Photography and Art

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Algonquin Park Hike

As is often the case, it started with a book: Wayne Van Sickle's Algonquin Park Visitor's Guide. I picked up this excellent guide book somewhere along the way and started to read about hiking in the park. We have a vacation property about an hour away from Algonquin Park, but we had never set foot on a hiking trail or canoed in the park in the 25 years we'd been cottaging in the area. Shame on us!

Inspired by Wayne's book, I convinced Trish to spend some time with me hiking in the park this summer, but between travels to Italy and entertaining friends at the cottage, time was ticking and the end of September was approaching before we finally found an afternoon to hike in the park.

Our timing was pretty good. The bugs had disappeared and the fall colours were pretty close to their peak. The Visitor's Guide describes 14 day-hiking trails that are all accessible from the main Highway 60 corridor through the park. For our first hike, we chose the Mizzy Lake Trail, listed as tops in Wayne's guidebook for wildlife spotting. The trail is 11 kilometers long and rated as taking 5 hours in the guidbook. At the foot of the trail is a signpost that rates the trail as a 6 hour hike, but that is intended for the generally infirm. We took four hours to complete the trail and didn't really push ourselves. A fit, young hiker could probably do the trail in less time.

We really enjoyed our hike. The weather wasn't the greatest, with showers and drizzle, but the trail is pretty sheltered and we quickly got rid of our rain gear because we got too hot from the exercise. The trail is fairly flat, but there are a lot of tree roots and rocks as you clamber up and down the small slopes inherant in the terrain. About a third of the way through, the trail joins up with an abandoned railway line that used to connect Parry Sound with Ottawa (the Ottawa, Arnprior and Parry Sound Railway). The railway was built in 1897 and reputedly was Canada's busiest railway line during the first world war. The walk along the railway line is extremely easy and gives a respite from the tree roots and rocks.

About half way into the hike, we stopped and listened. It was magical. We were all alone on the trail, we were looking out over a small wetland with a lake beyond. The fall colours were bright in the distance and it was silent. Completely, overwhelmingly silent. We breathed in the fresh air and enjoyed each other's company as we contemplated unspoiled nature and thought our own thoughts.

We saw lots of evidence of wildlife and a few birds and squirrels. At one point we came to a turtle's nest that had been dug up by raccoons, with broken eggs scattered all around. There were many beaver dams and once lodge that was positioned very close to the trail. However, we didn't sight any moose which was disappointing. The fall colours were quite spectacular, making up somewhat for the lack of wildlife.

Ironically, when we were driving out of the park on Highway 60, we came across a large group of parked cars and found tourists madly snapping away at a lovely female moose that was munching away on some delicate trees close to the roadway.

If you find yourself in the Muskoka or Haliburton areas of Ontario, be sure to devote an afternoon to exploring one of the many trails of Algonquin Park.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Various Things

Another Monday, another week. Some things to note:

  • Epson has announced its Print Academy for 2008/2009, a travelling road show that hits 15 US and Canadian cities and features live and video spots by some of the best photographers and printmakers around. I'll be attending the Toronto show on March 21st. There are two tracks: one for advanced amateurs and another for working pros. There are lots of good presenters in the program, although it is unclear how many will be "live" versus video. Some of the names include: John Shaw, Bruce Dale, Greg Gorman, Jay Meisel and Michael Reichmann.
  • I was a little perturbed recently when Adobe announced Photoshop CS4 despite John Nack's remonstrations in his blog that the launch was not imminent. Surprise! It came out before the rumored launch date of October 1st. Based on Nack's denials, I'd finally decided to upgrade my version of Photoshop from CS2 to CS3 a couple of weeks before the announcement of CS4. My disappointment was doubled when it turned out that the widely demonstrated feature where a Lightroom file can be seamlessly opened as a layer object in Photoshop CS3 turned out to be bogus due to a bug that seems to be taking a long time to fix. That feature was one of the things that turned the tide in my decision to upgrade. I went on to the Adobe site and searched for some way of getting credit for my CS3 upgrade towards a CS4 purchase and there is such a credit plan -- but you have to have purchased CS3 after the announcement of CS4 to qualify. Undaunted, I pursued a customer service agent and she happily let me return my version of CS3 despite it being slightly over the 30 day mark. So, I ripped out my CS3 version and went back to CS2. As soon as my Visa card is credited, I'll be ording CS4 which has lots of goodies in it. Who knows, maybe the Lightroom to CS4 photo transfer will work as well.
  • We had a great hike this week-end in Algonquin Park and saw the fall colours at their peak. I'll post a more detailed description of this once I get a few minutes to develop the pictures.
  • I'm looking forward to the 10th of October when I'll be jetting off to California for a long week-end photo workshop with Alain Briot. We'll be taking photos of the Sierra Nevadas, Mono Lake and the Bristlecone pines. Stay tuned for more on this.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Exciting New Paper

Well, it has been a long time - my last post was in May. It has been a busy summer. My job heated up and we took a nice trip to Italy. Here's a picture to prove it!

This photo was taken in the beautiful Val D'Orcia in Tuscany. More on this to follow.

There were a lot of exciting photo announcements over the summer and into the early fall. The Japanese product designers were just humming along with huge product announcements from Canon, Nikon and Sony.

However, my eye was caught by an announcement from Hahnemuhle, the paper folks. They have developed a new Baryta coated paper on a cotton rag base - combining the look of a traditional gloss print with the long life and lovely feel of cotton.

This summer, I've been printing some photos from our Italy trip in photo books from Innova and just love the way they look and feel. I've also been printing out some photos on Hahnemuhle Fine Art Pearl - a semi-gloss paper with a fibre base. The latter pictures look wonderful under glass, but I just don't like the tactile feel of the fibre (cardboard) backing and I'm suspicious about the longevity of the paper.

I'm itching to try the new Hahnemuhle paper. Here is a link to the announcement.

Neil Snape has written an excellent review that concludes: "This is one sweet paper that you really must try. It's grows on you as you use it, always leaving that very satisfied feeling, delighted but not overwhelmed. You become aware of your prints being united with your goals quietly assuring deserved recognition for print excellence leaving imagery the most powerful statement in what you are showing. It is the first paper that covers it's bases for those wanting to make gallery prints both colour and B&W without reservation.
Verdict: until something else tops this in brightness without OBA there isn't a finer paper today. Highly recommended."