This blog post will deviate in several ways from my typical ones, it will be a bit more personal and candid than I typically am. That being said, everything about me, and my online presence including this blog, which I have maintained in some capacity since 2009, may also change dramatically at some point in the near future.
If you are only here to look at picture of my road trip, by all means please scroll down, there will be info in the captions, which should provide context.
Part One: From lost 18-year old to staff reporter
In reality this story began on the edge Lake Osoyoos in the southern Okanagan Valley in British Colombia in late June 2007. I was 18, less than three weeks out of high school and four provinces from home.
As a diversion from more school I had applied for the Canada World Youth exchange program, a six month international youth community service exchange. We were in Osoyoos, ten random Canadians from across the country, each matched with a counterpart from Uruguay. We lived with host families and worked as volunteers in the community during the days. We came from all walks of life.
A week and a half into the program, I was walking down towards the lake on a very warm, dry evening getting to know a guy named Dave Stacey, he was from Stephenville Newfoundland and a student at Memorial. He was taking a break to do this exchange.
We smoked cigarettes and talked about the different types of winter Ontario got versus Newfoundland, then he asked me what I wanted to do.
The question stunned me, I was on this exchange to escape that. So I told him that, he looked at my camera hanging on my shoulder. A Canon 10D with a 35-85mm f/4-5.6. It was a piece of crap in current terms, but in that time and place it was a show piece.
“What about photography?” He asked.
“Oh,” I said, “No I’m not interested in that, I just wanted to have a decent camera for this and my dad was switching formats so he sold it to me cheap.” I said.
He paused for a moment then spoke.
“There’s more to photography than photography, you ever thought about photojournalism?”
“No,” I said, truthfully I didn’t know what that was.
“Oh man,” he said, “It’s photography for newspapers, magazines, documentary, like National Geographic.”
My ears perked at this. As the program wore on there were a lot of things that happened but I will come back to that later.
I knew nothing about photography, but I had a camera. And so for the rest of the program I started fiddling with the settings figuring out what the shutter did, the aperture did etc. I didn’t have ready access to photography teachers or the internet at the time.
When I came home in December of 2007 I was 19, I thought I knew everything and my focus centered on escaping again. I started working as a temporary laborer in Guelph while living at my parents to save money. When I had the funds I left for Southeast Asia.
Again, the details of these three months could fill pages. But I realized something, I thrived on the sense of adventure, I could socialize well, and I was smart.
In September 2008 I arrived in Ottawa to begin my Bachelor of Arts in Political Science. I had really grand intentions, however, I quickly filled my plate with school, work and the Charlatan.
The Charlatan, the school newspaper became my second home. I sat on the couch and absorbed the conversations of the editors and the writers. Many of whom are successful journalists today. I felt so fortunate to be surrounded by such talent.
However, I was motivated by visuals I never really considered writing.
It was also during this time that I started this blog.
When I left Carleton it was with the worst of mixed emotions I had achieved a lot. I had been published nationally multiple times, I had out-filed the wires on a few big assignments, I had a front page of a national newspaper, and more covers of the Charlatan than I could count. I had a partner, someone I loved deeply, and I had friends, really I had a family of people.
I look back on the years 2009-2011 with the uttermost fondness and joy, I can’t begin to describe it. Simply put I thought I would never leave Ottawa completely.
Then one drunken night in 2011 happened, it was May, the playoffs were on and I was at the Georgetown pub with some friends watching and drinking. Suddenly my friend Joel Eastwood, who had been like a brother and a somewhat kindred spirit throughout Carleton, turned to me and passed me his phone.
On it was an email from the Carleton school of journalism apprenticeships advisor passing along an email. The email was looking for a photojournalism student who spoke both English and Spanish to participate in an expenses covered six-month exchange.
I told him so send it to me so I could look it over the next morning, sober.
I never thought I would get it, I applied on a whim. Yet there I was standing in a bus shelter at 5am in January, sick, sleepless, wearing everything warm I had to bring to Costa Rica.
It was one of those biting Ottawa winter nights in Early January, -35 plus wind-chill. I had spent the night refusing to sleep because it was my last night in the apartment I had shared with my girlfriend Yamina, an there was a big part of me that regretted leaving.
When the time came to leave, walking out the door and down the road to the bus stop was indescribably hard. That whole 48 hour period and trip to Costa Rica was a blur of sad and tragic feelings mixed with the greatest joy and excitement.
