to Ayr and were lucky to check in early after a struggle to find Miller House, which does not front on the street that the GPS suggested. The owner and room were both great. The driveway, however, was only fractionally wider than the car with rock walls on the boundary. Ayr India restaurant was very good.

Next morning was cold, wet, windy. Thinking we needed to be indoors we headed to the Burns museum in Alloway, just a few minutes to the south. We spent about 4 hours exploring the grounds and buildings - a National Trust site that we could not miss. I learned much about Robbie Burns and the period in which he lived. The museum itself, the cottage of Burns' birth, the Burns monument and the grounds all make for a valuable experience. The following photo shows the old cottage, well restored, and its vegetable garden.

Robert Burns Birthplace MuseumRobert Burns Birthplace MuseumOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Later we walked through the centre of Ayr, which is bustling with activity and retains most of its old buildings. There is no sign of office towers or box stores. No doubt they will be in easy reach of the automobile. Thursday was one of the best days of our trip. Photographer and old Flickr friend, Brian, had arranged to pick us up in mid-morning. We dropped Gladita in the main shopping area and headed south, through a green landscape of rolling hills, to Dunure and Girvan. The former is a picturesque village and the latter a well known beach and golf village. The next image of Dunure Castle will be the only ruined castle I show from the many to be found in Scotland.


After lunch in Ayr and a rest (jet-lagged for a week or so), Brian and Jane took us to an outstanding dinner. Thanks so much for everything. 

Portsoy and the Northeast Coast

It was a long drive in the rain to Portsoy following the eastern route through Aberdeen. Our lunch stop was at a bistro in Stonehaven's market square. The strongest memory I have from this drive is one of countless roundabouts, although to be fair they probably speed up the traffic and are simple to negotiate when traffic is light. By mid-afternoon we had arrived at Durn House, which proved a delightful place to stay with incredibly helpful staff.  

I completed the last four years of high school in Keith. My sister and cousin still live here with most of their families, and so a large part of the time was set aside for them. However, it was still possible to explore the northeast coastal villages, which I have always considered one of Britain's largely unknown gems. The rugged coastline is dotted with harbour villages, once centres of a thriving fishery, that are marvels of stonework and perseverence against a tough environment. Here are two examples from Portsoy:



Further to the east in Aberdeenshire the village settings are more dramatic as they lie at the foot of steep hills or cliffs on narrow ledges just back from the waterline. What once were fishers' settlements now await tourists or returns from North Sea oil. It had been a long time since I had visited Gardenstown.

Gardenstown 8Gardenstown 8 and Pennan.

Pennan 13Pennan 13 Access to all was by single lane B roads, but the road to Crovie was the most difficult with barely room for one vehicle and extremely steep. When we squeezed into Crovie, there was nowhere to park and hardly space to turn. Afraid of being blocked in, we took the turn option and drove above the village to a point where we could stop and look down on it. So this is Crovie looking east towards Gardenstown (Gamrie in local dialect).

Above Crovie 1Above Crovie 1


Our next stop was Perth, which we reached after lunch in Inverness and a journey through the Grampian highlands where snow was still visible. The dreary weather made stopping a problem until we came to the tourist shopping mecca, House of Briar (thanks, Susan, for the tip). I went to the lovely falls of Briar while Gladita checked out the shops. Perth is attractively situated on the banks of the River Tay. The old city contains many finely crafted stone building such as this restaurant:

Perth 16Perth 16 The food proved excellent, both at a crowded high-end Indian restaurant and the more modest but delightful Centro Cafe. Most of the main street is pedestrian only - so good for shopping and people watching. Everyone is so much more relaxed in these settings.

Perth 20Perth 20 Next day, we went to Scone palace on the edge of Perth. I didn't recognize that it was privately owned and that photos were not allowed. It retained an aura of elite wealth. The famous throne and stone were less than awe-inspiring.


