Photo of the Month – July

Hi Folks:

At the end of July a friend of mine and I traveled slightly ‘up-island’ toward Duncan to visit the old stone ‘Butter Church’.  It’s a church with a somewhat colourful history – built in the mid-19th-century by a Catholic priest, using Native workmen for the construction.  The church was built on Native land with a verbal agreement for it to be there.  The priest in charge raised dairy cattle on the land surrounding the church, churned butter from the milk he collected and used the money from the sales of the butter to pay the workers, hence the name.  Services were held in the church for ten years, but the local bishop wasn’t happy with the verbal agreement for the location, ordered a new church built on a different site and the existing one was deconsecrated and abandoned.  A few attempts were made over the years to restore the church, but today it has largely been left to the elements.  The quality of the original stonework is mostly what’s left to be admired.

Continue Reading →

Photo of the Month – Cathedral Grove

Hi Folks:

March has been a busy month for us, but we did take one day toward the end of the month and head ‘up island’ to Cathedral Grove.  A part of MacMillan Provincial Park, Cathedral Grove has been ‘gentrified’ to provide easy access to a stand of several-hudred-year-old Douglas fir and cedar trees.  Unfortunately many of the trees are suffering from root rot/fungal infection, and a heavy wind can bring down a rain of branches.  Fortunately for us, on the day we were there we had sunshine (it only rained while we were driving), little wind, and not many other people.  I made over 400 images that day, almost all of them for HDR/panoramic images, and collapsed that number down into less than fifty composites.  I’ve joined them all up but have yet to push them around in Lightroom.  I do have a couple, however, and thought I’d share them here.  Both are 3-shot bracketed exposures (HDR, at +1/0/-1) and converted to B&W in Lightroom.

The Sentinel

The Sentinel

Ancient Watchers

Ancient Watchers

Okay, that’s it.  Now go out and make some photographs!


P.S. You can find more of our posts on photography and Lightroom tutorials here, and you can find links to over 200 other sites that have Lightroom tips, tutorials and videos here.

Photo of the Month – January

Hi Folks:

Well, my first photo of the month post for 2012, and also my first image posted here that was processed with Lightroom 4 Beta.  Marcia and I were ‘up island’ briefly in Campbell River this past month, and took the opportunity to go for a short walk along the shore at Willow Point.  The tide was out and some of the rocks that were revealed were incredible.  I liked this one in particular.  This is an HDR image, 3 exposures at -1/0/+1, shot hand-held and joined together with Autopano Pro then finished off in Lightroom.  I trust you like it!!

Rocky Shore

Now go out and make some photographs!


Eating Our Way Through Victoria… Celebrations!

Hi Folks:

Well, last Saturday was Marcia’s birthday and since she was off on both Friday and Saturday we (I) expanded her birthday celebration into a two-day event.  Fortunately Marcia was willing to go along with my schemes!  Before I continue, I should add a little backstory…

Back in 1995 we shared our first two-bedroom apartment together.  For Marcia’s birthday I invited a ‘few’ friends for a pot-luck surprise party and we managed to pack 37 people into our little apartment!  Everyone had a great time, including Marcia, but she also casually mentioned that she’d kill me if I ever did it again.  Well, since we no longer live there, and keeping to the ‘letter of the law’ so to speak, here’s a quick summary of some of the things we undertook over our weekend.  It also highlights some of the reasons we love living here in Victoria! Continue Reading →

Eating Our Way Through Victoria, and…

Hi Folks:

September was a pretty busy month for us in terms of food – and when I was at the Bengal Lounge at the Empress Hotel the other night I remembered I hadn’t written that blog post yet.  So, without further ado…