I was moving to Costa Rica for six-months to be a reporter-photographer at a local newspaper there.
After I arrived I felt like I was immediately over my head. I hadn’t written much before, I knew only the basics of actual written reporting and my Spanish was not good enough to keep up.
Somehow I made it, and I learned a lot along the way and produced some good work.
When I returned to Canada I was now on a mission.
I started attending Loyalist College in January of 2013 as a fast-track student, meaning I could skip the first semester. My first priority was to find a summer job.
In the end it came down to one job left at Toronto Community News. A collection of nine newspapers owned by Metroland Media, which operated out of the same newsroom. The final candidates were myself and one of my best friends a guy named Chris King. In the end I got the job.
As I settled in, I had a mix of feelings. I’d never done anything this cool, yet my success felt tempered because I knew Chris was still looking for work.
He found summer work as a reporter at a local newspaper in Whitecourt, northern Alberta. When we moved in together for our second year of Loyalist and started talking about our summers, I had to confess, I was a little jealous of his experience.
I wanted to work in Alberta, drive across Canada and be a local reporter suddenly.
Then it happened, in early December I had the week of all weeks. My car broke and had to be scrapped, my girlfriend of three years broke up with me two days after planning a surprise birthday party, I found out I had failed to get an interview for the Globe and Mail summer job and I failed one of my classes.
I felt like I’d gone from being on top of the world in August, to considering giving up in December.
Then January happened.
Over December I had made peace with my lost interview opportunity, spoken with a prof and done some extra credit work to pass. I had replaced my crappy old Mazda 626 with a modded out Acura Integra with a stick shift, and I was starting my final semester.
I couldn’t help but feel depressed though. So as an exercise I started applying for jobs on Jeff Gaulin’s journalism job site. I genuinely expected nothing to happen.
I continued to live my life, I fell in love again with a girl who I had just met. She pretty much literally fell out of the sky. As we got to know one another it turned out we were in very similar places in life, love, ambition, career and goals. She’d been in Alberta for the previous few years, and had returned east after the rug was pulled out from under her to regroup around friends and family.
Just as life in Belleville was starting to improve though I got an email.
It was from the editor of the Peace River Record-Gazette, in Peace River Alberta asking if I was free for an interview.
It’s hard to describe how I felt, this was a version of a dream come true. The job included a lot of writing and I had my doubts. However, I agreed to the interview.
Two days later I found out I had the job. It had taken seven years, almost, from the time I decided being a photojournalist would be an interesting career to the point where I was accepting a full-time staff job as a Multimedia journalist.
Part Two: From Belleville, Ontario to Peace River, Alberta
I gave myself a week to pack up in Belleville, then a few days in Guelph to see my family and finish preparations. At the last minute I decided to take the family cat Coco.
My final week in Belleville was intense. I suddenly became aware that the friendships I had formed weren’t just out of convenience, I was actually going to miss these people. Then there was Cynthia, she basically spent the week at my apartment, we weren’t anything official yet, but it was still painful to leave everyobe on some level.
Then I got sick from exhaustion. I waited an extra day before leaving, on Saturday February 8th I hit the road.
My first stop was Sudbury, I have family there but didn’t have time to pay them a visit, thankfully I saw them all recently at Christmas. I stopped by Big Nickel Mine for a photo, because it is such a huge attraction, then continued on. That night I pulled into Sault Ste. Marie Ontario around 9pm and crashed for the night at a Super 8 Motel.
The next day I hit the road early hoping to make it to Thunder Bay. I was now in a part of the province I’d never really seen before. I remember loving that day of driving so much, the roads were clear and dry the scenery was beautiful and it was the first time I saw Lake Superior.
I rolled into Thunder Bay around 9pm, this time I was staying with friends of a former co-worker. Natalie and I had worked together at a café in Guelph called With the Grain the year before. Now a student at Lakehead University, she had friends who had a couch I could sleep on. That was amazing.
The day was going just fine until I got to Ste. Anne about 45 minutes east of Winnipeg. I decided to take a picture of the sunset over the prairies, it was my first time seeing it, and I misjudged the shoulder and found myself in a ditch.
Some ‘friendly Manitobans’ came by with a truck and a chain and pulled me out, we said our goodbyes and I was on my way.