Onward through the rain to Stirling, which sits on the border between the highlands and lowlands. It is best known for its grand royal castle on a volcanic plug towering over the town and countryside. After the short drive, we parked at the castle and joined the mass of other tourists.  Apart from the beautifully restored interior of the royal residence and the chapel, it felt bleak and rather threatening. The interior of the residence itself was colourful but sparsely furnished. At least that left room to absorb the tourists. However, the views from the wall were superb in all directions. 

Stirling Castle 6Stirling Castle 6

A delightful cafe lunch in an ancient building about half way down the hill followed. Then, after some shopping exploration, we checked into our hotel just below the Wallace monument. The morning brought more wind and rain; so we decided to drive to Aberfoyle, which was through the lovely Trossachs area, to let Gladita shop at the woollen mill stores. That was successful, but the village was an ugly mix of styles and too much rain had fallen. Earlier we spent the morning escaping rain in the Thistle shopping centre. Stirling provided many good opportunities for street photography.

Stirling 14Stirling 14

We decided after much thought to skip Edinburgh and head straight to Glasgow. What a good idea, because Glasgow is a great city - all cleaned up, wonderful architecture, friendly people, super shopping and food, multi-ethnic, and not overburdened by tourists. Parkopedia suggested that concert square was the most suitable parking close to Buchannan street, which G identified as the pedestrian shopping core. Garmin made it quite easy to get there. We spent about five hours in shopping and street photography before going to the Argyll hotel. Here we could find no street parking close by and finally had to phone the reception for advice. We squeezed into the last space behind the hotel in a filthy alley and left the car there until Monday.

A sample from Glasgow:

Scotland 2015 15Scotland 2015 15OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Sunday was a walking day. We strolled along Sauchiehall street, which is lined with handsome buildings that transition from accommodation to offices to stores and a pedestrian way that links with Buchannan street. Attractive and vibrant. Some more shopping, a side stroll to city hall, lunch at Eat, and then back for a rest. Later in the afternoon I walked past the stately Kelvingrove museum to the new riverside museum of transportation, which was noisy and crowded. It is free to enter like the other public buildings in Glasgow. At a quieter time, I would have found the transport exhibits more enjoyable. The architecture is nothing short of spectacular.

For other Glasgow photographs, try this slideshow:


Last day in Scotland. Our plan was to meet my cousin Christine and her husband Bill for afternoon coffee in Largs.

The morning was showery and we decided we might as well go early to Largs rather than visit Kelvingrove museum. Actually this was not so smart. It was surprisingly easy to get out of the city thanks to the GPS. Merging was a little nerve-wracking. The rain, however, got worse in Largs and we decided to drive into the centre where I circled and searched for parking before settling on the shore lot.
Ice Cream weather?
Ice cream weather?Ice cream weather?OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

We escaped the rain by taking a pleasant cafe lunch, after which it was at least dry. Bill and Christine were great company - it turns out we had not seen each other for 58 years. Back in Glasgow, a fine meal at Thai Siam was a fitting end to the Scottish trip.

If you are not oversatiated with Scottish photographs, you might like to check out the 2015 entries in the Scottish galleries at:

(PRS Images) Glasgow Perth Scotland Stirling city coast people travel urban villages Thu, 30 Jul 2015 18:22:24 GMT
The Forest Challenge I always enjoy the sights and sounds when walking in a forest. However, I usually find myself disappointed in the photographs I take on these occasions. This is probably because I like simple structures and clear contrast of light or colour in most cases, but the forest is a tangle of un-coordinated growth. At times I try to solve this problem by selecting small segments of the scene. I may also switch to black and white or monochrome to stress the lines rather than the colour. Sometimes none of this works. A path, river or stream can help, but not always. I'm going to illustrate with a group of photographs taken in early May in Tynehead regional park in Surrey, BC.

These cedars are joined like Siamese twins. I quickly gave up trying to get most of the trees in the image and focussed on the strong shape of the base. Initially, I thought the front fern would spoil the balance, but now I like the disruption for the eye and the point of interest that it provides. The tangle of the backdrop seems to set context more than irritate. The original raw file showed much more contrast with the background looking faint, almost blown out. So thanks to Capture One 8's recovery tools for this image. I thought black and white would work well for this picture, but I do miss the rich reddish-brown tones in the colour view. Here they are:

Tynehead Additions 2015Tynehead Additions 2015

Tynehead 1191Tynehead 1191OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I rarely use toned black and white on forest shots, but this one seemed to work best with a touch of green in the shadows to mid-tones. It's a busy shot, but the strong lines of the cedars close to me save it in my opinion. And the forest is indeed complex, which I should show in some photos.

