Thursday, September 29, 2016

CRAM: Last Of The Unplucked Gems

This is it.  The end.

Today is the day CRAM dies. Pour one out for my homies.

Seriously, most folks went home today.  So my wife was left with just me... so pray for her (good for me, tho, eh? wink, wink, nudge, nudge)

Our plans for the day were to slowly migrate down the mountain to Calgary, and wait for our flight tomorrow morning.

Since we woke up in Canmore, and hadn't really explored the town, we decided to give it a bit of a go.

Canmore is a really nice mountain town, surrounded by large mountain peaks.  One of the most striking is a series of 3 peaks called the Three Sisters... each peak has a name; Faith, Charity, and... um.. something else. (I'll leave that as an exercise for the reader).

Canmore also has a large head.  I am not kidding.
Told you I wasn't kidding.

I mean, when do I ever kid? I am very serious at all times.


So, while we were walking around Canmore, I had a idea. A wonderful idea. An awesome idea. A wonderfully awesome idea.

That idea was to screw Calgary (cause really, Calgary is a bit pompous, what with its stampede, Flames, and... well... reasons), and spend the time heading to Red Deer to visit a Scavenger, the amazeballs Paul Howard.

Turns out he was busy (work, he claims... likely story), so we took our time driving thru the rural country roads of Alberta, which took us by wonderful scenes like this.
And this.
Canola fields are incredible.  Absolutely incredible.  If you think your farm area is more picturesque and super-scenic, and you don't have canola fields, your wrong.  Just wrong.  Just stand there and be wrong - Canola fields win.  Hands down.

So anyway...

Late afternoon we arrived in Red Deer, and hung out with Mr. Howard.  We checked out his shop, and his photo studio.  Looked over some of his prints, then went to dinner.

So, since my wife is a photographer, Paul is a photographer, and I play one on the Internet, we'd have some awesome photos of this meeting. And you'd be...


Turns out, I suck at capturing social events.  I suck, I admit it.  On the other hand I have the memories and you don't, so I am still winning.... like an insane cocaine-filled egomaniacal version of Charlie Sheen level of winning (no, not like Donald Trump - he's just an orange man-child with delusions of grandeur and small hands - I'm talking real winning here).

Anyhoo... we still had to get to Calgary to prep for our flight tomorrow, so reluctantly we moved on.

Along the way we found some places to take some photos.
Sunsets over the prairies are stunning.  Absolutely stunning.
 They are even better with a grain elevator in the foreground.
And over the top when a storm is coming in.

So, we finally ended up in Calgary, and checked into the hotel.  The next day we flew out of Calgary and went back to Ontario.

Thus endeth the adventure.  It was a heck of a trip.  I am glad we went.

So thats it.  Time to go home.  We're done.  However don't worry, I am not done road tripping and adventuring.  Actually, as of this writing, I have plans in the works for 7 more blog worthy trips  - 7!

So we are not even close to being done.

Until then, keep calm and CRAM it. Dave out.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

CRAM: The Village Of Banff-ish... Sort Of.

So the last full day of CRAM the weather actually started to cooperate.  There was sun!  SUN! I'm not sure I've seen the daystar for over a week... and it is here!

So, it is time to go exploring.

My wife and I headed off with an awesome couple known as the Blands, for a good wander and exploration.  We left early to avoid the tourists, cause... well... you know why by now.

So we were staying in Canmore, and headed to the village of Banff.  On the way out of town we checked out some of the scenery that was previously hiding in the clouds.

I didn't know much about the Village of Banff before I arrived. I knew it existed, and it had nice views, but thats about it.  So we started driving thru town... turns out that didn't take long.

We soon ended up at this quaint hole-in-the-wall amazeballs European looking luxury resort called Fairmont Springs.  Looked a bit like this from the road:
We took a wander thru the majestic stone halls, anded ended up on an expansive terrace overlooking mountains. The skylight looking peaked roof things look resplendet, do they not?
An example of some of the interior spaces.  I mean, who doesn't like a good stone staircase?
After a bit (by a bit I mean when the free parking ran out), we headed down to the village itself.  The ladies among us started to go shopping, so while they went right, the boys went left.  We went in search of a view of the Fairmont from the other side of the river.  Luckily we found it.
The ladies never suspected a thing.

After a bit (read: lunch - we all ate bison), we went for a drive to check out Vermillion Lakes during the day (this was the location where we went night shooting before.)
Looks remarkably different, and less fire-spinny, during the day.
After the lakes, we decided to head in the geneal direction of Canmore, but we took a detour to Lake Minnewanka. 
It was actually quite scenic, and I could have stayed a while, but at this time my wife (remember my wife's habits on road trips? - this will sound familiar...) was taking a nap in the car. Plus the tourists were about.  So one more photo...
... and its back to Canmore for one last supper.

