I am not much for these challenges that say you must post a photo of your childhood, a favourite movie, no caption etc.…
But when my second cousin Art Wolfe challenged me to the black and white challenge, I felt I couldn’t pass it by. The rules were as follows:
• Photo of my life
• No People are to be in the photo
• No Explanations of the photo
B&W Photography was my first love, as I studied it through high school, college and worked with it for years before the digital revolution.
I really got into this one and going through my archives I realize I love taking photos with a human element. So my first goal was the find a photo in my recent archives that were creative enough and yet didn’t have a human element. I found some decent photos on the first edit, but all had the human element. The second and equally important part was finding a photo that when adjusted would actually have the tonal spectrum, contrast and sharpness to properly visually communicate what I wanted in black and white. I was quite happy with the results of the final selection.. I have decided to include the captions and locations here as it’s not part of the challenge but, the explanation of it. If you want to see the captions just hover over the image.
I have been lucky enough to attend an Art Wolfe Workshop where we spend two days shooting and then a morning editing what we shot. The stuff Art thinks about when he is shooting will start making you think outside the box and get your creative juices flowing.
Sadly not everyone can attend an Art Wolfe Workshop as they start at 2000 dollars, not including travel or accommodation for most of the trips.
¹ Full Disclosure: I am related to Art, and he helped direct me in my photographic career. I also now work for Art Wolfe Inc as their website designer/manager. But I would recommend this regardless of my connection with Art Wolfe Inc.
I have always been a patriot Canadian. For my birthday once I asked for a Canadian Flag. While we’re not perfect and we still have some work to do, I say we celebrate what we do have because when you think about it. It’s a lot!
During College, my best friend was and still is a very patriotic Canada naturally so am I. It wasn’t until we had hung out for a couple months and had more than a few beers that I realized just how patriot his was. Because it wasn’t a wear it on your sleeve type of patriotism.
So when I heard Canada was celebrating its 150 birthday. It hough visiting old friends and see some national historic sights would be a good idea.
So I called up my College Friends Amber Rider in Victoria and Scott Crabbe who lives in Jasper and told them to roll out the “red carpet” and expect a visit.
On Victoria Day long weekend… Go to Victoria.
Seeing Victoria for the first time in 10 years was pretty awesome. I flew in from Vancouver to Victoria on Harbour Air, avoiding those dastardly ferry sailing waits and delays.
The Fort was originally built before World War one in 1878 to protect Esquimalt Harbour and CFB Esquimalt which is home to the Maritime Forces Pacific.
We then drove up the Island and took a stop in the wonderful town and murals of Chemainus. Something I hadn’t seen since childhood as well.
The Island is so close to Sechelt and the Sunshine Coast, but yet so far if you need to travel to it. Luckily I escaped the ferries again and was able to take Harbour Air from Nanaimo to Sechelt.
Another college buddy Ernest who lives in Toronto came to Vancouver for a visit and we took a walk through Stanley Park in Vancouver with his family. I haven’t walked through Stanley Park in a number of years. It truly is an urban forest! We came out of Third Beach. While the Stanley Park is a National Historic Site it is under the management of the Vancouver Parks Board and not Parks Canada.
Sometimes all it takes is to be a tourist is in your own backyard.
The Great Canadian Road Trip
Getting to visit Scott would take more doing then it would Amber. But he is much further afield as well. In Jasper National Park. I was able to fly into Vancouver on Harbour Air and along with my flight I was able to get a deal on the car rental through them at Canada Place and I hit the road making stops for second breakfast in Hope. (Hobbit’s aren’t the only ones that know this is very Important for travelling)
A stop in Kamloops for gas and a few snacks for the road. (When did Kamloops get so hot?, oh right… it’s part desert!)
I turned north on the Yellowed Highway named after fur trader and explorer Pierre Bostonais who had streaks of yellow in his hair and was nicknamed Téte Jaune or Yellowhead.