Then it happened again.
I figured I would get a second picture, because now the sun was touching the horizon. So I pulled over preparing to do a three-point turn. And once again found myself in the ditch. I was livid, mostly with myself. I screamed at the prairies, then tried to jack my car up to put it on my floor mats to get out.
It didn’t work, I tried shifting the weight in the car, using kitty litter everything and in the process I burnt out my radiator and overheated the engine. Now it was minus 45 Celsius, my heater was broken the winds were picking up and it was dark.
I never took the second picture.
I called CAA, it was almost two hours before I saw a truck.
When CAA came they helped me out, then I drove to Winnipeg. The whole way there my windows kept fogging up, the defrosters weren’t working, the engine sounded off. I was so worried, stressed and I could no longer feel my toes but I was 100% focused on getting to my friend’s house safely.
As I pulled onto their street my engine light, maintenance light and oil light all came on and my car started stalling while I was shifting, normally my engine would stall at under 400 rpm now it was stalling at anywhere between 400-1500 I had no idea what was wrong. I decided I would deal with it the next day.
The next morning it wouldn’t start. The battery was frozen, I called CAA again and there was a tense moment where I was worried the engine wouldn’t turn over because the car was now literally out of oil. With the fried radiator the engine had been overheating while I drove 75km to Winnipeg, it had burned off all the oil.
We poured some in, the tow-truck driver connected my battery to his charger and I got in my car. I said a small prayer (something I NEVER do) then turned the key. The engine sprang to life and at that moment I could have almost cried I was so happy.
I followed the CAA guy to a local shop and dropped my car off. It took them just over a day, but they replaced that radiator, put in more coolant, and checked the car over. There was one little issue: the running lights and blowers weren’t turning off, even with them turned off the key out and the fuse pulled.
It suddenly became clear the previous owner has rewired the entire car. It took the mechanics 4.5 hours to fix it. I walked away with a functioning car and $1050 poorer.
Now though I wanted to explore Winnipeg.
Richard and Melissa are two of my oldest closest friends. We met in 2007 during my exchange, Richard was from Ottawa and Melissa was from Winnipeg. During the program I watched them fall in love. Since then they’ve gone to school together, lived together, had a baby together and this summer are getting married, I get to photograph it.
Without question they let me into their home, fed me and gave me and my cat a place to stay.
I saw Portage and Main, The Forks, the Toad in the Hole, St. Boniface and downtown. Not a bad little tour.
The next morning I rolled out of Winnipeg. While my trip there had been tarnished by an expensive Instagram, a frozen night on the prairies and some bad memories of a previous relationship, I did realize something: I really liked the city, it was beautiful and the vibe I got was right up my alley. Plus now that I had dealt with the negative feelings there I felt like there was space to come back and rediscover the city. I can’t wait to do so.
Winnipeg was a far more significant stop in my journey than I had ever intended it to be.
I continued across the Prairies now crossing into Saskatchewan, it was also my first time in that province. I suppose this goes without saying but I have NEVER seen a place that was so flat in my life. Their license plates say “Land of the living sky,” I understand that now.
I rolled into Saskatoon around 8 and met up with a friend of mine, Alexandra Stang. We’d gone to university together and I knew her through the Charlatan. She had actually officiated the election where I was elected photo editor. That was 2010, it felt like a lifetime ago.
We chatted and she gave me a list of spots to check out in Saskatoon. So the next morning I went and checked them out. Saskatoon was another city that very pleasantly surprised me.
Now I felt like I was nearing the end of my journey, certainly it was the end of 800km+ days. That afternoon I drove the three hours from Saskatoon to Lloydminster, a city where the border of Alberta and Saskatchewan literally runs through the middle. My friend from Loyalist, Jeff Peters, work there as a reporter at the Lloydminister Meridian Booster, he’d moved out here almost a year earlier.
It was nice to see him and get a feel for the work he was doing, I thought it was a bit of a preview for my upcoming work life. We checked out a highway accident and a children’s play.
The next morning we had breakfast, then spent three hours looking for my cat, which had gotten loose in his house and hid herself. When I finally had her I hit the road to Edmonton.
Only two hours away, I rolled into town completely exhausted. I pulled into the Super 8 there and spent the night. It was noticeably warmer here, only about -5. I decided against touring the city, I was too tired and Edmonton is only 4-5 hours from Peace River, I figured I’d be back.
