2017 has been the year of the road trip! Not only did we do our big epic Waterton/Montana/Cypress Hills trip, we also did a few other smaller trips, including our inaugural visit to Grasslands National Park. For Canada’s 150th birthday, all the Federal Canadian parks have their
exorbitant entrance fees waved. We tried to take advantage of that as much as possible this year. I had been wanting to go to GNP for quite some time. But it’s a really different park experience. There is hardly any development in the park, let alone the region. We might associate things like playgrounds, swimming spots and beaches, ice cream stores and the like as “attractions” that will draw people to an area. Grasslands has none of these typical things. Instead, the park itself is the attraction.
The interesting (untold) history behind the creation of Grasslands is documented in the book “Dams of Contention” by Bill Redekop. The book centres around the creation of the Rafferty & Alameda Dams in South East Saskatchewan. The only reason I read the book is that I knew/know Ed and Harold Tetzlaff personally. I have a signed copy of the book in fact. As I read the book, Grasslands National Park was mentioned. In a convoluted and heavily political deal, GNP basically was created as a consolation prize for Saskatchewan after agreeing to translate Saskatchewan’s laws into French & appease/make a good impression for Quebec to sign the Canadian Constitution. This was all during the Mulroney days & the Meech Lake accord (p.131, 165). What a mouthful! When I went to Grasslands, I talked with one of the landowners who had sold their land to the government at the time of the creation of the park. She had no knowledge of this untold back story of the park’s creation.
Regardless of what actually took place in the park’s creation, it is one amazing place. For years it was a ranchers paradise. And by that, I mean it was a darn tough place to make a living. The land is dry and to sustain livestock you need a metric tonne of land. So the ranches in the area go on and on as far as the eye can see. Now the park does too. You feel about 2 inches tall walking around as the landscape is absolutely enormous and unruly. As you drive around and hike, the magnanimous quality of the area becomes abundantly clear.
The park exists in two blocks, West and East. The West has more development but the East is rapidly catching. The park has a very free quality about. Most National parks are tightly regulated. You can’t go off trails. You can’t do this, you can’t do that. Grasslands is free-for-all. You can go hiking. You can go horseback riding. You can drive. You can go where you like. In fact many of the hikes aren’t on trails of any kind. You can blaze your own trail which is refreshing. It’s a glorious dark sky preserve as well with no light pollution to speak of. We had rain every night we were there though. No stars for us. But the blessings of this wild and untamed landscape are also a bit of a double edged sword. Development and services are very scarce. If you go to Val Marie, I STRONGLY SUGGEST you fill up your gas tank. On our way to the East block we though we could fill up at Wood Mountain. Nope. We were panicking on our way to Rock Glen to get fuel!
One of the hikes we did with the family was the 70 Mile Butte hike. What a glorious walk it was. Of course we were on high alert so that the children didn’t get eaten by rattlesnakes. But the scenery is fantastic and well worth it! It was ridiculously hot but as you climbed the butte trail, the winds picked up and it was excellent! Apparently the aboriginals used the top of 70 Mile Butte for get togethers rather than the valley where there is no wind and insects galore. I stitched a panorama together of the view from the top in Lightroom. The photos still don’t do the view justice.
For accommodations, we stayed in the oTENTiks that the park has. You can bring a tent or camper but we elected to stay in the permanent structure. Glad we did. A heinous storm with gale force wind hit that night. The whole time I had visions of the oTENTik being carried off like Dorothy to the magical land of Oz! With no trees on the horizon to slow down the wind, it comes at you with full force! The park also has Wigwams that you can rent and camp in as well. All the sites are primitive camping and you need to bring your own water.
Grasslands National Park is a photographer’s paradise. The landscapes are vast and the perfect place for ultra-wide lenses. But even they fail to capture it all. Also, the opportunities for wildlife photography are endless. There are many unique species of animals from Bison to Prairie Dogs to Ferrets to Rattlesnakes and many others. It’s almost like being on a foreign safari shooting photos in GNP. My gear of choice with the family in tow was just my Nikon Df camera and my 24mm f/1.8 AF-S lens and the 70-200 f/4 AF-S lens. That’s it. It was a simple kit but I wanted to be as light as possible and still use full frame. It did the job admirably. I probably could have brought the 16-35 f/4 though for some extra wide angle goodness.