Tynehead Additions 2015Tynehead Additions 2015OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The Serpentine River starts as a stream in Tynehead and appears here quite near its source in the west side of the park. In this shot the trees frame the river and form a secondary subject.

Tynehead Additions 2015-9Tynehead Additions 2015-9 In the next shot, the river seems to follow an L-shape course and the forest takes precedence or at least shares it equally with the river.

Tynehead Additions 2015-6Tynehead Additions 2015-6OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

In this final pair, the Serpentine reflects the surrounding forest. They are equal partners in an image that appeals to me for its wide range of greens and rather peaceful appearance. I am including a black and white of the same shot in which I have edited to bring out more contrast in tones. I wonder which is better. I am going with the black and white this time.

Tynehead Additions 2015-19Tynehead Additions 2015-19 Tynehead 1200Tynehead 1200


(PRS Images) British Columbia Spring Tynehead forest leaves river Wed, 03 Jun 2015 00:05:02 GMT
Urban Shopping Contrast Last week I was in Vancouver metro region and enjoyed a number of opportunities for street photography using my Olympus EM-1. In reviewing my shots I was struck by the contrast between Granville Island market, close to the downtown core, and Guildford Town Centre, the giant new shopping mall in suburban Surrey. Granville is a popular destination for tourists and area residents with most businesses owned by small local companies whereas the mall houses department stores and well known national or international companies. This first image shows the setting of Granville Island looking towards the downtown area.

Granville 1107Granville 1107

On a warm May day, many people strolled the island where several street musicians were always performing as in this image of an outstanding according player. He was smiling even before I purchased his DVD.

Granville 1122Granville 1122

Others took lunch in the sun or turned to their cell phones. With the 12-40 mm lens I felt comfortable and fairly unobtrusive taking shots like this when to ask permission would spoil the situation. 

Granville 1120Granville 1120

Inside the market the combination of products and people was really colourful. However, I also find the simplifying effect of black and white is well suited to these occasions as in the following example:

Granville 1114Granville 1114 Granville 1115Granville 1115 I was astonished to observe this incredible art work at the cement factory that also stands on the island along with Emily Carr art school and some businesses that have little to do with the tourist trade.

Granville 1117Granville 1117

The Guildford town centre is a different world, but I also enjoyed its modern architecture such as the red curves in this image. I visited at a quiet time, which was less than ideal for candid photography (I felt too visible), but better for the buildings themselves.

Guildford 1128Guildford 1128 Perhaps this pair were unconnected hockey fans or just two guys avoiding the stores.

Guildford 1132Guildford 1132 Finally a top down view of the interior;

Guildford 1133Guildford 1133 To see the full set of images check the source gallery or this slideshow:


(PRS Images) Granville Guildford Olympus Vancouver candid people shopping urban Thu, 14 May 2015 00:05:03 GMT
Victoria Weekend Gladys and I spent a relaxing weekend in Victoria on 24-26 April. While she went shopping, I stopped at Serious Coffee on Broad Street where I took several candid shots. These young women knew each other but were engrossed in their phone connections for some time. I could do nothing about the package in the middle of the table. The Olympus EM-1 worked well at ISO 6400 in this shot.

Inside SeriousInside Serious

Victoria's china town is a small area that stands out for its bright colours, especially red. E.g., check out this fountain in the small square.


I dropped by OPUS, on the edge of china town, to purchase some frames. It was my first visit to this store and I enjoyed the strong colours of the storefront along with the orange auto parked outside. 

Chinatown - OpusChinatown - Opus My daughter introduced us to the Re-Bar restaurant some time ago. It is a popular vegetarian restaurant and I took this shot of the crowded interior while waiting for a table - excellent food. 