So we're approaching the end.  Tomorrow CRAM ends, and our plans are to go to Calgary to catch a plane.  However that is too simple, isn't it?

Yes, yes it is.  Stay tuned for one more kick at the CRAM can, and see what my wife and I get up to on the final day of our adventure.

Wordless Wednesday

Friday, September 23, 2016

CRAM: Johnston Canyon Falls

CRAM has been a heck of an adventure.  

So far on this trip my wife and I have flown across Canada to Vancouver, driven across British Columbia, up the Icefields Parkway, over to Edmonton Alberta, back down and west to Canmore.  

We met up with a bunch of Scavengers, and checked out  Lake Louise, and did a heck of a lot of night shooting, including spinning actual fire.

That is a jam packed schedule.  Time is winding down, but there is still time for a few more adventures.

Today we're doing another field trip and exploring Johnston Canyon, just outside of Banff.

Johnston Canyon is a well marked mostly paved path that winds a mile or so up a river, along the way there are a couple rather scenic waterfalls.

Each of the falls are viewable via these rather cool walkways that go over the water.  Handy.

The crowds were rather insane, so we had to wait for opportunities to get some shots, but we managed.
On the way to the Upper Falls we walked along this rather awesome elevated walkway that was bolted onto the side of the steep rock face, and hung over the creek.  This both allowed the path to follow the wate, and not take some epic detour, as well as give one the sense of power of the water flowing down this rugged mountain river.
Looking up the tall pines made for a shaggy top to the steep rocky faces of the canyon walls.
 The end of the trail is Upper Falls (shockingly the falls in the middle are called Lower Falls - gotta love creative naming).  Like the other sections of the trails, the end of this trail is build up over the water, so one gets a really nice view of the falls.

Apparently during winter folks scale the ice from this fall.  Those people are crazy, but the views must be spectacular.
We ended up back at the trail head just as the crowds really got going (right around lunch hour, go figure - tourists always seem to flock between 11am and 6pm - the time I like to call "Hell hour".

Perfect timing for what was a pretty awesome adventure.

Only a couple adventures on this trip left, so don't worry - this will all be over with shortly.

Monday, September 19, 2016

CRAM: Sunglasses At Night

"... I wear my sunglasses at night.
So I can, So I can,
See the light that's right before my eyes."

- Corey Hart

Oh, hello!  I didn't see you there.  I got lost in the music in my head... has that ever happened to you?

Happens to me all the time.

I was thinking about that time when I hung out with some amazing people, who all happen to be photographers, in the scenic Rocky Mountains of Alberta, Canada.... 

you know the place, right?  

It is beautiful during the day.
Its downright awesome at night.  I know, cause I was there.

We actually went out to the same location on two separate nights.  The reason is that we originally wanted to do some star, and possibly Milky Way photography.  However the weather (I blame Al Gore - damn it Al!), decided that it should be overcast and cloudy for most of the time we where there.

Cold and cloudy.  Thats right.  Cold, cloudy... with a cold feel, and a cloudy outlook.  Did I mention it was cloudy, and cold?  Bit of frost, lack of stars.  Heck, sometimes it was downright down-pour-y.

Anyway, shooting the stars, and especially shooting the shooting stars, was out.  However will that stop a bunch of plucky photographers with a "Devil may care" attitude, and a penchant for awesome?
For some of us, yes.  For the handful that went out anyway - no.
Heck no.   I have proof. This was taken at 10-ish PM.

The location was Vermillion Lakes, a scenic bit of Banff National Park, right near the town of Banff.  It is a big ol' lake, with some awesome mountains in the background - very scenic place at night.

Some of us really got into the idea of shooting the lake - really put their work into it.
While we were there, we tried something I personally have never done before:  fire spinning.

I imagine there are multiple ways to do this, but the gist of our rig (made by the awesome Ms Milks) was as follows:  Take a large metal kitchen wisk.  Tie on (tightly!) a decently long length of rope - 6-10ft or so.  Pack the whisky part of the whisk with various grades of steel wool - apply fire, and spin like the dickens.

While you are doing that, get a friend (or be the friend!) that sets up their camera on a tri-pod, and set it to take long exposures (15-20 seconds seems to work).  If you are lucky you'll end up with pictures like this:
 And this...
Of course there is nothing that says you can't trade places so everyone can spin, and everyone can photograph.

However while you are waiting for reloads, you can also take landscape-y shots. 
 We did the spinning thing on both nights.  It is a great deal of fun.  Ms. Milks sometimes stood on the dock, and sometimes on a stump in the water.  The sparks really fly at times, so doing it where things don't burn is a handy safety tip.

