The Un-Professional Photographers Approach to Harvest Moon photos

The afternoon before the Harvest Moon, discuss the photographic opportunity with other photographers. Determine exactly when moonrise will be (7:28 pm here) and what path it will take over your area (seemingly across the centre of town along Highway 12). Analyze all the different possible locations you could go to figure out which one will be best.

When you get home from work, eat, then fall sleep on the couch until 7:07.

PANIC.

Rush around, slap a long lens on and a stuff a memory card in your camera, rush out the door with your dog. Drive to a brand new location you had not previously considered or analyzed.

Realize you have no appropriate tripod. Luckily, find a point & shoot gorillapod in the backseat. Attach the not strong enough gorillapod. Look around for a minute, realize you’re going to have to get on top of the car. Climb out the window. Position camera with the lens propped on the lens cap on top Subaru’s handy roof rack bars, obviously designed for unorganized moon photographers.

Start to shiver while you wait. And wait. And wait, because you’re there 20 minutes before the moon is even set to start rising, and you're parked below a high ridge, which means you won’t actually see the moon when it first starts to come up anyway. Scramble back through the window and find a forgotten jacket, thank the universe for the person who forgot their jacket in your car. Curse yourself for wearing giant boots that you had to remove before climbing on top of the car.

Climb back onto the top of the car. Sit. Wait. Take a few test shots. Text your brother with questions about when the moon is supposed to rise and if it's supposed to be North East or South East. Glance up and realize the moon is already a couple of inches over the ridge now, way off to the North East. Not anywhere near the building and trees you wanted it to be behind. Scramble to get the camera and yourself back in the car, rush down the road 100 metres until it looks like the moon is coming up right in the spot you want it. Move the car 10 feet forward for good measure. Climb back up on top of the car.

The moon is not quite where you want it, shouldn’t have moved those last 10 feet.

Compose and start shooting anyway, work with what you got. Guessing at appropriate settings. Take lots of shots.

Once the moon is getting high, with just tiny bits of it behind the trees, google “shutter speed for moon photos”. Find out 1 second is WAAAAAAYYYY too long.

Whoops.

Knock it back to 1/50th, shoot some more. Once the moon is fully past the treetops do a couple handheld attempts and climb back inside the car, trying not to slam your frozen sock covered toes off anything.

Go home.

Dump photos.

Write a blog post about how embarrassingly unprepared you were for the adventure.

Lessons learned:

  • 1 second is way too long.
  • NEVER LEAVE YOUR TRIPOD AT HOME.
  • Scout your locations on nights before the full moon.
  • Google things you don’t know before you start shooting.

So here's the few shots that came out sort of interesting... 

Cheers,
Briana

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Victoria, BC - 2017

Back in April I made a road trip out to Victoria, BC, with my parents. My sister flew out and met us for a few days as well. I hadn't been out to Vancouver Island since 2011, and it was so good to be back. I think I'd like to live there for awhile. A friend of mine, Angela Unsworth, moved out there recently and I'm living vicariously through her instagram posts. 

It rained all the way to Golden, the first leg of the journey, and we were hoping it wasn't going to be indicative of weather for the whole trip. We stopped A&W in Revelstoke, as is family tradition, and I snapped a couple cools shots of the train trestle and the main bridge (below). 

After Revy we made another stop between Sicamous and Salmon Arm for some more train shots (below).

After a quick stop in Salmon Arm we did our best to power through and get a good portion of the drive to Vancouver done. The next time we stopped was at Sowaqua Creek on the other side of the Coquihalla. Its a beautiful little spot just off the road, definitely worth a look around if you're in the area (below).

As we got closer to Vancouver I had to make sure we stopped at Bridal Veil Falls. I'm sure I'd been there as a kid, but I didn't remember anything about it, so I made sure to stop this time. It's a beautiful area, although the viewing area for the falls is kind of disappointing. They definitely didn't place the viewing platform in the "best" viewing spot, and as a result people still traipse around wherever they want to get a better view, so their attempt to protect the area hasn't really succeeded. That said, the creek coming down from the falls, and the surrounding forest are beautiful. It's a short, easy walk up to the falls and back, definitely worth stopping for (below). 

After the falls we powered on to Surrey where we spent the night. My sister had flown into Vancouver earlier in the day and met us in Surrey. The next morning, Easter Friday, we got up as early as we could so we could catch a decently early ferry to the island. While we waited at the Tsawassen Ferry Terminal I wandered around with Radar and snapped a few more shots. The ferry ride was fairly uneventful and I only snagged 1 good shot, the last one in this set (below). 

Once we were on the island we headed off to explore randomly until it was time to check in to our Air BnB in Central Saanich. We had fun just poking around the countryside for awhile. We stopped at an adorable little church, then headed off to Mount Douglas Park where we spent a couple of hours on the beach. Later in the evening we headed off to check out Parker Park, the closest dog friendly beach. Radar loved it. I think we both wish we could live near nice beaches (below).

The next day we spent almost the entire day at Butchart Gardens (below), where dogs are welcome! I Victoria and area are so much more dog friendly than Alberta, I wish Radar could come more places with me in Alberta.

The next day we watched the sunrise from Parker Park Beach, and then wandered around downtown Victoria for a bit, and then went back to Butchart Gardens in the afternoon again (below).

The next morning I spent several hours wandering around downtown Victoria with Ang, exploring cool alleys and shops and the water front (below). It was a fun morning and the weather was beautiful. I'm so glad we met up, I hadn't seen Ang since we finished uni and it was awesome to connect again. 

In the afternoon we explored Clover Point Park for awhile, and then the Butterfly Gardens in Saanich, and the Salish Sea Centre in Sidney, and then of course back to Parker Park in the evening for Radar (below). We actually saw a Momma Sea Otter and a couple of cubs romping on the beach, but I didn't have a telephoto lens with me, so we just watched and enjoyed the moment.

The following day we started our journey home, heading up to Nanaimo to check out Cathedral Grove, Goats on the Roof, and then up the Sea to Sky Highway to Squamish and Shannon Falls (below).

We drove up to hope that evening and spent the night, and then continued on to Kelowna the next day. We had a pretty hairy drive over the Connector into Kelowna. Probably the worst blizzard we've ever traveled in (below). You couldn't see the lanes of the road at all, and at one point a couple of pickup trucks passed us and completely obliterated the windshield of the car with snow and slush, we couldn't see anything at all for several seconds. It was pretty scary. As we started to descend from the pass on the other side, it was gone as quickly as it had come and we were back into lovely Okanogan weather.

The next day we wandered around Kelowna a bit and spent some time with my mum's best friend Laura. Later in the afternoon we headed for Golden and then home the next day. Overall it was a lovely trip and I really did not want to come home.

I'd love to live on the island for awhile. I need to have a blogging career of some sort. I'd love to live somewhere new every year, exploring the area, taking photos and blogging about it. And then move on to the next. There's so many places I'd like to live in the world for a year, and watch all the seasons change.

Cheers,
Bri

I LOVE Google Streetview.

I really really really LOVE Google Streetview. It is definitely in my top 10 favourite things ever. Why?

  • You can armchair travel to places you may never have the opportunity to visit.
  • You can explore a place you may be visiting before you go, so you have an easier time navigating while there.
  • You can hike some pretty cool places all over the world. 
  • You see curious every day life things sometimes (my mom is on Streetview, crossing the road in our hometown).
  • It's free.
  • You can contribute to Google’s visual network by submitting 360’s with the Google Streetview app.

I can waste days on end in Streetview. This is probably mainly responsible for my obsession with the UK and intense desire to visit again. I spend, at minimum, 1 hour per week exploring some random area of the UK on Streetview.
If you’ve never tried Streetview, I highly recommend giving it a shot. It's an amazing way to explore a place, without the actual cost of travel. It may be enough to satisfy your wanderlust, or it may just feed the fire…

  1. To get into streetview you simply locate your desired location on Google Maps in your browser. Zoom in enough that you can see individual roads, and the click on the little yellow human figure in the lower right hand corner of your screen.
  2. This will highlight all viewable areas in blue. This may also offer a variety of blue or yellow dots on the map. These dots are 360 photos that users have submitted. Blue usually signifies outside, yellow usually means the inside of a building.
  3. Simply click on any of the blue lines, and it will plunk you down into streetview in that spot.
  4. You can click and drag left, right, up or down, to look around you. Then if you hold your cursor over a section of road or path, an arrow will show up, if you click on that arrow, you move in that direction. If no arrow is showing up, shift your view one direction or the other and try again.
  5. In the bottom left corner of your screen there will be a small window showing your location on the map. It will show the little yellow figure at whatever location you’ve picked, and will show your progress as you move. There will also be an arrow in front of the yellow figure, this denotes what direction you are currently facing. This can help you navigate. If you mouse over the map box, the view gets slightly larger, and you can click on any of the blue highlights to relocate to a new place.

Disclaimer: The whole world has not been covered by streetview yet. So there are areas you may not be able to explore. There’s not much done for gravel roads in Alberta, but most paved roads are available. Sometimes very small towns will only have the main road through town available, or they won’t be done at all.

Here is a list of a few cool things to check out on Google Streetview, there is many more than this short list I've compiled.
Parks Canada has a whole list, organized by province, of awesome places you can visit with Streetview
England has 15 trails planned, you can find a complete list, and map locations, at the bottom of this article
Llyn Idwal in Snowdonia National Park is done:
I discovered a few hikes around lakes in the Lake District recently as well, though I can’t remember the names of the lakes right now.
The Grand Canyon 
New Zealand trails
Mental Floss put out a list of "16 Amazing Places to to Visit Via Google Streetview" 
 

GO EXPLORE THE WORLD!

Cheers,
Bri

Nothin' lasts forever, even cold November Rain

Such a great song. And also fairly appropriate, as this challenge is technically ending in a few short weeks.

And it has been a fairly dramatic year of photography, atleast on my end. There's been lots of love/hate moments. I don't think I "need some time all alone" away from photography. But who knows how I'll feel on January 1st. 

All the depressing ending, uncertainty aside, here's the photo roundup for November.

Oh also, you may have already known this, but Guns n Roses is coming to Alberta next summer. I'm sure its going to be an amazing show. I few people I know are going.

In November I took 854 photos. That may turn out to be my smallest number per month for the year, we'll see how December goes. Previously my low number was August, with 857.

I posted 79 to social media or Flickr.

Cheers,
Bri

October Photo Harvest

In October I shot 1270 photos.
I posted 156 to Flickr or Instagram.

Thoughts for the month:

  1. This year is very quickly coming to a close.
  2. I remember thinking that 366 seemed to far off. I remember the 60th day being a milestone for me, then 80, then 100. And now theres less than 60 left in the entire year.
  3. I want to continue this in the new year. Its become a habit now, and I feel an important part of my daily life. Somewhat like a gratitude journal, this forces me to look for beauty every day.

Enjoy the photos, thanks for looking!

Cheers,
Bri

Epic Silent Retreat

On October 14th, I was on my way to Golden, BC, for a Silent Yoga & Meditation Retreat. This retreat was led by my amazing friend, the best yin yoga teacher in Alberta, Stephanie Staniforth. This is the first silent retreat I’ve ever done, so I had no idea what to expect. I was apprehensive, nervous, and feeling a little out of my element. I have not practiced yoga regularly since I moved out of Calgary in 2015. Little did I know was about to have the most amazing, fulfilling, and refreshing weekend of my life…

It was raining as the three of us piled into Stephanie’s Subaru Forester on Friday morning. We were in good spirits, excited for a weekend of meditation, relaxation, yoga, and rejuvenation. We headed west, into the rain-turning-to-snow. Steph had just gotten her snow tires put on, so we weren’t too worried.

There was an accident on the Trans-Canada Highway before Lake Louise, so we took Highway 1A. There was plenty of snow piled up on the trees and in the ditches, and on the road. Between the falling snow, snow covered road, and construction zones, we probably did an average of about 40 km/hr up 1A to Lake Louise. The roads sucked, but we were committed and confident in Steph’s Subaru with snow tires. 

We made a quick pit stop in Lake Louise and then hit the road again. As we were coming down the hill from Wapta Lake we encountered a guy flagging everyone over to the side of the road because of another accident. There was two snow plows ahead, and someone had managed to drive their jeep SUV straight into the side blade of one of them. The flag guy told us there was also a semi jack-knifed across the road a little further on. They cleared up the snow plow incident quite quickly and we continued on, joining the next lineup just down the road by the spiral tunnels. We were a little stressed by now, wondering if maybe Steph should cancel the retreat, or if we should turn around and go back to Highway 93. We had no idea how long the wait would be.