Nando’s restaurant in Victoria is on the NW corner of Pandora and Government streets, across from Centennial Square.  One quick note: while there is an emergency exit door on Pandora, one can’t enter that way.  The main entrance is around on the Government St. side.  A note in the window would help, as we redirected several parties while we were there.  Nando’s is one of those places where the aromas enticed us every time we passed, but we’d never gotten around to trying.  So we did.  The essence of Nando’s is ‘Peri-Peri chicken’, reportedly a centuries-old collaboration between Portugese sailors and their discovery of the East African Bird’s Eye Chilli.  The chicken is marinated for 24 hours and then slow-roasted over an open flame.  It’s hard to describe the atmosphere at Nando’s – more upscale (and healthier) than a fast-food restaurant, but one orders from the menu at the counter and the food is brought out to your table.  Take-out service is also available.  One can choose the level of ‘spice’ desired, from Mild-Medium-Hot to Extra Hot.  We decided on Medium, which Marcia was quite pleased with, and I took advantage of some of the hot sauces on the table.  As sides there are rice, potatoes, salads and vegetables.  The food is tasty, and while the server did come by our table once to see how we were doing, we were essentially abandoned at that point and I had to bring what was left back to the counter in order to have it wrapped for home.  In keeping with our policy of only writing about places we would visit again, this one makes the cut on the strength of the flavours.

In the middle of September we took the ferry over to Saltspring Island in order to take in the Saturday Farmer’s Market and also the Saltspring Fall Fair.  Both were wonderful; it’s been some time since either of us have been to a traditional fall fair, and the freshly made Aeropress coffee we discovered at the market was worth the wait.  We picked up some organic apples and veggies, and a taste of a Blizzard cookie sample brought us back to buy a whole one.  We had intended to go to Auntie Pesto’s Café in Ganges for a late lunch, but by the time we arrived at 3:00 we were told they were closed – quite simply because they’d run out of food.  That’s either bad planning or a serious recommendation; we’ll go with the latter and try them the next time (when the Fall Fair isn’t on!)  As an alternate we went to the Tree House Café instead.

The Tree House Café is not (to my secret disappointment) a restaurant built off the ground in a tree, but it is essentially an indoor/outdoor patio with a tree growing up through the middle of it.  Quite fun, actually.  We had a table right beside the trunk of the tree, which was handy when the rain began to fall as the leaves kept us ‘mostly’ dry.  We loved the eclectic atmosphere (so typical of Saltspring – if “typical eccentricity” is even possible) and the made-to-order lunch menu, and will definitely go again.  Maybe next time we’ll go for dinner and take in the live music on offer.

Back in Victoria, a friend invited me to dinner in exchange for some help.  We went first to Santé Gluten-Free Café on Quadra, but they were closing within 20 minutes of our arrival. Another one for the list; so many restaurants, so little time…!  Instead we went to My Thai Café on Cook Street.  A little ‘hole in the wall’ family restaurant, don’t let this dissuade you.  The food here is very good.  Again my friend and I went for ‘Medium’ on the heat level, and it was just about as much as she could stand.  If you can take the heat, they can definitely dish it out!  We’ve been to a few Thai food restaurants in Victoria and would recommend this one.

And finally, another place on our list of ‘must-dos’ was ‘Habit Coffee‘ in the Atrium at the corner of Yates and Blanshard.  They have a second location on Pandora in Chinatown but we haven’t yet been there.  We’ve been to a number of excellent coffee shops in Victoria, each one unique.  The atmosphere at Habit is definitely more urban, with a modern, industrial look.  They do make excellent coffee, and they’re serious about sustainability with everything from composting to CFL light bulb recycling and reclaimed wood used in construction.  They have a ‘Sustainability’ page on their website that explains more ways they’re going ‘green’.  Being in a building that’s targeting LEED Gold, perhaps it’s not surprising.  They also have healthy cookies and other delicious treats available.  Next time we’ll have to check out Zambri’s restaurant next door…

Okay, that’s it for now.  Wherever and whatever you’re eating today, remember to take the time to celebrate the food, the company and the very act of eating.


P.S. You can read more of our Food posts and restaurant reviews here.