On our last day we decided to head over to the East Block and check it out. As mentioned previously, FUEL UP when you can! Otherwise there is basically nothing along the way. This aspect of non-development is an obstacle that tourism Saskatchewan should really look at addressing in the near future. The East Block has a lot more badlands than does the West. It was more reminiscent to Big Muddy to us. There are many cool hikes we would have liked to pursue but will have to wait until our kids are a bit older. The Valley of 1000 Devils will definitely be a must see! Grasslands National Park truly is another Saskatchewan diamond in the rough. Get off the beaten trail and goto Grasslands. It’s scenery and landscape are one of a kind. They define the wild spirit of the Land of the Living Skies! 😎
Day 9 saw us travel home from our epic Road Trip. But first, we made one last stop in Eastend, Saskatchewan!
Day 8 saw us travel from West Glacier, Montana USA to Cypress Hills, Saskatchewan Canada. We got searched at the Canadian border (of course) but the border guard took one look at our vacation-smelling mini-van and let us go. LOL. 😎 (more…)
My little guy got his Gold Belt in Karate the other day. He was super pumped! He’s a very serious and dedicated kid when it comes to pretty much everything, but especially Karate. I had the vision for this photo in my mind before I set out to capture it. Here’s the process involved.
Step 1: Lighting. There was still a good deal of ambient even though the sun was setting. I didn’t want to mess around with small flash so I grabbed my Alien Bee 1600 and fired it through a small Photoflex octobox. I had my lovely assistant Phoebe hold the light for me. We bolted it to the time-tested “Gandalf-Stick” – a collapsible paint pole with an adaptor end on it. Works like a charm for moving quickly. The lighting pattern was a simple cross light setup. Subject back to the sun as always for a sweet golden rim light.
Step 2: Work the posing. Just watch how two simple things drastically change the photo.
A) Nice photo but boring. We needed to convey Karate power in this image. Have me shoot down or even eye level doesn’t do that. We need to shoot up.
B) Getting there, now Ethan looks bigger and more powerful. In the photo. All we had to do drop to the ground. Also, I wanted a wide-ish angle shot so I’m using my Nikon 24mm f1.8G lens on the Nikon D800 for maximum mega-pretzels.
C) For the final image we needed the pose to actually have energy. I got Ethan to shout out the Karate attack word for “kill” as he did his kick. It got him laughing a bit which gave me a legit smile. The photo I had in my mind came to life and his posing was perfect. The wide angle lens adds to the over all feeling of power as it optically makes his foot look huge. The flash will always freeze the motion for you even at the relatively slow sync speed of 1/250 while adding a bit of motion blur which I think looks cool.
So there you have it. Great lighting combined with getting low and wide makes for a butt kickin’ shot that I will definitely be making into a giant print! 😎
Springtime is officially sprung in Saskatchewan when the Crocuses are blooming and the wood ticks are crawling! Both of which are true now! Oh well, we can still be excited about the Crocuses! 😎
I’m ultra behind in the blogging but I wanted to do an update. A mirrorless update. I’ve been a Fuji fan for quite a number of years now, using my omnipresent X100s camera all the time. Always JPEG. It became my high volume camera, especially for family trips where I refuse to lug around all my huge Nikon gear. But I want more quality and control than my iPhone camera gives me. The X100s was always the perfect companion. I love the 35mm equivalent field of view, especially for travel. It’s fantastic!
But it can be quite limiting. Which is almost always a good thing. Except for when it’s not. I found that all my travel photos, being the same focal length, were, well, the same. So I hummed and hawed about it and ended up getting a smokin’ deal on a FujiFilm XE2. I was going to buy the XPRO2 but didn’t (another blog post about that later). I got the XE2 with the “kit lens” which is an amazing lens, the 18-55. It’s a stunner. It’s sharp, it’s fast and it’s made of metal. Using Fuji is an experience in quality to say the least. Anyways, I’ve since picked up the 35mm f2 it’s a dream. But all summer long, all I shot was the 18-55.
I wanted to showcase the versatility of this compact mirrorless setup. These photos are travel photos from our cross Canada tour this summer. Western Manitoba all the way to Tofino, BC and back again. 4 provinces, thousands and thousands of kilometres traveled, Ocean, Waterfalls, Mountains, Forests, Prairies, all with one camera, one lens. Not only was it a versatile combination but it made the editing workflow nearly non-existent. By that I mean the XE2 utilizes a WYSIWYG viewfinder. The exposures seen through the eye piece are what you get in camera. Literally 97% of the time, it’s bang on. Very little editing has gone into these photos. The X system allows you to get it right in camera the first time, let alone the colour tweaks available through the film simulations. Fuji colour is the best, bar none! Anyways, here’s some photos.
Hey sports fans! It’s been far too long since I’ve posted anything on the ol’ blog. Well neglected no longer, here’s a long over due post.