I slept in late and almost missed my checkout. I rushed out the door and hit the road. I was so excited to get to Peace River, I may have had a bit of a heavy foot cruising down the Trans-Canada.
Finally I turned north.
And if I’m being totally honest here, for the first time it actually hit me. As the mileage markers for Peace River continued to march along the road in front of me, so did the faces of my life in Ottawa, Belleville and Guelph. Ontario is the only province I have ever called home. I grew into independence in Guelph, I grew into adulthood in Ottawa and I grew into maturity in Belleville.
Tears rolled down my face as I motored north of Valleyview.
The sun was setting and the roads were getting worse. I was growing more and more anxious, desperately wanting to be in Peace River.
Then suddenly I came over a hill, below me sprawled out along the floor of a valley was a small town with a frozen river that sliced through the middle. I had arrived in Peace River
That night I met the office manager here, Shelly, she took me out for dinner, told me about the community and the people. It was a really nice introduction to the town. That night I slept in my own apartment.
I’m now here, I’ve been at work for just over a week. I think I’m starting to get the hang of it. As I move forward here I will post about my experiences in the town.
For those of you who read this whole post, wow, just wow, I hope you enjoyed it.
The blog will return to it’s normal format, whatever that is, starting next week.
The posts will DEFINITELY be shorter going forward.
Well as I approach the end of July and the start of my final month here at Toronto Community News, it feels like it’s been a valuable summer so far.
I’ll start with this past weekend at the Beaches International Jazz fest. I was sent to cover a specific singer, but once you have a decent shot of them performing it’s fun to look around and see what else is there.
Earlier that Day I had been at Scarborough Town Centre for a vintage car show, it took me a while to find the actual part of the parking lot where they were, but once you found it, all those shiny old cars stick out.
The day before I was downtown at Yonge – Dundas Square for the Unity Festival. It featured music and breakdancing, the breakdancing took me back to shooting Ottawa’s House of Paint event on film a few years ago.
Earlier on Saturday though I got to check out a rugby game down in the Beaches area.
My weekend started off with some huge technical obstacles though. On Friday afternoon I went to photograph a graduation ceremony for some new Toronto Paramedics and EMS workers.
However, I started noticing a black bar across my photos, when I checked the sensor I realized a shutter blade was loose. That black bar has turned into a horizontal light leak across my sensor. The biggest issue is it’s my 1D MKII body, it’s one of Canon’s proline camera body and I use it in inclement weather or situation where I fear for the safety of my, much more fragile, 5D MKII
The above photo was shot on my 5D. The photo below was on the 1D after the light leak, at that point it was still only affecting some of my pictures. It was at the Cultura Festival in Mel Lastman square and there was a sudden thunderstorm, blowing rain sideways, I was soaked from head to toe in seconds, this is the type of situation where I need this kind of bulky camera.
Here is a sample of just how the loose shutter blade was affecting my pictures, until I can find a repair quote (because I’m not sure Canon Canada still services this make) I’m down to one body.
The weekend before that I got to check out the Thai Festival in Nathan Phillips Square.
Sometimes interesting photos come from other things too, like off to the side of the Mad Pride Parade in Parkdale. Mad Pride is a march to celebrate of those who have interacted with the mental health system and while waiting for the march to arrive at an intersection I looked down the road and spotted a lady leading another one by a leash. Not something you see everyday, so I instinctively took a picture… Before I got the chance to go over and introduce myself, they turned and came towards me and offered a business card asking for a copy.
The evening before I popped by the Latin Arts Festival in Mel Lastman Squre in North York. While it was slow to start, in terms of interesting pictures, it turned out to be quite the event.
While the event was still gearing up I walked around to a few vendors and asked to do some portraits. One of them, an artist from Buenos Aries, had great pieces for a backdrop but I discovered quickly spoke limited English, at one point he asked, “Hablas Espanol?” Which coincidentally, I do, so we had a brief conversation I snapped a picture and continued on.
It had been a South American kind of day. Before the Latin Arts Festival I had been to the Salsa on St. Clair festival, a huge dance festival on St. Clair Avenue downtown. Nice light, low film speeds, almost wide open apertures and cool dancing made for some interesting pictures.