Eating Our Way Through Victoria… And Beyond!!

Hi Folks:

This will serve as two months’ worth of ‘Food’ posts for us!  We’ve had some interesting culinary adventures over the past couple of months… actually we were waiting for a writeup from a ‘guest blogger’, but that didn’t pan out so you get me instead.  Let’s see now, where have we been? Continue Reading →

Eating Our Way Through Victoria… Tea Time!

Hi Folks:

In a couple of previous ‘Food‘ posts we’ve discussed some of our favourite coffee shops in and around Victoria.  We thought we’d switch that up a bit and talk about tea instead.

1) Murchie’s Tea and Coffee: Murchie’s has been an icon in Victoria for somewhere around a century.  Located on Government Street, it’s a short walk from the Inner Harbour, and a ‘must stop’ location on many visitors’ agendas.  Murchie’s has a seating capacity of 110, and in addition to fine teas and coffees they have a wonderful lunch menu and many different choices for desserts or accompaniments to ‘afternoon tea’.  There’s also a large shop with loose teas, coffees, spices, teapots, coffeemakers, cups, saucers, kitchenware and more.  The ‘tea rooms’ at the top of the stairs also feature work by local artists.  If you’ve walked out of Munro’s Books (just up the street) with a package under your arm, this is a great place to sit and flip through your purchase! Continue Reading →

Photo of the Month

Hi Folks:  Well, if you promise not to mention that the ‘photo of the month’ post was due yesterday, I’ll pretend not to notice!

At a meeting of our local photography group recently, several people did presentations of images based on a specific theme.  Mine was on ‘faces’.  I should explain that I’m not a people photographer, and people appear in far less than 5% of my work.  I shot a wedding, once, and swore I would never do it again.  However, as a landscape photographer one thing I like to do is to look for ‘faces’ and things in other objects.  Sometimes they’re fairly obvious and sometimes they’re more elusive.  If you go through my Flickr photostream you’ll find a number of such images, but I chose one to highlight as April’s photo of the month.  It’s a piece of driftwood I found along the shore on Dallas Road – nearly an entire tree, in fact, and there are some good size rocks embedded into the roots.  However, looked at from the bottom of the tree the shape forms a fairly good representation of a human skull. Continue Reading →

The __ Year Old Virgin

I’ll let you decide what numbers should go in the blank here…

Well, after years of consideration, hesitation, weighing the odds, checking out the possibilities and considering all the options, I finally got over my fears and just did it. And do I feel much better now that it’s finally over! Yes folks, today, for the first time, I used my brand new, first ever, monthly bus pass. No more bus tickets for me! No more fumbling for exact change, and no more weighing whether to cut a trip short because the transfer will expire in exactly __ minutes. Complete freedom to cruise the public transit system! Wow… nothing like it, I gotta tell you Leaves me a little breathless just thinking about it…

So, to celebrate (and to break in the pass) we decided to go all out and do something really big.  Since we do live on an island, big is a relative term. In the end we decided to go to Sidney. Note: that’s Sidney, not Sydney, because for us to go to Sydney with a bus pass would require something akin to Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, only on steroids.

Sidney by the Sea is just north of here, and pretty close to the end of our municipal transit system. It’s also a wonderful little town of around 11,000 people, on the eastern shore of the island. The lumber mill, the cannery and the traditional industries are gone, but Sidney has revitalized itself. There’s a wonderful walkway along the ocean with a couple of small beaches (a little windy for swimming though, this being December and all) as well as the Shaw Ocean Discovery Centre. In our short, first trip to Sidney we made some photographs, discovered some funky little shops and a couple of great art galleries, but our first impressions are that Sidney should be noted for two things:

  1. Coffee Shops. I wouldn’t say there’s a coffee shop/ café/ espresso bar on every corner, but it certainly seems like it. We lost count after the first four or five, and that didn’t include the bakery/ chocolate shop that also has coffee, tea, etc. We sampled two. The first one literally drew us in because of the scent of roasting coffee drifting down the street. Our senses were assailed, and our bodies (willingly) followed. Welcome to the Fresh Cup Roastery. They have very good cinnamon buns there, but ask for two forks because you’re partner will want to share. Later in the day we stopped at the Red Brick Café for lunch. The Red Brick Café is all about comfort food – homemade soups, salads, sandwiches, good tea, and a comfortable atmosphere. Both places are very good, but the next time we go to Sidney we’ll have to try some new places.
  2. Bookstores. Sidney sells itself as a booktown and with good reason. There are at least a dozen different bookstores in Sidney, selling both new and used books, magazines, ephemera, maps, etc. We didn’t make it to all of them, but not for lack of trying. Bookstores are addictive for us. The last time we moved we had 35 boxes of books, and that was only because we’d pared down quite a few. It was with GREAT self control that we brought home only one book, a first Canadian edition of ‘The Voyage of the Stella’ by R.D. Lawrence. I couldn’t list a favourite bookstore, however, and since we’ll have forgotten which ones we did get to by the time we get to Sidney again, we’ll just have to visit them all again! (heavy sigh).

Speaking of books, and before my brain starts to leak out all over the floor, I’m going to close this post with a passage from the book ‘Waking in Dreamland’ by Jody Lynn Nye (Baen Publishing Enterprises, pp.255-257):

“”Uh-oh,” the senior historian said, despair in his voice. “We’re in trouble now.”

“Do you see Brom?” Roan asked, squinting into the crowd.

“No, it’s worse,” Bergold said. “Look. It’s a bookstore. A big one.”

“Oh, no!”

Roan stared up at the brightly colored sign hanging over the sidewalk only twenty yards ahead. A bookstore! It was the biggest hazard of any town. What could they do? The route they needed to take to the market led directly past it. He made as if to turn back and lead them on a more circuitous route, when the expandable aura of pleasure and joyful anticipation the bookstore exuded engulfed him. The smell of coffee wafted past his nose He rotated on his heel, facing the bright sign again, his mind clouding.

How nice it would be, he thought, just to browse for a while, perhaps sit and drink a cup of coffee and read . . . No! What was he thinking? He was on an important mission! He had to save the Dreamland! Perhaps there were how-to books on heroism in the Sociology section . . .

The others were falling under the spell too. The pupils of Leonora’s green eyes spread across the irises as she stared at the sign. Bergold was shifting his shoulder bag as if to judge whether there’d be some room in it for a volume or two. They all moved a step closer, and had the opposite foot raised to take the next step. Roan tugged them back, and the spell broke momentarily.

“This must be a very good store,” Leonora said, clasping her hands around Roan’s upper arm. “I can feel the urge from here. Hold on to me or I’ll fall in.”

“So will I,” Bergold said. “We’ve got to help one another.”

The urge to go inside was overwhelmingly powerful. The siren call of the books was such a loud howling in his ears that Roan put his hands up to stop them. Leonora put her head down against his shoulder, her eyes screwed shut. If they fell into the bookstore, they’d be trapped for hours, pulled along by sheer curiosity to scan every title, or draw an especially tempting book off the shelf and read, lulled by a hypnotic, lazy atmosphere to forget about the cares of the outside world. Their cause would be lost.

Roan felt himself moving forward again, his feet moving of their own volition on the pavement. Stop! he thought at them. Stop! They could not afford to lose the day. Brom was near; Roan could sense it.  The Dreamland, he had to think of the Dreamland, and the threat of the Alarm Clock! But no, his feet refused to pass, started to turn in towards the doorway.

“We’ll all join arms,” Roan said, taking Colenna’s elbow. She attached herself to Spar. Bergold took Leonora’s other arm, and Misha held on to him. “We’ll run across quickly. That way, we won’t get sucked inside.”

“Hold tight,” Lum said, as the other guards linked arms. “Ready?”