Some friends since Kindergarten graduated high school this year. They thought it would be cool to do a friends photoshoot before heading off to University. So we got together one evening at the old farm. We thought it would be cool to some nice casual stuff but also to get the money’s worth out of the grad dresses! What a riot it was!
These girls are absolutely stunning! They all have gorgeous long hair that just screamed fashion lighting. We did some cool clamshell beauty stuff but as twilight came in, I wanted to push the envelope a bit. It was a typical Saskatchewan hurricane wind evening which made for a pretty slick wind machine. We got the girls on the road and drove an SUV up behind them with the high beams on to provide some continuous light for hair/dress motion blur. Then we froze the shot with flash at the end of the exposure. It makes for a pretty studio-esque photo shot on location!
Here’s a few more favs from the shoot. It was a total blast and we wish the girls all the best in University! 😎
Wowza! Been super busy with grads this year! It’s been great and we managed to get some keepers. Also, we’ve moved to USB drives for digital file delivery. Thanks to JF Custom Engraving for the laser work!
Congratulations to all the grads from Arcola, Carlyle, Oxbow and Carnduff! God’s blessings on the future!
I was going through some junk today and at the bottom of the pile was this long forgotten red Nikon filter from back in Dad’s film days. 52mm thread. My old 50mm 1.8 AF-D lens fits it as well as my sweet 28mm 2.8 manual lens. There also happened to be this ginormous storm rolling in. Black and White + Red filter. Very cool Ansel Adams setup. I drove around town doing some ad hoc landscape/cloudscape/street stuff. Shot in JPEG today too, rather than RAW. Not sure why. Felt like a JPEG kinda day. [cool]
The Saskatchewan sunrises and sunsets are incredible. This goes without saying. But time is of the essence. These moments of great light are fleeting and often within a few minutes they are gone forever! Never to be seen again. I guess the lesson is to make the most of the time we have been given; to enjoy and actually live in the moment we are in. This is the miraculous aspect of Photography. It has the ability to freeze time and memories. It gives us the opportunity to return to those fleeting moments and remember them.
As a kids I was involved with Cub Scouts. So when Oxbow got a scouting program we were keen to get involved. Our kids are in Beavers this year and we just had our first camping trip up to Kenosee Lake. It was a blast! We had such a great time and perfect weather. I threw in the trusty FujiFilm X100s. It totally held up in the winter conditions despite a lack of weather sealing. All in all it was a total blast!
Yesterday was a glorious winter day in SE Saskatchewan. We had amazing hoarfrost and then the sky opened up with a glorious blue backdrop. It was majestic as all get out. I slapped the ol’ X100s into Velvia film simulation which is known for it’s highly saturated bombastic colour. (You either love it or hate it I think). It gave an extra level of contrast to the colour palette. I was out visiting a parishioner and I drove past an old abandoned farm yard – except for racoons & squirrels. I stopped after my visit and walked around, capitalizing on all the beauty of the day and the history of the location.
2016 is not only the year that Nikon got its mojo back, but it is FujiFilm’s year to shine! Since the release announcement of the X-Pro2, X-E2s, X-70 and sweet new telephoto lens, the interwebs have been a buzz with excitement. I’m no different. I’ve been with the X-System for 3 years now when I got the X100s – still a goto camera for me. It’s been an omnipresent companion on all my family trips and events because of the size/ergonomics and of course phenomenal image quality & colour rendition from a crop sensor. I still love that camera and will never sell it.
I’m totally stoked for the X-Pro2. The first version was a fantastic camera with its own quirks and quickly rose to cult status – as did the whole X-System really. While other manufacturers continue to pump out updated models, FujiFilm takes their time. They make their current products better with firmware updates. That immediately garnered my respect. Sure, lots of manufacturers fix up bugs in their products with firmware updates, but seldom if ever do they add new features. Instead, you must buy the updated release version to get them. I love FujiFilm!
The X-Pro2 caught my attention because it is the long awaited update to the classic first version. I knew that Fuji would take their time, gain input from photographers who know and love their products, and then produce an amazing camera that people can’t wait to purchase. They have not disappointed! There are already several amazing reviews/first impression blogs & videos up now. As I haven’t actually seen or used the camera in real life I have nothing of value to add to the discussion. However, the features I’m most interested in are as follows.
The first thing is that they’ve done a great job in making the camera weather resistant. The new Fujinon lenses will all be weather sealed too. This really puts the “Pro” in X-Pro2. I’m thinking of wedding photographers or landscape people or even travel documentary photographers. Having gear that can keep up to the elements is a must.