However, the biggest surprise was twenty minutes after arriving while I was still making my way down the festival from one end to another the first time when I came to a road block. The police had set up tape and were blocking access to a section of the street. I learned later that two people had been stabbed pretty much at the same time I was arriving at the festival at the other side, about twenty minutes earlier. One man had been taken to hospital with a chest wound, the other was in the ambulance still on scene about to leave with a hand wound.
Blood was still fresh on the pavement, CBC was a sponser of the event and had been handing out pins.
That Sunday was a busy day, before Salsa on St. Clair I stopped by a local hockey arena, the ice had been melted and a massive all day roller derby was happening. I only had time to photograph one game, and by total coincidence (honestly) the game that I ended up shooting was Ottawa Vs. Guelph (my two homes). Guelph destroyed Ottawa.
Even earlier in the day before, the Roller Derby, I went to Ashbridges Bay Skatepark, the beaches editor wanted some filler, in the form of nice pictures of regular things happening. Skateboarding is always fun to shoot and that’s where the photo request said to go.
The day had started off near the harbor at Yonge and Lakeshore heading south. The festival of India had begun and they started with and epic parade down the centre of Toronto to the harbor front, where the festival then moved to Toronto Island.
Going into my last month I’m pretty excited, there’s a by-election in Scarborough next week and soon it will be the Rogers Cup. Until next time.
I haven’t seen blue sky in five days, we’re entering the edge of what locals here call ‘winter,’ which means rain. It looks like the clouds may be starting to break though, so hopefully…
I’m going to try something new with this blog post, rather than chronological order I’m going to start with my favorite photos and work down. I should also make two notes, there are sunset photos near the end, for those who are followers of this blog you’ll note there are lots of sunset photos, you have been warned. Secondly there will be a geeky final paragraph about some film stuff, if you don’t want to read a lot of technical film/photography jargon, then skip that too.
There were a lot of ‘firsts’ for Nosara this month, first mini-golf tournament, first charity race and first motocross race. The motocross race on May 13 was cool, it was hosted in a field in the north part of town, and like most events here was low infrastructure.
I was able to wander all over and cross the track even during the race. I’ve also always wanted to shoot motocross, so this was cool. It was a loud muddy overcast affair, but I came away with some good clean pictures and had the chance to be creative.
I tried to slow the shutter here to keep the crowd sharp and the riders blurry. I didn’t think to use a flash, second curtain sync would have given me the same picture with a slightly sharper view of the bike at the end of the blur, would’ve been cooler.
A week and a half earlier there was a community outreach event. A local hotel, provided dental services for school children from neighboring communities over two and half days. Harmony Hotel has a community sustainability committee whose job is community outreach and development.
Dental access, like everything in Nosara, is limited. Dentists from Nicoya visit once a month but their time is limited. However, the university of Costa Rica’s dental program has an internship component. Usually students fulfill this obligation by doing volunteer work in Costa Rica’s countryside.
Harmony Hotel’s sustainability committee contacted the university and offered to pay for transportation and accommodations for the dental students. Several students and their prof showed up in the afternoon of May 2 and took over one of the hotel’s cabinas to use as an impromptu dental office then for the next two days then cleaned kids teeth and wrote referrals for anything serious.
Saturday morning was a much-anticipated charity run through the jungle, I’ve been asked to write two preview articles for it to date. There was both a 12k and a 5k race and the money went to charity, run of the mill stuff but I like the starting line picture.
A week before on May 12 there was a mini-golf tournament, welcome to small town news. It was little affair, surprisingly popular with the adults…
During the first two weeks of the month my girlfriend Yamina came to visit again, it was pretty awesome, the next three pictures were taken while she was here and we were wandering around.
and here is the geeky post…
I like to shoot film, I brought a Baldex med format folding rangefinder with me, some Kodak D-76 developer, fixer powder and my developing tank. I had never used the Baldex before so I’ve been testing how it works with some expired Tri X 400 a friend gave me as a birthday present.
I was able to develop two rolls so far, one at 400 ISO and one pulled to 200 ISO. Although I don’t have an enlarger or a med format scanner to scan them, I saw a post on Petapixel (a photoblog I follow) which detailed how to build your own med format scanner with a remote flash, a DSLR and a cardboard box.
The results I got were ok, although I’m not sure if that was the expired film doing weird things or the ‘scanning.’ I have some rolls of still good Panf 50, so I’ll try that next and see. At the very least it’s a good way to quickly scan negs to make digital contact sheets.
So yeah that’s it, some community meetings/events this week, then it’s back to Nicaragua for another visa run at the start of June.
The last couple of days have been real slow, I didn’t shoot anything on the 30th. However, all of that changes today, I’m headed out of the office for four days and living with the local Red Cross unit until Sunday.
In Costa Rica, there is universal access to health care, although the state covers most healthcare costs and processes, paramedic work is carried out by the Red Cross then billed to the state insurance provider. In Nosara there is an issue though, many of the locals understand that the Red Cross provides paramedic services, however, when they call sometimes there’s no answer… The reason is because all emergency services are routed through the 911 system here, which is based out of San Jose, the number most people call, is the administrative office of the Red Cross in Nosara.
Really its an issue of popular misconception… why call 911 in San Jose, when the Red Cross is in Nosara? Except the number for the Red Cross is their administrative line… So the idea of this piece will be to dispel some popular myths about the Red Cross and hopefully open up the organization to people here.
For me it’s an opportunity for a hell of a picture story, maybe some multimedia too. The access is pretty incredible, as the Red Cross station is staffed 24 hours, I’ll be with them the entire time and I’ll likely be following them on calls.
In the interim here are some photos for yesterday… I camped out at the edge of the beach, read a lot and shot some random stuff and more sunsets…
Those birds were huge… but they weren’t the only ones.
The moon too is consistently visible in the sky from about 2pm on. Its kinda cool to see them both there as the sun and the moon control the tides and thus in a way, beach life.
Low tide reveals these sea rocks everywhere, worn and shaped by the ocean into weird shapes. In the pools left by the ebb tide there are tiny crabs and minnows. I picked up a seashell thinking it looked nice… it turned out there was a hermit inside.
Then the sun started to set in earnest, so I made my way back…
***The following contains camera talk, follow the hyperlinks to better understand***
I recently watched a PBS documentary on Ansel Adams, perhaps one of the most famous fine art photographers in history. He belonged to an informal group of photographers (painters have ‘movements’ photographers have ‘clubs’) called ‘the f/64 club.’ So named because they would shoot landscapes at f/64, which means the aperture of the lens is super small, which means the depth of field is huge which means the area in focus is huge. Back then too (the 20’s) film (or rather glass plates) had really low light sensitivty, well below what we would call ISO 50… Until now I’ve never had a lens combo that lets me shoot at f/64, they’ve always capped out at f/22. However, the 135 and the 2x extender make this possible. So just after the sun went below the horizon I found a rock, stabled the camera on it, set it to ISO 50 (the lowest I can go), f/64 and a 30 second exposure. The low light sensitivity meant really smooth tones, the slow shutter speed turned the ocean to fluff and the narrow aperture made everything sharp enough.
Then I decide to cast myself in the photo. I set the timer and ran in. The distance from camera to rock was about 75-80m so it took me just a little more than the 10 second timer to run in, however, because of the 30 second exposure I still had time. Looking at this photo though, I think it too should be in black and white…
Well thats it. My boss will be here in about an hour, then I’m off to Nosara. I intend to post this coming Sunday, which I’m sure will be a long night of editing…
When I travel to a new city I usually like to have a day or two to do nothing except walk, so this morning I walked for 6 hours. I wandered downtown bought some sunglasses and tried to find out where to meet my bus to Nosara tomorrow morning. It turns out Google lied! (I know, it’s outrageous and shocking) Google said that all buses to other parts of Costa Rica left from the central bus station in San Jose, called the Coca Cola bus station, which is named for the former bottling plant that the bus station is located in. It turns out their buses don’t go to Nosara… neither did the next station, or the next. It gave me a chance to bust out some serious Spanish as I had to start asking street vendors how to get to the right one. It took about 45 minutes, but I now have my ticket for the bus, which departs at 5:30 tomorrow morning; gross.
After that I wandered more, bought some bread and cheese from the grocery store and some apples from a fruit vendor… the apples were from the states though, I wanted some local fruit…
With my hunger assuaged, eyes protected, bus ticket in hand and slightly exhausted and sweaty I headed back towards my hostel, to a huge park near by. I wandered around and siesta-ed in the shade of a tree. The weather is literally perfect. The air temperature is around 25 Celsius and there is a constant shifting breeze, a welcome change from the minus 30 wind tunnel called Ottawa….
As a photographer I’m a huge fan of juxtaposition, to the left of the field these guys were playing on was a massive soccer stadium. I wasn’t able to frame it in the background and still get the faces while they played so… I took a second photo.
After an hour or so of relaxation and soccer creeping I continued my about-town trek and stumbled on this random piece of Canadiana. While American fast-food chains dominate the main roads of downtown San Jose, the Bank of Nova Scotia somehow managed to get the tallest tower and thus dominates the skyline. Some International Relations/Development theorists would argue that all of this foreign direct investment is a good thing for the country’s development and economy… some.
As I sat down to edit some pictures a new arrival to the hostel came out back for a cigarette. Curious about what I was up to he asked and we struck up a conversation. We sat and talked about nothing really and yet covered every topic from climate differences between Wales and Canada and Costa Rica, plane crashes, previous romances and our limited understanding of Costa Rica. This is one of my favorite parts of backpacking, the interesting people you meet and the stories and experiences they choose to share. Since I was having a conversation I had closed the lid of my laptop, and while we were talking a bird shit on it, they say its good luck if a bird shits on you… I think it was good luck the bird shit after I’d closed the lid.
Today has been a wonderfully relaxing day. I’ve been in touch with Voice of Nosara and they’re ready for my arrival, apparently they’ve adopted a cat, which is awesome. I love cats. Early morning tomorrow and six hours on a bus, but my next post will be from the Voice of Nosara office.
Well I can’t quite believe the day is almost here but in three days I’m heading to Costa Rica for 6 months, as an intern at the Voice of Nosara, a newspaper on the west coast of Costa Rica.
It comes at an important turning point in my life, I just recently finished the requirements for my bachelor of arts degree at Carleton University. I must confess I’m truly excited to be done university, more excited to be heading to Costa Rica (more so because there’s a heavy snowfall right now), yet the most excited about waking up every day and going out to shoot pictures. Some days will be more mundane than others, some might be downright boring but to be out there partaking in the process of ‘photojournalism’ for the next six months, has me very excited.
There are of course the people in Canada whom I will miss. I am surprised at the number of good connections from four years in Ottawa and I am very thankful for the memories. The last few weeks I’ve been between Guelph and Ottawa to visit family and friends. While it has been somewhat bittersweet, I think that’s something to be grateful for.
Packing has been the process of packing my entire life into two bags, with the carryon holding most of the items crucial to my job. Below is the ubiquitous ‘what’s in my bag blog photo,’ enjoy.
Starting in the top left corner going done in imagined columns the list of stuff is:
1. My travel scarf… bought it for a dollar fifty in Cambodia in 2008, used it as a turban/bandana for two years as a Roosters cook, soaked it in vinegar and used it over my face 2. against tear gas while photographing the G20… I was told at purchase time I’d find a million uses for it
3. Beside it my Canon L 135mm f/2, a beautiful lens in low light and super sharp too! Made as a portrait lens but highly useful in sports as well.
4. My PSP, for entertainment on the go nothing beats it… Especially when its been moded to play NES, SNES and Gameboy games…
5. In the black draw bag; my headphones, a much needed item
6. My Canon 5D MK II, my main camera body, it’s a full frame, lightweight, video-capable wonder
7. Below that, my ‘work camera,’ for days where lots of frames will be shot nothing beats the reliability of Canon’s EOS 1D line. Though the MK II (pictured) is somewhat dated, (it’s a nine year old camera ) it was recently repaired by Canon after being damaged during the Bluesfest wind and rains.
Below the cameras is my developing tank and an extra reel. I have a medium format camera on the way and I’d like to be able to process the film while I’m in Costa Rica.*
8. Canon L 24mm f/1.4 II recently returned from Canon repairs after its focus shifted, it is a beautiful wide angle lens, useable in almost any light.