While we waited I was looking around, noticing how beautiful the snow was. I also noticed there was a semi tire chain lying on the pavement in the lane beside us. I jumped out and picked it up, draping it over the guardrail so a snow plow wouldn’t end up flinging it. Then I started thinking “no one will be able to stop and pick it up once traffic gets moving again… someone might as well have it.” Directly in front of us was a vacuum truck. I figured he probably carried chains too, so I went up to ask him if he wanted it. 

He hopped out and came back to grab the chain, and says to us “Beautiful day eh?!”. He actually genuinely meant it. He wasn’t wrong, the snow was beautiful. He told us the news on the CB was that they were just pulling out the jackknifed semi and we would be able to get going pretty soon. Then we started to chat. He told us all about his early days of being a cowboy, carousing and partying and high school rodeo-ing. Then he got a bit more serious and he started to tell us about his theories on how choosing to be positive can change your life. He told us how he trained horses when he was younger. He would always take on the difficult, dangerous ones. He said if he committed to maintaining positive thoughts when he was in the ring with them, he always got spectacular results. He rehabilitated horses that everyone else had given up on. Then he began to apply this theory to working with his dogs. His friends. His marriage (36 years going strong). His kids. With amazing results every single time. He said he wakes up every day and says “Today I’m going to battle the negative thoughts” and that catching those thoughts and refocusing on something positive has changed his entire life.

He was telling us all this stuff we’ve all been reading about, studying, trying to practice for years. He’s the living example of what we strive to be. We chatted for a little while longer until the tow truck went by. He asked us to help him out on his mission to spread positivity to the world, and then said goodbye and hopped in his truck.

I feel like he was a genuinely enlightened being. It was a humbling reminder that mindfulness, happiness, positivity are available to anyone. There is not one certain path to happiness. There is no certain level of education required to attain it. It was a fantastic way to start the weekend. We were all much more relaxed, and feeling significantly more positive after chatting with him.

We finally headed on our way a few minutes later, and the rest of the drive was smooth and clear sailing. We arrived safely at the beautiful Quantum Leaps Retreats , and started to settle in. As the remaining attendees trickled in we started to hear that the roads had been fine when the rest of them came through the pass. 

I feel like we drove through an alternate universe, just so we could have that humbling lesson from the enlightened vac truck driver.

That evening, after a fantastic vegetarian meal (read: ALL THE MEALS WERE AMAZING, I brought home their cookbook) we settled into the yoga studio space, and Steph led us through a yoga and meditation practice to begin our weekend of silence. (Click here for a Google Streetview 360 of the dining room)

  Click here for a Google Streetview 360  of the Yoga Space, complete with wood stove

Click here for a Google Streetview 360 of the Yoga Space, complete with wood stove

Saturday began with meditation practice, then yummy breakfast, and a little bit of free time before our morning yoga practice. I grabbed my camera bag and headed down to the river to see what I could see. My photography obsession goes a little against the practice of non-doing, but I couldn’t resist the opportunities in such a beautiful location. The Kokanee Salmon were spawning, so there was sure to be some animal sightings.

I got lucky that morning. (Google Streetview 360 from where I was standing) Down the river a ways there was an eagle was sitting on the roots of a dead, fallen tree, lying in the middle of the river on an island. It was still foggy, and misty,  and so mysterious and quiet and magical feeling. While I was changing lenses two wolves crossed the river near the eagle. They stopped on the island and sniffed around under the eagle’s perch for a minute, and then continued across the river. I have never seen wolves in the wild before, it was so beautiful. I’m sad that I did not get photos of them, but I’ll never forget that moment: the mist swirling, the bald eagle resting serenely on his perch, regarding the wolves quietly. There was aristocratic and dignified air about the whole encounter. It was almost as if the eagle would have said to them “Good Day sir’s” and they would have replied with cordial “Good day” and tipped their hats as they passed by. It was an enchanting moment.

After lunch we had a few more hours free for contemplation. I headed straight down to the river again. I hiked my way down the side of the river, and found a spot to cross to the island the eagle and wolves had been on. It was quite a sizable island and I spent most of the afternoon exploring there, contemplating life, taking photos, and sitting. Just enjoying the serenity. It was an amazing afternoon, not one I’ll soon forget. (Google Streetview 360's from the island: Number 1, Number 2, Number 3, Number 4, Number 5)

We had another yoga and meditation practice before supper, and then a bit more free time. I spent that time writing. Contemplating everything going in my head. That evening Steph led us through a Yoga Nidra, which was a beautiful experience

Sunday began with more meditation, breakfast, a bit of free time, and then our last yoga and meditation session. We all came out of silence together, and sat in small groups to talk a bit about our experiences. We all headed to our last amazing meal, and then people started to hit the road for home. 

It was a truly epic experience. 

There was a few things I was worried about going into this:

  1. Would the silence be really lonely?
  2. Would I be really embarrassed by my out of practice yoga?
  3. Would I screw up and accidentally talk all the time?
  1. Hell no. It was actually the complete opposite of lonely. I can fully say that is the LEAST lonely I have ever felt in my entire life. I felt more peacefully connected with everyone there than I have ever felt with people.
  2. This was the least of my worries. Yoga is yoga. It doesn’t matter that I’ve been gone from it for over a year. The practice is what matters, not the depth or perfect alignment or perfection of the pose. It’s not about being flexible and muscular and having the best yoga tights. It’s about existing, showing up for yourself on your mat. Taking care of you, and loving you, and accepting you.
  3. It was surprisingly easy to not talk. There was one point where I did have a very short conversation with someone, she was down the trail when the wolves crossed and apparently she was pretty close to them, so she called out to alert them and then she came back and since I was fairly close by she warned me about them. Otherwise, it was pretty easy to not talk. I heard from some other extroverted participants that it was easier than they expected. There was a sense of relief, there was no expectation of them to carry or lead conversation or activities, no obligations, no pressure.

The hardest thing for me was actually leaving my phone alone. There wasn’t much service out there, so that made it a bit easier, but I still struggled. I texted my mom a few times. I looked something up on wikipedia once. And I took a bunch of Google Streetview 360’s. That was the biggest struggle for me. To actually commit to being fully disconnected from my family. Even though they knew where I was, they had a phone number for the Quantum Leaps staff I still couldn’t completely disconnect. That’s something I think I’d like to spend a little bit of time contemplating.

My favourite moment was seeing the wolves. 

My favourite feeling was just the utter sense of freedom, and relaxation, and disconnection from normal life. No obligations. It was completely rejuvenating. I badly needed that. I felt so amazing coming home from that. Some of that is still lingering with me. It’s what is motivating me to commit to my blogging schedule. And to re-commit to a daily meditation practice. I think I found my general direction in life over that weekend, and it’s writing (because clearly that hasn’t be obvious enough based on my obsession with writing for my whole life). 

The drive home, with Steph and Christine was as amazing as the drive out. We didn’t have any angelic vac truck driver experiences, but we had really great conversations, about the lodge, the food, the staff, and our retreat experiences. There was plenty of discussion about spirituality, it was so awesome to be able to discuss stuff like that with open minded people.

Would I do it again? HELL YES. And I’d highly recommend it to everyone I know, whether you know anything about yoga or meditation or not.

In fact, Steph is planning another weekend silent yoga retreat for spring 2017, and then a 5 day silent yoga retreat for fall 2017. I’d like to attend both, realistically I’m aiming for the 5 day one. Check out her site if you’d like more info!

Cheers,
Bri

P.S. I had some really interesting, intense meditation experiences over that weekend. I don’t think I will blog about them, but if anyone is interested in hearing about them, drop me a line, I’d be happy to chat about them. 

September has ended, WAKE UP!

In September I took 1612 photos.
I posted 109 photos to social media. 
I printed and showed some photos in the Lacombe in Pictures photography show at the Lacombe Harvest Festival. That was weird, and cool, and exciting. I got to meet the local photographer who organizes the show, and he had some great feedback and advice and ideas for both my sister and myself. I'm hoping to help the organizer promote the hell out of it next year and get more people to participate.

I went camping twice.

I went bridesmaid dress shopping with my best friend and the other bridesmaids. 

It was a pretty good month.

Cheers to September, lets hope October turns out alright too. Enjoy the gallery!
Bri