Canada 2015 – Niagara Falls

Over the last few weeks blogging has sadly taken second place to work.  A project I’m working on has taken me around the UK, giving me lots of opportunities to photograph some great places (photos coming soon!) but no time for anything else.  So for now a return to my series of photos from last years Canadian holiday with just ten photos from Niagara Falls.

I visited Niagara Falls on the last day of my holiday; hiring a car in Toronto and driving one-and-a-half hours around Lake Ontario to spend a couple of hours exploring this natural wonder, before driving back to Toronto’s Pearson Airport and flying back to England.

The falls themselves are simply amazing, the sheer size and the roar of the water is stunning.  I was hoping for clear blue skies but was confronted with a dull rainy day which doesn’t make for the best photos.

What I hadn’t realised before my visit is that the town of Niagara Falls is split in two by the Niagara River – one side in Canada and one in America.  I was on the Canadian side and didn’t have the time to get over to the American side – although checking the location (geotag) information on my photographs I can see that I did technically get into America without using my passport due to the country boarder running right down the middle of the river!

The Canadian side definitely gives better views of both the Horseshoe Falls and the American Falls, but once you’re aboard a boat (Hornblower from the Canadian side, Maid of the Mist from the American side) you get the same experience.  

Before you board a boat from either side you get given a waterproof poncho to wear.  Obviously the falls produce a lot of mist, but I wasn’t prepared for just how close the boats go to the falling water!  Despite the poncho both me and my camera got soaked – luckily I could get changed after, and my Olympus EM-1 camera is weather proofed.

After my soaking I headed back into town and I went up the Skylon Tower to get photographs looking down on the falls.  The views from above didn’t disappoint, although they didn’t last for long as incoming rain obscured the view.  

I didn’t have time to explore much else of the town, although what I did see looked very touristy, almost resembling a tacky British seaside town with its endless gift shops and casinos.  But I’ll definitely return some time for a longer visit in the hope of getting better weather for daytime photographs and at some night-time ones too.

Oxford Instameet

Oxford has a very active Twitter community, and I’ve probably made more friends through Twitter than any other way since living in the area.  It won’t surprise you to learn that many of my Twitter friends are also photographers (I feel a Venn diagram coming on…), and naturally Instagram has a growing community in Oxford.

So when I heard fellow Instagramers Natasha (aka Candy Pop) and Rosie (aka Oxford Rosie) were organising an Instameet, meet up of Instagram folk, I just had to go along. 

I met up with Natash, Rosie, and lots of people I’d never met before at the Jam Factory.  After a coffee we set off and walked along the canal and into the Jericho part of town.  I saw lots of bits of Oxford I’d never seen before – doing this with a group of people makes you feel a lot safer when you’re walking around viewing the world through a lens.

Although Instagram is a mobile photography platform I decided to take my ‘proper’ camera to get the most out of the day.  So I packed my Olympus OMD E-M1 along with 12-40mm and 70-300mm lenses, knowing that I could use the wireless function on the camera to transfer photos to my phone for editing and uploading in the Instagram app.  

As Instagram photos are square (no, I don’t believe in the new-fangled non-square formats!) I set my camera to take photos in a 1×1 aspect ratio so that I was composing correctly.  For the photos of flowers, below, I used manual focussing with the focus peaking function to get the focus and depth of field correct.

My ten photos from the day are below, and if you’d like to follow me on Instagram you can here.  

If you’d like to see the photos others took, search for the hashtag #oxfordinstameet or look up @shotatanangle@candypop.uk@ibasicallytravel@jazza@charis.magick@annamundayox@independentoxford@kinshipofoxford@benm.photo@igersoxford@makingforliving@byvanessaleigh@bazmund@gemblina@lifesasneeze.

Bye-bye MX-5

After four years together it’s time for me and my 21 year old Mazda MX-5 to part company.  As I was preparing to advertise the car it occurred to me that I’d never got around to do a proper photo shoot… so in a brief break from the April showers I headed out, camera in hand.

This is my third MX-5.  Previously I had a 2005 mk2.5, and before that a 1999 mk2 version.  I love that MX-5’s are fun to drive, sporty, stylish, and have legendary reliability.  My next will be a rare green mk3.5 Sporting Black edition, hopefully.