9. Below that is a remote shutter release… I’ve had it forever and you never know when it’ll be useful.
10. Extra PSP UMD games… for fun
11. Moleskine notebooks, one reporter type and one small notebook for travel notes
12. Battery chargers for my 1D batteries**
13. My Canon 85mm f/1.8, another portrait built lens that works for on the fly as an excellent low light action lens
14. Canon Speedlite 580EX II, an amazing hot shoe flash, simply the best one Canon makes. I’d like to start making better use of it
15. Digital voice recorder, what type of journalist doesn’t need this?
16. Pens, a highlighter and sharpies, important for writing stuff
17. A set of pocket wizards, useful radio transmitters for off camera flash photography
18. Three extra batteries for my EOS 1D
19. A Leatherman multi tool, because that stuff is ALWAYS useful*
20. My Flip video camera, I purchased it for the G20, so I could have video, this is a durable, simple and useful high def video camera in a pinch
21. My Canon 2x Extender II, this turns my 135mm f/2 into a 270mm f/4, or when used on my 1D the cropped image sensor makes it a 320mm f/4.
22. A mini-mag light for finding stuff in the dark
23. Extra back cap for a lens and body cap for a camera
24. USB 2.0 multi-card reader with 8gb card. While the card reader is a little slow and dated… I don’t have cash for the nicer UDMA firewire ones right now
25. A roll of mini-sized gaffer tape, you never know when you’ll need it
26. An 8gb USB key
27. 2x Lexar 400x 16gb compact flash memory cards, fast enough to let me shoot to my cameras buffer and keep pace plus the two cards give me all the memory needed
28. A 512mb compact flash card… incase the limited extra space is ever needed…. I had it lying around
29. Adapters (USB and SD) for the micro SD card in my Blackberry (not pictured)
30. An Olympus point and shoot 35mm camera, I found it in a trash can in Osoyoos BC in 2007, since then it has gone everywhere with me. 35mm colour film is still widely available so I’ll buy some in Costa Rica
31. A regular 4x AA battery charger
32. Charger for the battery in the Canon 5D MK II
33. A Duracell battery charger which charges four AA batteries in about 15 minutes, very useful.*
34. Archive sheets for 120 negatives
35. Kodak powder developer and fixer, I’ll buy vinegar for stop bath there. I can’t bring liquid because of TSA regulations. This and the film below are evidence of how much I’m going to miss Kodak once their stock tanks and they file for bankruptcy…*
36. 120 medium format film! 4x Kodak Tmax 100, 2x Ilford Pan F Plus 50, 2x Fujichrome Velvia 100 (for some beautiful slides… I’ll have to bring this back for processing) and finally 4x Kodak Tri-X 400, expired in 1990, my friend got a bunch on Ebay for very little so he gave me a few rolls as a birthday gift, I think I’ll use them for fun and try pushing and puling (200, 400, 800, 1600)
37. Charger cable for my PSP
38. Think Tank Retrospective 30 shoulder bag, for carrying everything, without looking like it…*
*Will be checked for airline and bus travel and not put in my shoulder bag
**one is checked one is in carry on
***Items not pictured, Blackberry Curve 9300 (unlocked and able to be used with a Costa Rican sim card), Super Baldex a 50’s era folding medium format camera which was made by the German camera company ‘Balda Cameras,’ its highly portable and shoots film, which if processed and scanned properly, can yield resolutions like 60-70 megapixels, an 8gb SD card for backing up files on my 1D mk II, and finally my Macbook Pro 13” and charger for editing, 1TB hard drive for storage.
New glass is almost more exciting than new cameras. There’s certainly a greater feeling of permanence, good glass will last for a long a time if its treated well and as long as you use the same lens mount, lens are interchangeable with newer camera bodies.
I generally prefer fixed focal length lenses, the reason is two-fold: speed and weight. Fixed focal lengths are lighter because the don’t have to have the glass or mechanisms in place for zoom lenses. Secondly, the base aperture, or ‘wide open’ is usually much wider on fixed focal lengths.
For example the Canon 135 L f/2 is 7.5″ long (with hood) and weighs 1.6 lbs the Canon 70-200 L f/2.8 is almost a foot long and weighs 3.2 lbs.
The 135 is faster (f/2 is a full stope brighter than f/2.8), lighter at almost half the weight and smaller. The only difference is that you can’t zoom.
So the other day I took a break from studying on campus, wandered down to the Ravens nest and watched some of the game. The basketball court (Ravens Nest) has notoriously poor lighting. Shooting there has been the bane of my existence as a photographer at Carleton. No matter how good my gear, or how on the ball I was that day, or what edits I did, the Ravens Nest’s crappy lighting seems to have always made my photos somewhat bad. For the first time this past weekend, exposure in the Ravens Nest was not difficult.
Afterwards I went back and finished my essay.
Thats for today,