It can get pretty wild eh?  I found that the best sparks came at the end of the spinning (each spinning lasted 30-60 seconds).  Since I was near water, I tried to take advantage of its reflective properties to capture more of the spinning light.  Pro tip, there.
Another pro tip:  make sure you check the knot on the rope attached to the whisk... else it comes untied, and goes flying into a lake.  Don't ask how we found that out...  however it does put an end to the light spinning, so you're left with the landscapes.

We also tried some light painting with flashlights, but my shots didn't turn out so awesome, so I'm going to skip over that part.  One might think the best way to do that is to simply not mention it, and that would have been a great idea 15 seconds ago (thanks for nothing!) but its too late for that now...
See ya next time when we go off exploring a scenic waterfall...

Friday, September 16, 2016

CRAM: Ah Gees, Louise!

My wife and I have been on an epic road trip for 9 days now.  We started in Vancouver British Columbia, drove across the province, took at big loop through Edmonton, and have swung around to Canmore Alberta, nestled in the scenic Rocky Mountains.

The CRAM main event is about to begin.

CRAM stands for the Chrysta Rae Alberta Meetup, a meetup in the mountains of a bunch of Photo Scavengers, hanging out in Canada for a weekend.

We arrived in Canmore just in time for supper, so we hung out for the evening.

The next day we headed to Lake Louise and got our photog on. It is intense competition among the Scavengers... sometimes we even turned on each other with our cameras, like a Mexican Standoff.

 Of course, there is a lake. A pretty lake. A Louise-y lake.  Unfortunately I was armed with myself behind the camera, so I got crap pictures of the lake.
 I was here at Lake Louise last year during the Great Canadian Road Trip, so I wasn't sweating getting bad photos of the lake.  I had also geocached the perimeter of the lake, so I set my sights on a cache further down the trail.

Well, up the trail.  Turns out the trail was about 2 miles one way to the cache, with a 1000ft elevation gain - but whatever.  I hiked, and got this shot of Mirror Lake as reward for my troubles.
 On the way back down, at the base of the trail, I noticed this rather appropriate statue.
 It took me a couple hours to do the hike, and when I got back everyone else had hit the nearby hotel restaurant for some luncheon vittles.
 Afterwards we took the bog standard "Ye Olde Group Shot" with a non-bog standard background.
 Once we were finished with Lake Louise, some of us decided to hit up nearby Lake Moraine.  Just as we arrived the skies opened up and a downpour of biblical proportions fell from the sky.

We decided to brave the rain anyway, and headed towards the lake.
On the way home I took this photo - so much rain. The rain would be one of the constant elements of this weekend, so might as well get used to being damp.
We got back to the condo's and had a delish supper.  Afterwards we watched The Holy Grail - because we're geeks.  Then a bunch of us went out again to do some night shooting.

Night shooting is awesome.  It deserves its own post.  So this one... is over.

Don't worry! The story is not over.  Stay tuned for the tales from the dark side (see what I did there? - dark, night... eh? eh? This level of hilarity continues next post!)

Thursday, September 15, 2016

CRAM: The Worlds Worst Tour Of The West Edmonton Mall

This is Plan B.

Our road trip so far has taken us to Edmonton Alberta. Plan A for today was to visit a friends funky studio and shoot some models, and other studio type deals.  However due to circumstances beyond anyones control, Plan A became untenable.

So we switched to Plan B.

Plan B is spending a couple days at the largest mall in North America, the West Edmonton Mall, and stay a couple nights in the hotel attached to the mall: Fantasyland.

So grab a Timmies and come along on the absolute worst tour of the West Edmonton Mall anyone can possibly imagine.

So first things first.  FantasyLand hotel is attached to the mall, this means we didn't need to get into our car all day - which is awesome for a road trip, right?  I have zero pictures of FantasyLand, which goes to prove my assertion that this is the worst tour ever.

The West Edmonton Mall is more than stores - tho it has 220 of the money sucking retail establishments.  It also has a full size hockey rink.
 And a pirate ship.
And a whole mini-golf course.
And a Debbie (tho she is not for sale - sorry fellas, I got the last one).
We met up with some Scavenger friends to check out the mall.  They went skating.  True story.
The mall boasts a massive water park, and a large amusement park (with a few huge roller coasters).  I don't have pictures of those either, of course.

It does have an aquarium, including sea lions.
Bonus: this tour includes a close up of a sea lion:
The sea lion is also not for sale.

So we spent the entire day at the mall, doing retail, eating foodstuffs, and generally making a consumer nuisance of ourselves.  We absolutely did not put any time into creating an awesome tour.

To distract you from that, here is a Lambourghini (ooh, aah).
So there you have it.  The worlds worst tour of the West Edmonton Mall.  I hope you enjoyed it.

Today was obviously a down day on the grand tour we've been on.  It is important every once and a while to take a day just to relax and be in one place, even on an epic road trip.

Tomorrow we're on the road again, heading up into the Rocky Mountains to Canmore to start the main event of this roadshow: CRAM.

See ya then.