Inside Re-BarInside Re-Bar

Here is Gladys next morning getting her coffee at the Wild Cafe, which is rather off-beat and rustic in appearance.

Inside Wild CafeInside Wild Cafe I followed her shopping this morning as I wanted a new Tilley hat myself. I was also able to photograph the charming staff. The red umbrellas looked great but I also like black white for portraits - so here are examples of each.

Inside TilleyInside Tilley Inside TilleyInside Tilley

Later in the day, various organizations marched in support of environmental awareness behind this leading earth walk banner.

Earth Walk DemonstrationEarth Walk Demonstration

I have visited the Abkhazi garden several times. This time it was full of late Spring colours on a pleasant afternoon.

Abkhazi GardenAbkhazi Garden

You can check out a more complete set of photographs in this slideshow:

(PRS Images) Abkhazi British Columbia Olympus EM-1 Victoria building candid garden people streets Thu, 14 May 2015 00:03:28 GMT
Patterns - Constructed and Natural I enjoy contributing to the weekly theme for photographs at the Flickr Lounge. Yesterday, I realized I had done nothing for this week's patterns theme. At first, nothing came to mind. I muttered to myself that there must be something around the apartment that would do. What is a pattern anyway? A regular repetition of shapes or lines, decorative design that is not necessarily regular but still repetitive, something like that. Then the question arises as to how to make an interesting picture and that I may not have solved. However, I grabbed my Olympus and quickly found patterns around me. I tried to add interest by combining patterns - in camera, not by compositing, though that would be a good approach. I also contributed to some structural patterns by how I framed the image - e.g., the bricks and paving images. After a few minutes I had a range of patterns from inside. Then I decided to head out. There was much patterning, beginning with our building and along the path through Millard Creek. After an hour, I had 88 images of natural and humanly constructed patterns. I've selected the best of them in this slideshow.

(PRS Images) Olympus EM-1 patterns Sat, 02 May 2015 20:13:57 GMT
Campbell River - Before and After Sunset It had been raining frequently most of the week and I had not expected our CVPS shoot at Campbell River to be a success on the night of Friday, 27th March. However, there was a pause in the rain between 6 and 9 p.m. The first shot below was taken at Discovery Pier about half an hour before sunset - overcast and low light. The perspective and leading lines are meant to draw your eye to the central part of the distant horizon, but I like to return to the foreground portion of the breakwater.

Campbell River EveningCampbell River Evening

Soon the sun was close to the horizon and parts of the sky were turning orange-yellow. In the distance the rain clouds were still evident.

Last LightLast Light

After sunset, I was excited to find an area under the pier through which boats were visible, lit by the harbour lamps. I took quite a few shots at ISO 200 (base for the Olympus EM-1) and they looked good on the back screen. However, I had forgotten that even a slight swell would move the boats and so the images were too soft to be usable, except for the one below. In situations like this, it is necessary to keep the shutter speed up and raise ISO as necessary. 

Campbell River EveningCampbell River Evening

I moved to the downtown area a little later and took several shots close to the Tidemark Theatre and the library. I was fortunate that a single person took a smoking break and added interest to this shot.

Campbell River EveningCampbell River Evening

Finally, I used Topaz Glow brilliant feather #3 with intensity reduced to make a bright, electrified closing image. 


You can check all the shots in the slideshow:

(PRS Images) Campbell River boats buildings evening night sunset Sun, 29 Mar 2015 18:43:09 GMT
Azay-le-Rideau - A small 'chateau' town in France Azay-le-Rideau-6Azay-le-Rideau-6


Azay-le-Rideau is a charming small town of some 3,500 people located on the Indre River in the core of the Loire valley in northwestern France. I feel that it captures the attractions of the region as a whole. The town itself is picturesque with old narrow streets, handsome stone buildings, and rich vegetation. It also boasts one of the Loire’s most attractive chateaux, although not on the grand scale of Chinonceau or Chambord. Dating from the early sixteenth century, the chateau is known for its facade, staircase, tapestries and portraits. It is a renaissance masterpiece that integrates French and Italian styles. Looking at this splendour in an idyllic rural environment, it is hard to imagine that it was created from the ashes of an earlier chateau that was burnt by forces of Charles VII in 1418 along with the execution of 350 Burgundy soldiers. After changing family ownership several times, the French government bought by the chateau in 1905 and it is now managed by theNational Monuments Centre.


I made these photographs on a visit in April 2013. They are presented close to the order in which they were taken, starting from the car park on the south side of the river. With our friends Anver and Masuma, Gladys and I crossed the old bridge and strolled through the town to the Chateau. After exploring the grounds, I moved through the building and recorded the various rooms, furniture and other objects of interest. After lunch, we walked through the central part of the town before heading to Chinon. In total, this was only a few hours of our time in the Loire valley, but it was indeed a highlight and one the many reasons to return.


(PRS Images) Azay-le-Rideau France Indre Loire architecture art building castles chateaux Thu, 26 Mar 2015 04:24:32 GMT
Wintery Montreal Streets I do enjoy Montreal tremendously, even in winter. This year, early March started with temperatures around -20C before moderating to around freezing point. I was able to visit my favourite areas - the Plateau, the Latin Quarter and old Montreal - using  my Olympus EM-1 which is weather-proofed.

On the plateau, I find the narrow side streets to be full of character with old brick buildings close together, exhibiting lovely textures and the whole scene enlivened by the snow. You can see this in the first image which draws you towards the trees of Park La Fontaine.

Plateau SidestreetPlateau SidestreetOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The reds and browns are warm and rich against the cooler winter blue and white. The next shot shows a similar side street, this time sepia toned to stress the age and the bricks rather than the season.

Plateau SidestreetPlateau Sidestreet

The steep stairs leading into many homes on the plateau are well known. Their elegant lines encourage attractive architectural compositions whether in colour or black and white. Here the snow still awaits a serious thaw. 

Plateau Entrance with StaircasePlateau Entrance with Staircase

Saint-Denis is one of my favourite streets in Montreal as it links the plateau, the Latin Quarter and the old city. This image in subdued tones with hints of red is intended to capture a sense of damp, raw cold and yet retain the charm of the street. 

Latin QuarterLatin Quarter

The people make prime subjects as in this candid shot on Rue Saint-Denis. I walked slowly and shot the Olympus at waist level. Often this works well, albeit with substantial cropping.

Latin QuarterLatin Quarter

On the other hand, this young man was content to pose for this shot in Square Saint-Louis. I have found Montreal people to be friendly and cooperative.

Relaxing in Square Saint-louisRelaxing in Square Saint-louis

The Saint-Louis Square contains fountains and green spaces - in the right season. It is marked on the east side by the businesses of Rue Saint-Denis, but the other sides show off some of the most attractive older buildings in the city as in the next image.

Square Saint-LouisSquare Saint-Louis

Walking from the plateau down through the Latin Quarter towards the old city leads one through the Montreal campus of the University of Quebec and past several handsome older buildings before encountering the new buildings of the University of Montreal's Hospital Centre (CHUM). First the old:

Latin QuarterLatin Quarter

And then the new:

Latin QuarterLatin QuarterCHUM - University of Montreal hospital centre

I chose stark black and white to stress the texture and to avoid the distraction of the red and white barriers in the bottom right of the second photograph. Finally reaching the old city, there are numerous tourists even on a bleak March day. Here we find grand buildings like the city hall.

City Hall - Old MontrealCity Hall - Old Montreal

There are of course, more modest buildings - three hundred or more years old and built from stone rather than brick.

Old MontrealOld Montreal

Climbing back to the plateau I was impressed as always by the brilliantly coloured wall art such as this call to revolution.

Plateau MuralPlateau Mural

 The final image is Rue Saint-Denis as seen from our hotel window.

Windy at Thifty's 051Windy at Thifty's 051

(PRS Images) Montreal Quebec architecture buildings ice people snow streets winter Sat, 14 Mar 2015 06:24:09 GMT