Surf Festival, Noosa

Guest Post on the Golden Ratio

 

The Golden Ratio is a popular topic in photography at the moment. I have written a guest post for fellow photographer Leanne Cole’s website today where I discuss the importance of composition in photography and how the Golden Ratio can help to create a photograph with impact.

 

A massive thank you to Leanne for allowing me to discuss the Golden Ratio on her blog. The article can be viewed at The Golden Ratio at Leanne Cole Photography.

 

Surf Festival, Noosa

 

More soon. In the meantime you can find me on Instagram at @sv_images.

 

Sarah V

Sunset view

Alaska Part III – Homer

Alaska Part III – Homer

 

Once we had been on dry land for longer than a few hours it was evident the revered solitude of Alaska is everything I have read about and more. Considering I was in the US state that is well known around the world as ‘The Last Frontier’, this shouldn’t have come as much of a surprise. After disembarking from the ship at Seward we made our way along the stunning Sterling Highway towards Homer, our base for the week.

 

Rainy Mountains

 

With a population of just over 5,000, the town of Homer on the picturesque Kenai Peninsula is certainly a treat for outdoor enthusiasts. Set on the glistening shores of Kachemak Bay, amidst snow capped mountains, Homer has just about everything any outdoor enthusiast could want. From kayaking amidst sea lions and otters, to hiking on glaciers, or taking a light plane over to nearby Kodiak island for a glimpse of some of the world’s largest bears, there is no shortage of natural attractions.

 

The town of Homer itself is a quaint and relaxed place with friendly locals who are more than willing to stop and have a chat. Considered the halibut fishing capital of the world, it’s no surprise there is a huge fishing culture here. The Homer Spit, where the harbour is located, juts out 4.5 miles into Ketchemak Bay. The array of shops that line the Spit can seem a bit overpowering but the harbour itself was interesting enough. The very end of the Spit looks out over the bay towards the mountain range, complete with glaciers, from a rocky shore that is a favourite for fishing among the locals. The view from here is spectacular and the odd otter can be seen from the shoreline.

 

Harbour Fishing Boats                               Harbour Fisherman Eagle End of The Spit

 

Homer offers up some fantastic food options, and considering its relative remoteness and size this was a pleasant surprise. One of our favourite food options was the famed Two Sisters Bakery. A clear favourite with the locals this funky little place serves up some fantastic baked goods, soups, and sandwiches. The rich, ridiculously decadent cinnamon bun, which is slathered in caramel sauce and topped with pecans, was a staple for every visit. It never lasted long enough for me to snap a picture though…. Needless to say they are delicious.

 

Two Sisters Bakery Back Porch                                Two Sisters Bakery Front Porch

 

Two Sisters Bakery Cook                               Two Sisters Bakery Cooking area

 

Two Sisters Bakery Baked Goods                                Two Sisters Bakery Baked Goods 2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The view from the cabin we rented on a hill just outside of town was ridiculous. No matter how many hours I spent gazing out the window at the mountains the view never got old. Sunrise and sunset were obviously a highlight, no matter how little time there was between the two… (In fact, I’m not sure it ever got completely dark while we were there?). Being able to capture the mountains during those precious minutes just after the sun goes down or before the sun comes up right from my balcony was an added bonus. If that wasn’t enough, travelling 5 minutes up the road presented an even better view, if you can believe it…

 

View from the Cabin

 

 

Glacier                               Sunrise

 

The sunset I ventured up the road to capture was perhaps one of the best I have ever seen. As the sun dipped below the horizon behind me the mountains were lit with various shades of bright orange, then pink, then purple. I loved the way the sunset created a line of light that cut the mountain range in half, lighting up only the very top of the peaks. The moody rainclouds added a bit of drama while also helping to create dramatic colours across the mountains, which is always nice.

 

Sunset view

 

 

Sunset rain clouds

 

Alaska is by far one of the most beautiful places we have been fortunate enough to visit in our travels. Hopefully we will get the chance to return one day, perhaps during winter next time to see if I can capture the Aurora Borealis.

 

Sarah V

 

Fjord Glacier Bay 2

From Canada to Alaska via the Inside Passage

Alaska – Part II

 

After jumping a boat bound for Alaska we bid farewell to our home of Vancouver for the last time – or perhaps, considering our track record, it was only goodbye for now… Why fly when we can sail up the coast of BC and Alaska, stopping at picturesque towns and glacier-filled bays along the way?