The Yellowhead is mostly a two-lane highway that twists and turns through the more northerly of the three main passes through the Rockies.
I made good time getting into to Jasper. My plan was to have a wiggle room day just in case of traffic or car trouble you never know.
I was staying with Scott Crabbe and family and he had some special Jasper Brewing Company Beer in the old school Parks Canada Colours waiting for me.
Next day we took off to the Jasper Skytram to drop off the company truck and do some biking down the hill and back to his house. What I thought was going to be a ride down the road was truly so much more. Scott had a single track route all planned out and we crossing a road and highway a couple times. True to form for Scott he always has an adventure up his sleeve. The scenery on this beautiful day was second to none and the exhilaration of the beauty of Canada’s National Parks kept me going.
I spent Canada 150 birthday in a National Park with an old college friend and his family. I don’t think I could have picked a better place or had better weather.
I left Jasper on July 2nd for the Ice Fields Parkway and Calgary. I was told by many, take your time on the parkway Calgary is closer than you think. With The Tragically Hip blasting from the stereo, I hit the road for some true Canadiana.
Thus I did. The race to get from A to B three days earlier was just a memory and taking it all in stopping where you want is all part of this journey.
Last time I did the parkway was the summer of 1985 I was eight years old and it rained and was cloudy the entire time. This time there was barely a cloud in the sky and I set the cruise control to 50km an hour and took it all in.
Whenever there was a vehicle behind me I just pulled over let them pass. Don’t let the view pass you by. Take it all in. Your on this route for the journey, not the destination.
Reaching the Columbia Ice Fields I purchased a $7 ham and cheese sandwich. (When will I learn?) I skipped the Glacier Adventure Snow Coach at $85 per person and took a walk up the hill to see the receding Athabasca Glacier.
Sad to see the glacier getting so much smaller than when I remember it some 32 years ago. But that is our changing environment.
After a stop at Saskatchewan River Crossing for a coffee, as I didn’t want to mess with Banff or Lake Louise on Canada Day weekend, I hit the road non-stop to Calgary.
I visited Gord and Aleta and their 4 kids and they took me to Bowness Park which I had visited in the winter but never in the summer. The Park had been completely flooded in the 2013 flood. But the park was nicely remodelled and we took out the paddle boats and road the train and had a great day of fun.
Visiting with old friends is great, but getting beaten by a 5-year-old at go fish 4 times in a row is a humbling experience. I can’t wait for a rematch Gabby!
I filled up with the last of the cheap Alberta gas and hit the road for Creston, BC and the home of Kokanee and Columbia Brewery. While the Columbia Brewing Company only survives in name since it was purchased by Labatt’s in 1974, it still makes Kokanee on site and a sailing buddy of mine loves Kokanee so I had to check it out.
Next stop on this roadshow was Osoyoos. I didn’t realize how much further Route 3 was then the Trans-Canada. It’s only 253 kilometres longer. But it winds and wiggles along the US border and is a two-lane highway with a few passing lanes along the way. Road Trips are fun but sometimes you just need to put miles in. I use a combination of Podcasts and upbeat music to let the kilometres melt away.
Even with A/C and cold drink, a car is a hot place in the summer, so I had one goal for a hotel in Osoyoos. clean hotel with a Pool, nothing fancy… just a pool. Super 8 fit the bill and I spent the evening poolside. Last day of my road trip I wanted to leave Osoyoos and it’s 40C degree heat. But with the heat comes the fruit and with that comes fruit stands!
I also got some cherries myself as they are a great snack food for the road.
I filled up again in Hope the round trip was almost over. I hadn’t seen the Crowness Pass since I was a kid!
Looking back on the epic Canadian Road Trip I was extremely lucky not to be affected by any of the forest fires that have hit a number of community I travelled through and my thoughts are certainly with them as they battle and rebuild.