“Ready!” Bergold said. They were within inches of the glass-and-green-paneled doors. The pull was so strong. “One, two, three, go!

Roan launched himself forward. As the group hurled themselves past the doorway, they caught the full brunt of the attraction.

Succumb, the wordless song said. You know you want to. Everything else can wait. The smell of coffee tantalized, cushions beckoned, the bright colours danced, book blurbs whispered in their ears.  Roan nearly hesitated in mid-dash. He could feel the others faltering.

“Help,” Colenna moaned.

“Right, then,” Spar said, stoutly. As usual, the guard captain seemed unaffected by the unseen forces that paralyzed everyone else. Spar marched firmly to the other side of the bookstore entrance, pulling his end of the line of people with him. He set his heels against a paving stone, and heaved. The others came flying toward him like corks out of a bottle. Roan stumbled to a halt, trying to cushion Leonora from running into the wall. He panted with exertion, a bead of sweat running down into his eyes. Felan stood, gasping.

“There, now, you’re safe,” Spar said, putting an arm around Colenna. “Are you all right? My lady?”

Colenna leaned on his arm with a wordless smile, and Leonora nodded.

“My gratitude, Captain,” Roan said. His throat felt dry from the cappuccino fumes.

“All part of the job,” Spar said. He tucked Colenna’s hand into his elbow, and marched forward, his spine proudly erect.

It was only a little easier to walk away from the entrance than it had been to resist walking toward it.  All around them on the street were dozens of others without the captain’s iron self-control. Roan feared for them. Some were clinging to lampposts, fire hydrants, and each other, in an attempt to resist. A woman, innocently walking a poodle on the other side of the street, was swept up by the seductive force and carried helplessly inside, the dog yelping behind her.

“It could have been us,” Felan said, sadly, watching her sail past.

“Come on,” Roan said, striding forward. “We shouldn’t tarry. It could pull us back.”

The outside wall of the bookstore was full of small glass display windows. In the case just ahead of him, Roan noticed a title out of the corner of his eye, and turned his head to see. “The Book of Love,” the gaudy cover read. A good omen, Roan thought, squeezing the princess’ hand in the crook of his arm. He continued to step purposefully forward, then had a sudden and irresistible urge to see the author’s name. He stopped in front of the window. The title was perfectly clear, but the bottom of the book was fuzzy, as if someone had smeared soap across it. He started to put his hand through the glass of the window to open the cover and read the title page, when a cry startled him, and the glass turned invincibly solid. He snatched back his hand.

“Come on,” Bergold called. “The bookshop’s just eaten another pedestrian!”

“Don’t go back,” Leonora pleaded, holding on to him.

Now I’ll never know, he thought.”

*Don’t say I didn’t warn you!


P.S. As both a photographer and a writer, books are important to me. One of the best ways to be a better photographer is to look at the works of others. I’m not talking about ‘how-to’ books; those have their place, but by looking at books of photographs you have the opportunity to ask yourself important questions, like “Do I like this photograph? Why or why not? What does it say to me? What does it say about me? What’s the lighting, the composition, the colour, the form, the shape of it?” When I was a clerk in the camera section of a department store, there was another clerk who worked part-time there but full-time as a photo technician for the Armed Forces. He taught me a lot about photography, but one of the most important things I remember is that the first visceral reaction to an image is the most important. We can go back and look at an image for minutes or hours, analyze the structure and the focus points and the technical aspects but what we see in the first 1/2 second or so is vital. Listen to that. Learn the feel of it. Use it in your own work.

As a writer, the same ideas apply, even though the medium is different. Looked at differently, words are simply graphic arrangements of symbols on a page. It’s the particular arrangement of these symbols that give their meaning. To be a better writer, read lots of books from many different people. Look at the structure of their sentences, and the pictures painted by their words, but also go with the same visceral response you get when reading. Skim the page and ask yourself, ‘How does this make me feel? Why?’ Your answers, your reactions are what’s important here.