 

Oosterdam

 

Vancouver Skyline                        Bridge and Ship trail

 

Lions Gate Bridge-2                             Horseshoe Bay

 

Mendenhall Glacier and Falls

 

Ketchikan Kayakers

 

Ketchikan Wharf         Ketchikan

 

Skagway Town 2          Skagway Town

 

Skagway Harbour

 

Juneau with the impressive Mendenhall Glacier as a side trip is one of the best land stops of the journey with Skagway a close second. Glacier Bay, however, stole the show.

 

Cruising 2                     Cruising 3

 

Cruising

 

With no roads into the park you can only visit by sea or air. This is possibly one of the major reasons why when floating down the fjords amidst mountains and glaciers it feels like one of the last places on earth you can visit that has had minimal human impact.

 

Fjord Glacier Bay 2

 

Fjord Glacier Bay 3              Fjord Glacier Bay

 

Fjord Glacier Bay 4

 

A ranger for Glacier Bay National Park boarded the ship while we were in the bay, providing information about the glaciers and wildlife that populate the area. We learned that the bay is home to (impressively) more than 3,000 otters, that around 30 species of land mammals of the 40 known to inhabit Southeast Alaska have been documented in the park, and the plant life is in a constant state of recolonisation due to the glaciers’ retreating.

 

 

Margerie Glacier

 

Margerie Glacier 2

 

 

Margerie Glacier 3                             Margerie Glacier onlookers

 

Margerie Glacier is an impressive wall of ice that competes with the 11 deck ship to be the tallest in the bay, and winning. The glacier puts on an impressive display with sheets of ice sliding down the face of the glacier every few minutes. Thunderous cracks fill the bay as the whole ship waits in anticipation of the next iceberg to be born. Once you hear the tell-tale crack of the ice it is a frantic search for where the ice will fall. Sometimes, you get lucky and spot the ice falling just in time to capture it.

Iceberg break 1Iceberg break 2 Iceberg break 3Iceberg break 4 Iceberg break 5

 

Disembarking at the picturesque town of Seward was a suitable ending to one of the most scenic boat trips I’ve been on.

 

I will have more on our time in Alaska on the blog over the next week or so. In the meantime, you can find me on Instagram at @sv_images.

Fog on the sea wall, Vancouver, Canada_Spiral overlay

The Golden Ratio in Photography

There are many, many ways to compose a compelling photograph. The Golden Ratio, however, is one of my favourite tools when I compose a photograph.

In my article How to Use the Golden Ratio to Improve your Photography for Apogee Photo Magazine I discuss the Golden Ratio as an element of design in photography and explain how it can be used when composing a photograph.

I also provide a series of examples where I have used the Golden Ratio and explain why I often favour it when composing an image over the more commonly used composition tool the Rule of Thirds.

If you’ve never used the Golden Ratio for your photography I highly recommend giving it a go. The perfect division of space that the ratio is so well known for amongst photographers, artists, and designers around the world can assist in creating impact in your photography.

You can read my article on Apogee Photo Magazine here How to Use the Golden Ratio to Improve your Photography.

Sarah V

 

 

Fairy floss sunrise

Land of the Midnight Sun

Alaska Part I – A sneak peak

 

With a mere 5 hours of what can only be called semi-darkness, the sun seems to be in a perpetual state of wakefulness here in Alaska, much like myself. When sunrise is only a few hours after the official sunset, any landscape photographer would be forgiven for wondering whether or not it is worth even going to bed. In order to save my sanity and get the requisite 8 hours of sleep that I, without a doubt, require, I have decided to stagger my sunrise / sunset shoots.

 

Fairy floss sunrise

 

 

This image was taken from my balcony early this morning – 4.30 am early…  As always, the colours in the sky make the early start to the day more than worth it. The scenery up here sure is something else. Even though we have lived amid mountains for a while now, I never tire of the beauty they bring to a landscape, especially since I know I will be swapping mountains for beach in the very near future.

 

I will be sharing more from our time in Alaska over the next few days. In the meantime, you can find me on Instagram at @sv_images.

 

Sarah V

Tacofino 4

Going Tacofino in Vancouver

Vancouver is food truck central. Stroll the streets of downtown during the lunchtime rush hour and you will see people congregating in troves, just so they can get their hands on some of the delectable food offered by these unassuming ‘meals on wheels’.

 

Tacofico is something of a legend among food-truck-loving lunch goers downtown. Listed as one of Canada’s best food trucks by Canadian Living, among others, Tacofino is known for their fresh ingredients and delicious tacos.  Since I’m not one to shy away from delicious food that I am actually allowed to eat with my hands, I headed down to the unassuming cube parked at Burrard and Dunsmuir to see what all the fuss is about.