Once I got into MX-5 ownership and the enthusiastic community of the MX-5 Owners Club I knew that one day I’d have to have a mk1 with pop up headlights.  The most popular colour for that age of MX-5 is red, but I wanted white as something a bit different.

This MX-5 may be old, but with a mere 64,000 miles on the clock and having grown up in Japan before being brought to the UK, she has no rust and is in great condition.  She also appears in a post about the new MX-5 and a post to celebrate her 60,000 mile ‘birthday’!

In photography terms it’s one of the few blogs filled with photos using just my Olympus 25mm f1.8 prime lens.  A couple of features of my Olympus OMD E-M1 camera came in really handy… The flip-out screen meant I could get the camera down load and use live view to frame the shot.  And by mounting the camera on a monopod and raising the camera five feet above my head I could use the wifi function with the mobile phone app to live view, frame, and shoot photos from high up.

After four years together it’s time for me and my 21 year old Mazda MX-5 to part company.  As I was preparing to advertise the car it occurred to me that I’d never got around to do a proper photo shoot… so in a brief break from the April showers I headed out, camera in hand.

This is my third MX-5.  Previously I had a 2005 mk2.5, and before that a 1999 mk2 version.  I love that MX-5’s are fun to drive, sporty, stylish, and have legendary reliability.  My next will be a rare green mk3.5 Sporting Black edition, hopefully.

Once I got into MX-5 ownership and the enthusiastic community of the MX-5 Owners Club I knew that one day I’d have to have a mk1 with pop up headlights.  The most popular colour for that age of MX-5 is red, but I wanted white as something a bit different.

This MX-5 may be old, but with a mere 64,000 miles on the clock and having grown up in Japan before being brought to the UK, she has no rust and is in great condition.  She also appears in a post about the new MX-5 and a post to celebrate her 60,000 mile ‘birthday’!

In photography terms it’s one of the few blogs filled with photos using just my Olympus 25mm f1.8 prime lens.  A couple of features of my Olympus OMD E-M1 camera came in really handy… The flip-out screen meant I could get the camera down load and use live view to frame the shot.  And by mounting the camera on a monopod and raising the camera five feet above my head I could use the wifi function with the mobile phone app to live view, frame, and shoot photos from high up.

Canada 2015 – The food of Canada

Trying out local food is usually one of the enjoyable adventures on holiday, and this was definitely the case when I was in Canada last year.  I’d previously tried one traditional Canadian dish, poutine, which is essentially chips, cheese, and gravy… and that set the bar for some fantastic culinary experiences. 

The trouble with food photography is that usually I’m too hungry to worry about getting great quality photos.  Some of the photos here were taken with my mobile phone.  Enjoy the photos below and don’t drool on your keyboard!

Canada 2015 – A Tale of Two Aquaria

Another ten photos from my Canadian adventure last year; this time from my trips to two aquaria – Petty Harbour Mini Aquarium in Newfoundland and Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada in Toronto.

The two aquaria are vastly different – Petty Harbour was small and intimate and it’s whole building could probably fit into one of Ripley’s tanks.  Although it’s on a much smaller scale, the enjoyment factor was no less. 

Petty Harbour Mini Aquarium is only open for a few months a year.  It gets most of its’ exhibits from the local area and then releases them back to the same place at the end of the season with a ‘critter release event’.  See here for a video of their 2014 event.  Some of the animals can be picked up and held, and friendly staff are happy to chat and educate about the environment.

Petty Harbour itself is a very pretty fishing harbour and home to the excellent Chafe’s Landing restaurant where I got to eat moose… more on that in an upcoming blog post. 

By comparison, Ripley’s Aquarium is huge.  Literally in the shadow of Toronto’s CN Tower and next to the Blue Jays stadium.  The number of exhibits and the size of the tanks is amazing.  I particularly liked the tunnel under the ‘dangerous lagoon’ tank which has a moving sidewalk to allow you to watch the sharks and other fish swim over you.  

Whilst I love aquariums, they’re definitely at the ‘challenging’ end of the photography scale… tanks are often dimly lit, animals move fast, the tank glass and moving water mess up optics, and there’s reflections everywhere.  Packing my Lenskirt was a wise move, and then it’s wide aperture, high ISO, fast shutter, and lots of patience and luck.