Also hardware wise, I’m delighted to hear that it has dual SD card slots. This in my mind is another Pro feature. Whether for redundancy on critical wedding jobs or over flow or a JPEG/RAW workflow, this is an excellent feature to have. Glad they included a UHS-II slot too for fast data transfer. This will help immensely for buffer clearing, especially RAW files which will be bigger on the all new 24MP sensor. This is a welcome jump up from 16 in my books. FujiFilm colour and skin tones are absolutely incredible. And now with 24MP, you get more glorious pixels of both. And phenomenal high ISO performance as well. So exciting!
Another feature I’m really excited about is the new ACROS black and white film simulation. I’m a huge fan of Fuji black and white straight out of camera. In fact, I almost never shoot my X100s in RAW. The JPEGs are so great and I love the colour so much I just go JPEG. Especially for black and white. But now to have a really punchy and contrasty black and white option in the ACROS film simulation, it’s all kicked up to notches unknown to mankind. I’m looking at you Leica Monochrom! It will be great to see how the new X-Trans sensor handles the B&W tonality.
Another upgrade that may not seem like much is the sync speed for flash bumping up to 1/250s. This is awesome! I love using my X100s for flash stuff because of the leaf shutter and syncing capabilities it has. But to get that extra wee smidgeon of ambient killing power from 250 instead of 180 does help quite a bit. I’m dying to shoot the new X-Pro2 with some telephoto glass for portrait work. So far I’ve only ever shot the 23mm/35mm lens on the X100s. But if I could get the 90mm f/2 or the 56mm 1.2, I’d be a happy portraitist indeed.
There’s a zillion other features about the X-Pro2 that others have already commented on and will continue to do in the weeks to come. The stuff I listed just scratches the surface of what will undoubtedly become another classic camera for Fuji.
If you want one, get on the pre-order list ASAP. If you order from The Camera Store, they have a promo discount on the new 35mm f/2 lens as well.
Congratulations FujiFilm! 2016 is your year to shine!
There was some pretty neat fog out this morning when I was out and about. It gradually lifted but still hung on for a bit. I threw the X100s in the car. The black and white images are all just FujiFilm JPEGs with a bit of extra contrast dialled in. I’m really excited about the release of the X-Pro2 in that it has an Acros film simulation. I already love Fuji B&W so much that the Acros will be icing on the monochrome cake! Can’t wait for that camera! 😎
We took our 2015 Christmas Card photo at Cypress Hills, Saskatchewan at a really cool destination called Conglomerate Cliffs. You can’t tell from the photo but there was a 500 billion mph wind the day we took this. The way the cliffs are we were able to get some wind protection. I had along with me my Alien Bee 1600, Vagabond Mini pack and a medium Photoflex litedome for the modifier. We lucked out and still caught some of the glorious fall colour that was still around in October. So from my family to you & yours, have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!
Christ is Born! Glorify Him!
There are truly only very few moments in a person’s life when you enter a room and instantly know that you are surrounded by giants. People so incredibly bright and knowledgable that they have already forgotten more than you will ever know. Being in a room with Dr. Hamilton Greenwood is one of those such moments. He is a brilliant biologist, educator and photographer and he has been a family friend for many years.
Recently he did a TEDx talk in Saskatoon, SK. His talk is perfectly woven together with his own stunning wildlife and nature photography from our great province of Saskatchewan. Check out the talk here, it is totally worth your time and you will be highly rewarded!
Description from the TEDx Talk:
Educator and Wildlife Photographer | Hamilton Greenwood is an adult educator and wildlife biologist with a passion for using photographs to inspire. He is the department head at Saskatchewan Polytechnic’s Natural Resource Technology Programs, and a sessional lecturer for both the University of Saskatchewan and the Saskatchewan Urban Native Teacher Education Program (SUNTEP). With an undergraduate degree in Biology from Queen’s University and a PhD from McGill, he has taught a generation of people who contribute to Natural Resource Management in Western Canada. As a teacher, he is known for the passion and commitment which be brings with him to his classrooms. Hamilton’s personal and professional life has found a wonderful bridge in landscape, wildlife and still-life photography. His images are widely published and freely shared with many non-governmental organizations. These photographs, and countless hours in the wild, are the canvasses from which he works.
Hello blogosphere! Contrary to popular belief, I’m not dead! I’m alive. Busy but alive. The days are just packed! (That’s an old Calvin & Hobbes comic book that I still have on my shelf). Between church life, family life, Estate executor life and professional photography life, I haven’t had time to have a blog life! Better late than never!