On BC Day Long Weekend go to the birthplace of BC
Completely by accident, I went to the Birthplace of the colony British Columbia, Fort Langley on BC Day Long Weekend. I had been wanting to go to Fort Langley for some time, but when my brother asked me to watch his dogs for the long weekend I said sure as long as I can go to Fort Langley in his car! A deal was stuck and off I went.
Fort Langley was the birthplace of British Columbia as a British Colony, although BC Day as a holiday didn’t start until 1974 the colony signed into order on August 2, 1858. This was a pre-emptive move to forestall any drives for annexation of the land to the United States.
I had not been to Fort Langley since childhood and since it was BC Day long weekend there were a number of re-enactors had set up camps and volunteers giving talks about hunting, trapping and trading in 1840 through to its closure in 1886.
I also checked and yes Fort Langley still takes my Hudson’s Bay Master Card. LOL.
We have a vast and varied and huge country and while we still have work today we should celebrate our achievements. Get out and enjoy our country you don’t need a 150 anniversary to do it, just the need to explore your own backyard.
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TLDR Amsterdam was pretty amazing. This is a long post so here is a list of sub categories.
Van Gogh Museum
National Maritime Museum
The windmill that was a pub
A Royal Send Off
After a relaxing day of recuperation at the Zuiver Spa I was able to hit the street of Amsterdam and explore this city which is known as the Venice of the North.
As per the trend I got lost trying to find the Mike’s Bike Tour company. But according to our bike tour guide Stuart this is completely normal. The curving streets of and canals of central Amsterdam make it incredibility easy to get turned around.
“You will get lost in Amsterdam this I can assure you”
Stuart ~ Mike’s Bike Tour Guide
Unlike Berlin the streets Amsterdam are a crazy mix of trams, cars, motor scooters, pedestrians and bikes. The streets are a very busy place and cars are the least of your worries (in my opinion). Luckily Mikes Bikes gave us a great preparation and everyone was able to navigate the streets properly.
Stuart absolutely filled our tour with this history of Amsterdam and gave me some awesome suggestions for my stay. His bike was also pretty bad ass.
As you might imagine Amsterdam’s history closely tied to shipping and the Dutch East India Company. With shipping came the prostitution, with the prostitution came the church. Which is why the church is also located in the historic De Wallen district.
Stuart also told me about a brew pub that was in a windmill near the National Maritime Museum which I will be eternally grateful for, but more on that later…
After the bike tour I took the blue boat canal tour that was included in my I Amsterdam pass. I’ve never been a fan of the pre-recorded audio tour, you can’t ask questions, they seem campy and cheesy. I found a spot on the back of the boat to photograph unobstructed. Luckily there was a local who was giving his friends a tour of the canals in english. I have always enjoyed the local perspective and he was quite gracious with his time for the few questions I had.
If I were to do the canal cruise again I would pay extra for a smaller boat tour which takes less people and comes with a tour guide. I feel you get better value for your time and money with a actual human you can chat with.
I spent Saturday Night walking around the De Wallen district. I hadn’t planned on visiting Amsterdam during a weekend. But that is just what happened. Don’t make the mistake I did if you are going to visit it on the weekend book your hotel well ahead of time. The De Wallen district on a Saturday night resembles Vegas and all of it’s hedonistic pleasure that are available to you.
I saw many a bachelor / bachelorette party running a muck, lookie loo, but very few actual punters looking for some company. No I didn’t part take in anything the De Wallen district might offer. I just spent the night walking around and had a few drinks and saw the most hilarious yet completely true marketing slogan ever.
Van Gogh Museum
I next morning I woke up early and hit the Van Gogh Museum. It truly was everything the guide books say and it didn’t disappoint I learnt about the strong bond Vincent and Leo Van Gogh had. How if it wasn’t so Leo’s support Vincent really wouldn’t have been able to live and create the way he did. I also was fortunate enough to see the rotating exhibition called Munch : Van Gogh which explored the relationships between the Edvard Munch and Vincent Van Gogh. But what was truly a highlight of the trip was that on one wall you had a a Monet, a Van Gogh and a Munch you could visually see the inspiration of each painter had on each other. I also got to see the pencil colour version of the scream on loan from Oslo.
