Impressionistic Photography at Tourist Hot-spots

While my first love is nature photography I will venture into the city and urban areas to make photos of other types of subjects. Sometimes I employ a version of my drive-by-shooting technique, this time on foot. Some of these urban subjects have been done a billion times and done very well. Victoria BC attracts a lot of tourists and visitors are drawn to the downtown Inner Harbour where there is an excellent view of the Provincial Parliament Buildings. One particular location, near the tourist bureau overlooks the boat basin, offering the best view of the Parliament Buildings with their lights reflected in the waters of the Inner Harbour at dusk.

After photographing the traditional version of the Parliament Buildings and their reflections I decided to see what else I could do. I walked with my camera among the tourists, horse-drawn carriages, street vendors and buskers.  I adjusted aperture, ISO and shutter speeds to make exposures of four to eight seconds in length. I checked my histogram and review screen to see if I was in the ballpark with exposure. For composition, my method involves walking but keeping the camera loosely trained on one central point in the scene- say a set of lights, while I walk. I don’t put my eye to the viewfinder, I simply check the review screen to see if I have captured an interesting version of the scene. Sometimes I need to repeat an exposure, raising or lowering the camera a bit, to improve the balance of abstract lights in the capture. I don’t delete much, in-camera. I wait until I am back at the computer to eliminate the more obvious weak images.

Abstract imge of Victoria street lights near the Parliament Buildings

Abstract imge of Victoria street lights near the Parliament Buildings

Impressionistic image of Victoria street lights near the Parliament Buildings


Alternatively I enjoy photographing reflections of vessels or buildings in the boat basins. The wharves are usually sturdy enough for a tripod and I am often free to wander almost anywhere. In this image, the famous Empress Hotel, warmed by evening light, is reflected in the Inner Harbour waters.


The boat basin at Nanaimo BC offered me similarly exciting subject material before and after dark. Not as famous as Victoria but there were some lovely colours and exciting images created by my ‘walk-about’ technique.

Night time view of the Nanaimo Boat Basin. Nanaimo BC.

Nighttime abstract views of Nanaimo boat basin and the performing arts center. Nanaimo BC.8 sec exposure.

Pedestrian bridge at night in Maffeo Sutton Park. Nanaimo BC. 5 sec exposure.

Boat and wharf reflections in Nanaimo Harbour water. Nanaimo BC.

Whale Tales Part 1

Two orcas surfacing in the Johnstone Strait

I’m home now after nearly 12000 km and four weeks and many hundreds of gigabites of unedited material. John Marriott’s Orca and Marine Mammal tour aboard the Ocean Light II was a success from many standpoints. I met some very nice folks, had great accommodations and food while on board and enjoyed a variety of excellent photo opportunities, thanks to a knowledgeable skipper and crew (Chris and Jenn) and tour guide (John).

Whale photography is challenging. The subjects spend most of their time underwater and don’t always surface in predictable patterns. I also had framing and focusing issues caused by the boat movements in ocean swells and that meant there were lots of throw-away pictures. John mentioned that successful whale photos require four elements: light, subject, behaviour and lack of wind-calm seas. Fortunately we had all four elements much of the time. Sadly, no breaching Orcas, but there was sufficient interesting behaviour, great backlight, calm seas and lots of marine mammals to keep the motor drives smoking. When things were quiet we downloaded and edited. I had to keep ahead of my laptop’s 350 GB reserve. Two 2 TB Hds had sufficient space for everything but I like to have the Raw files in three places to start.

The skipper is required to stay outside a minimum distance from the whales, so I found I used my 600 mm regularly, mounted on a Wimberley head. Other participants had crop sensor cameras with 100-400 or 500 mm lenses so they got about the same magnifications. It was OK if the whales swam within the 100 m minimum and sometimes that occurred. For the pictures posted below, we followed a pod of orcas as they casually made their way down Johnstone Strait, perhaps loafing, sometimes hunting, There was a rhythm to the process and we learned to predict where and when the whales would surface. The backlit waters and plumes from their ‘blows’ created contrast which was visually exciting. The big bull would announce his imminent presence by showing the tip of his dorsal fin as he rose for air. In addition to orcas we had some exciting encounters with humpback whales.

Two orcas surfacing in the Johnstone Strait

Humpback whale diving in Blackfish Sound

Next. Bait balls and lunge feeding.