 

Tacofino 1

 

The truck is almost hidden from view behind the masses of people lined up down the street patiently waiting for a taste of Mexico in Vancouver. With an image of the Virgin de Guadeloupe holding a taco to keep my company while I wait, I consult the fold-out chalkboard menu that sits on the sidewalk. It’s ten minutes before I reach the pop up window to place my order – I decided on Fish Tacos – form the friendly and efficient team inside truck.

 

Tacofino 3                                          Tacofino 2

 

Tacofino 5                  Tacofino 11

 

Not usually one for battered, fried fish, this was a small risk for me, but it paid off. The fish was light and crispy and I loved the fact that these small cubes of fried-heaven filled the entire taco from front to back. The fish is topped with a good amount of salsa and some thinly sliced crispy cabbage along with a chipotle mayo. Delicious. Even the taco tortilla itself was delicious.

 

Tacofino 8

 

With a motto promoting fresh food fast, Tacofino certainly delivers. Although the line was rather long the food came out fast, and it was certainly fresh. This is some of the best Mexican food in the city, if not all of BC, and I would highly recommend it to anyone looking for lunch on the streets of Vancouver.

Sarah V

A colourful capture of Science World in Vancouver, Canada

The Colours of Science World

Spring is definitely in full swing here in Vancouver. This means the three things I love most about living in Vancouver have finally arrived: Greenery lines the city streets again as the trees get fatter with foliage, the days are getting warmer and I’ve (finally) been able to venture out of the house with bare legs, and the days are getting longer. This means long walks in the sun after work, and more importantly, a lot more sunlight to play with! Or, in the case of today’s photo, a lot longer to wait until that magic hour after the sun sets.

This shot was taken on a stroll to False Creek one night after dinner. After the sun had finally gone down the lights that decorate the Science Centre created a new atmosphere. I loved the vibrant colours and the way they shimmered in the water’s rippled reflection. At first I was a little disappointed that the wind was creating a less than perfect reflection. I decided to do a few test shots anyway to see how it looked and I found I quite liked the unusual characteristic it brought to the frame. What I love most about this is that for me it represents exactly what photography should be. A unique perspective on the world in the form of art – or to say it with a bit more fluff () – an individual creating something that is beautiful to them and then sharing it with others.

Either way, I hope you like my individual perspective of Vancouver’s Science World.

A colourful capture of Science World in Vancouver, Canada

A colourful capture of Science World in Vancouver, Canada


Sarah V

As the days get warmer here in Vancouver little by little signs of the imminent change in season are starting to appear. Trees that line the streets of downtown are starting to blossom, tiny white-bandana-faced birds flitter between their branches, the first stirrings of spring. As I wait for the pink buds on the cherry blossom trees to flower I thought it might be fun to take a look back at the last change of season: fall to winter.

The fall months were filled with uncharacteristically sunny, clear days. The typical fog of that time of year, however, did not disappoint. There were days when my office building was completely hidden in fog for the entire day, the streets filled with an eerie mist from early morning into late afternoon. This, for me, was perfect. The combination of fall foliage, orange and pink hued sunsets, and the perfect amounts of fog lingering on the sea wall, made for some very pretty scenery.

Today’s photo is one of my favourites from my afternoons spent scouring the sea wall in anticipation of the perfect fog-to-sunset ratio.

Fall fog
Sarah V

Taggart Lake, Grand Teton National Park

While visiting Grand Teton National Park earlier this year we hoped to incorporate a bit of hiking. We were told most of the trails were still closed for the season due to the snow that refused to melt in the warm spring sunlight. A few of the lake trails had sections where the snow had melted but hiking the entire perimeter of any of them was out of the question. In the end we decided to ignore the snow and attempt the hike towards Taggart Lake.

While the beginning of the trail had pretty much melted into a slush of mud, the higher we climbed the more the snow had remained intact, staking its claim and refusing to melt. By the time we were at the peak of the trail we were knee deep in snow. With the sun shimmering in the snow’s reflection we were led along a winding trail through a forest of pine trees embedded in the cosy white blanket.

A ranger at the visitor’s centre we stopped at enroute advised us a bear and her cubs had been seen in the area earlier that morning. Understandably wary considering we were not willing (perhaps foolishly) to fork out the $100 for bear spray, we called out the standard ‘hey bear’ at regular intervals. About halfway into the hike the sound of children on the trail ahead allowed us to relax a bit. If there were any mama bears out there surely she would snack on the kids first…. ok, I’m joking, but the fact they were making so much noise meant any kind of animal would be scared off pretty quickly.