I had wondered why the Van Gogh Museum didn’t allow any photographs of the artwork at the time I visited but once I visited The Louvre and the Musée d’Orsay I think I understood why. With everyone running around taking selfies with art work in paris, I felt that people really didn’t even look at the art work, they were just grabbing a poorly captured photo to say they were there. At the Van Gogh there was no camera’s allowed (except for the photo of my left) so people actually had to look at the art work. I don’t really know if this was the defining factor or if the Amsterdam museums were just less busy but in hindsight it was a fabulous decision by the management. ( ps. I am no better btw I took a selfie with The Rhine the most expensive photograph in the world in Munich when I though no one was watching )
The visual feast continues at the Foam Museum ( Fotografiemuseum Amsterdam which is where you get the name foam from) This relatively small museum in comparison to others in town came highly recommend by the guide at the VVV I amsterdam Visitor Centre Stationsplein. I was also lucky enough to be visiting the Museums during Magnum Contact Sheets show. For a former news photographer this is an treasure trove of art, culture and history. A contact sheet is a look into working process of the photographer during the time he shot the photo. What he first saw, what stuck him as important, how we worked the image.
"Pulling a good picture out of a contact sheet is like going to the cellar and bringing back a good bottle of wine" Henri Cartier-Bresson
I had seen many of the photos from my studies in photography. But seeing the contact sheets and having the ability to see the reverse side of the prints that were made and the notes that were made on the back was a view in the comments and annotations made to prints after it was selected. Both of these are gone in the digital era.
Seeing Robert Capa’s photography from the Normandy Invasion was both impressive and poignant when you find out that a rookie lab tech screwed up most of his film from that invasion. Only 11 frames of 106 could be salvaged… Of those 11 frames 10 were impressive enough to be published in Life Magazine. What is was on those lost negatives only Robert Capa and a few life staffers knows.
Being able to see the works of Henry Cartier-Bresson, Larry Towell, Steve McCurry, Stuart Franklin, Philippe Halsman, Rene Burri and Frank Capa was just as memorial as seeing the impressionist masters I had visited in the morning.
The only reason I left the Foam Museum was because they were closing for the day.
The quality of the show and my history with news photography made this a perfect match but I’d suggest anyone with a interest in photography and going to Amsterdam check out this unassuming museum. I think you will be impressed I certainly was. I went back to the hotel full of inspiration but completely spent of any energy.
National Maritime Museum
I was told by Stuart my trust bike tour guide that if I was a sailor I would enjoy the Het Scheepvaartmuseum ( Dutch Maritime Museum ). So the next day I decided to visit and again I was not lead astray. The museum was located in the old Dutch Navy headquarters in the building ‘s Lands Zeemagazijn (The Arsenal). A large glass roof was constructed over the courtyard in 1997 provides shelter from the elements. The building is absolutely beautiful both in and out.
I really enjoyed the maps and atlas dating from 14th century that doesn’t even show North America, to astrolabes from 16th century. The museum also has a huge collection of maritime paintings showing epic battles along with great collection of model yachts both new and old.
Outside the museum is the replica of the East Indiaman ship Amsterdam which is a complete replica cargo ship of the Dutch East India Company. I visited the ship but there is a chilly east wind coming in from Russia so I spent most of my time below decks chilling in a hammock!
I walked into a windmill that was a pub
It was suggested to me that I skip the Heineken Experience if I was not a devote Heineken Fan or the sports they sponsor. In addition to those two points the old brewery building doesn’t even brewing the beer anymore. I asked Stuart if there was any micro brew pubs and he suggest one that was housed in a windwill named Brouwerij ‘t IJ It was located just down the street from the maritime museum so I though I’d check out the local beer.
After ordering a flight of beer and checking into Untappd I over heard the distinct lingual tones of a English being spoken near me.