We took an amazing family get away in the first part of October to Cypress Hills and stayed at the Resort. We rented cabins which were perfect for us, two bedrooms, kitchenette, beautiful setting. We had the run of the place as there weren’t any other people booked in. The temperatures were crisp in the evening and a bit windy but the days were glorious. Sunny & warm! We had such a blast. Grandma & Grandpa got to hang out with the grandkids, we all got to go on some beautiful hikes and of course, take pictures!
For this trip I brought my full Nikon setup. Usually I’ve replaced the whole kit with my Fuji X100s for family trips because of the versatility, small size and awesome image quality. But for this trip, I wanted to shoot the forest in full frame with my D800. Also I knew I’d be doing some family portraits that showed the glorious fall colour that was still there (Thank the Lord!). So I brought out the dynamic range duo of the D800 & the Df. It’s the best of both worlds for low light performance and resolution.
We went to Conglomerate Cliffs the first day there. It was incredibly windy but still breathtakingly beautiful. I shot some family photos there with flash. I brought along my Alien Bee 1600 and battery pack. It’s such a great light. Super value for the money and I love the volume of light it produces. Quick Photoflex soft box and there you go. Instant Christmas Card photo magic.
We also had some fun doing light painting with the kids and their glow sticks. They had fun whirling them around and seeing the cool streams of colour.
Cypress Hills also has a dark sky preserve with an observatory. We had a decent night but the clouds were rolling in. Were able to nab some northern lights though, and I think I caught a falling star too.
All in all it was a fantastic trip. I cannot recommend Cypress Hills enough. If you’ve never been, you’ve gotta go check it out. It’s provincial treasure! 😎
It was neat to go out and release some ring-necked pheasants today with the Souris Moose Creek Wildlife Federation. Hunters and conservationists have been releasing pheasants since the 1880s in North America. They have flourished here and have become a favourite quarry for upland bird hunters. I’ve hunted them my whole life and there is not much more excitement to be had than walking around almost stepping on them because they hold cover so tightly! Of course, we enjoyed watching the dogs work the cover more than shooting. But pheasants are more than delicious! In fact, they are my favourite “Chinese food!” We’ve had some fairly destructive winters since 2011 in our area which has no doubt lowered the numbers of pheasants and other upland game birds. Not to mention large numbers of coyotes, hawks, skunks, racoons and other predators that have also brought their numbers down. So it is nice to get out and put some back! Hopefully the 200 birds that were released today will make it through the winter and make more in the spring.
Things have been exceedingly chaotic for the last little while but are now starting to even out again. I’m quite behind in blogging and have lots of posts upcoming, even though they will be slightly delayed. I thought I would start the catch up practice with a post on a mini “stay-cation” we did back in the first part of July.
Enter: The Big Muddy. What a sensational place! It’s a lesser known gem of Saskatchewan. In fact, when we asked people in our area if they’d ever made the 300km trip west, it was largely a big No. It’s a provincial treasure though. Really different badlands style terrain and really cool history! Outlaws, live stock thieves, Native heritage sites. This stuff should be taught in school! We took an 8 hour van ride tour out of Coronach, SK. There were 9 different stops along the way. Our kids 3, 5, & 7 did amazingly well. There is lots of terrain to cover but so much cool stuff that it kept them entertained the whole time. The tour gives you a scenic view of the region as well as the ability to look at sites not publicly accessible.
We admired that the place hadn’t largely become “touricized” – turning the natural beauty of the place into a fools paradise of fences and signage. You can access some sites, like Castle Butte, just by driving up to it. You can climb all over it, go to the summit, take pictures and have a grand ol’ time. It’s fantastic! Other places you have to have permission to access. Or, take the tour we did because they are on fenced private land. The tour is the way to go because you get the low down on the area from local people. They leave out of Coronach, SK and have a variety of options to choose from. Check them out on this website.
Besides the “non-stereotypical Saskatchewan flat landscape” of the area, there is such cool history from the NWMP to the horse thieving outlaws who used the region to steal and sell livestock. Tamela Burgess of the Circle Y Ranch does an incredible job of highlighting the Outlaw Stories through her amazing artwork and story telling. By far this was one of the most interesting aspects of the tour. And, they’ve filmed a couple episodes of ManTracker on the ranch! It’s a very beautiful location.
If you haven’t gone and seen the Big Muddy, I highly recommend it. It’s a seldom seen provincial treasure! Check it out! The gallery contains a few photo highlights of the area all shot on the FujiFilm X100s.