When we caught up to the noisy children it turned out to be a whole group of school kids on a day-trip to the lake. They were all navigating the deep snow with ease because someone had provided them with snowshoes for the hike. Needless to say our inexperienced snow-hiking was evident due to the hungry-for-legs snow that threatened to engulf our snowshoeless limbs with each step we took. Snowshoes would have been a good idea…

The closer we got to the lake the deeper the snow became and each step had essentially become wading through the snow as if it was a thick mass of water…. :) This meant those with snowshoes – aka the school kids and their well prepared leaders – easily gained the lead and beat us to the lake’s shores. When the lake was finally in sight we saw that the entire body of water was still frozen over from the winter. We eavesdropped on the end of a science lesson (;)) and waited for the group to leave so we could take in the grandeur of the scene before us.
A stack of four mountains provided a backdrop for the frosted pale blue lake in the foreground. The blue ice was crisscrossed by long white snowy lines that we learned were made from animals crossing the lake during winter. The landscape was beautiful and I worried that my camera, which at this point was not full-frame, would not allow me to capture the entire scene and its beauty would be lost. I decided to attempt some shots that could later be stitched into a panorama so that I could somehow do the landscape justice.

So, this image is my panoramic landscape of Taggart Lake in Grand Teton National Park from that day. I took a series of 5 photos which I have stitched together in Photoshop to make this panorama. You may notice that the ground in the image isn’t exactly covered in knee-deep snow…. For some reason only the hiking trail, which was behind me, remained engulfed in snow – we were just lucky I guess… :)
Sarah V.

Taggart Lake Panorama
The barn at Morman Row, Grand Teton National Park.

Hunting for bears and moose…

Our trip through Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks earlier this year provided us with some of the best wildlife viewing of any of the US and Canadian national parks we have visited so far. When we decided to make the trip over the border specifically to visit these national icons, Yellowstone being the first national park established in the US in 1872 and Grand Teton the equally beautiful sidekick, we had endless (overly excited) discussions about the different types of animals we hoped to see during our visit. Needless to say bears and moose were on our long list of wildlife to tick off. Neither of us actually believed we would be lucky enough to spot either of these animals despite the ‘rumours’ of plentiful bear encounters in Yellowstone. We had heard the stories, that bears are everywhere throughout Yellowstone’s valley’s, that they would even sit on the side of the road presenting themselves specifically for tourists such as ourselves. Still, there was doubt in our minds. We have been in bear and moose country before, sat and waited in the ideal places at the ideal times of day, and still no bears and no moose. We had begun to think that bears and moose – moose in particular seeing as though we have previously seen bears outside of the wild – were a myth. Although we secretly hoped these stories of bear littered roads and moose springing out of the bushes to say hello were true, in reality neither of us honestly believed we would see either animal. Well, we were wrong. Not only did we see both bears (both black and grizzly) and moose, we were lucky enough to see a whole bunch of other animals as well: Bison, deer, fox, coyote, beaver, wolves (heard them, does that count?), bighorn sheep, elk, eagles, marmot, squirrels, chipmunks, and more. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to photograph all of the wildlife we spotted but I did manage to capture a few.

The number of wildlife photographers in the parks was astounding, Yellowstone in particular. Needless to say when I pulled out my baby 300mm lens next to their massive 500mm + lenses I felt a little inadequate… :) A reminder that I am more focused on landscape photography at the moment than I am on wildlife photography made me feel a bit better ;) It did not, however, stop me from impulsively hiding my equipment whenever any of them strutted past with their big lenses though…. I did eventually gain solace in the fact that those lenses looked ridiculously heavy and come morning, I’d say they were a little tender after hiking around with such a monstrous beast mounted on their shoulders all day. I’m Joking, I would never think that. Ok, just a little :).

So, here just a few of the images I have processed so far. I have included both landscape and some wildlife images. As you can imagine there are thousands of photographs to sort through; consider this the first instalment.

Sarah V

The Barn Tetons BW

Geyser patterns Yellowstone  Geysers Yellowstone

Old Faithful Yellowstone

Jackson Lake Yellowstone 3

Frozen Jackson Lake Yellowstone 2

Waterfall Yellowstone

Geyser walk Yellowstone

Bear Lamar Valley Yellowstone 2

Bison Lamar Valley

Bison face

Deer Lamar Valley

Yellowstone river sunrise fog

sunset Snake river

Oxbow Bend

Frozen Jackson Lake

Fox Yellowstone

Moose Grand Teton