“My girlfriend doesn’t want a full pint can she order a small one” ~ Richie “No Sorry” ~ Bartender
Me having a great time in this pub I say:
“Your on vacation, have a full pint” ~ Robert “That’s right I am on Vacation!” ~ Leanne
And so she did. That struck up a conversation which lead me to join the table and meet a group of scots, brits, irish and Spaniards. Through out the night a number of members of the commonwealth shared our table all we were missing were a couple aussies. I though we are in a pub right? and there aren’t any aussies? Also Peter a friend of Leanne made an astute observation:
This is the longest I’ve ever spent in a windmill… Can’t say I have ever spent this many hours in a windmill before… ~ Peter
Not a truer wood had been spoken that night. While I had no intention of closing down a pub my last night in Amsterdam It certainly turned out to be the best choice made some new friends.
A Royal Send Off
I I wanted to check out the rights museum on my last day I knew I had made decisions that would only let me visit briefly the museum. So I arrived at the Rice museum in the full baggage in hand and I saw a lot of people gathered around a car waiting for someone to arrive I asked her what all the commotion is about and who is that arriving to the car. She replied in a very proudly:
“She is our Queen”
~ dutch women I was standing beside.
I got my cell phone out and captured about a dozen pictures before Queen Máxima of the Netherlands was wisked off down the street. Really there was only about 50 or 60 people who were casually walking buy who waiting to see her off. I just happen to randomly arrive at the exact moment she was leaving. I then asked a member of the media what she was doing there and was told she was opening up a conference being held in the building.
Unfortunately I couldn’t gain entry into the museum with my large luggage. I would have to leave it somewhere and come back. As fate would have it as soon I board the tram to the Centraal Station I found out my transit and museum pass had expired. ?
I knew leaving Rijksmuseum to the last day was a risk, and I knew I had to leave in under two short hours. So I knew I had to leave Amsterdam without seeing the national museum. But seeing the Queen of the Netherlands in person… Well that will certainly do.
I was happy with the choices I made in my visit to Amsterdam and you certainly can’t see everything. I would happily spend another afternoon in the Foam museum and miss the Rijksmuseum if given the choice of either / or.
Plus this gives me amble reason to visit again, I hope I get the chance.
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I also learnt about the works of Otto Freundlich in the Degenerate Art exhibit and how he was denounced as a jew murdered on the day he arrived in the concentration camp Lublin-Majdanek. It was horrific the effect National Socialism had on every spec of life in Germany at the time.
The building is quite impressive and I really enjoy the architecture, The cafe was busy but really decent. I shared a table with local who in seeing my camera invited me to his table. It made for easy fun conversation over lunch.
I closed down the Pinakothek der Moderne and decided to walk to the English Gardens of Munich near by. There I had a conversation with Johannes Mirtschink who was photographing the park. I asked if he had got some decent photos.
I didn’t have plans for the rest of the evening so Johannes invited to go see the Allianz Arena as there was a large football (soccer) match happening that night and it was lit up.
Johannes had a tripod and suggested we get some long exposures from a highway overpass.
In something that is just really unique to photographer, I spent my last night in Munich hanging out on a highway over pass with someone taking some night photos.
We working on the photo together to get the best photo we could, It had been a long while since I did any real long time exposures and Johannes was still learning the tricks of the trade. There was a lot of trial and error but working together we got a really decent photo.
While hanging out on a highway overpass on your vacation may not sound like a lot of fun. But making new friends and creating awesome photographs, for me, it certainly was.
While I came with the mission of seeing Octoberfest and I was happy with what I saw. I really didn’t see enough of Munich or the surrounding area. I hope to return.
I left Munich for Berlin on something I really had an interest in taking. A night train, where you go to sleep in one city and Boom wake up in the next and true to form both the quality of sleep and the train wasn’t that bad.
If my writings have helped you out, you can buy me a coffee or a beer via paypal: