Well well, time flies when you’re busy. I’ve been shooting lots of weddings all summer, been on a few trips, and started work on some new projects. I’ll start with the first trip, which was a bicycle tour of the Cabot Trail, in Cape Breton, NS, with my girlfriend Taylor. It was an amazing time, with of course some highs and lows, both literally and figuratively, as our bodies and minds adjusted to the rigours of long days in the saddle up and over mountains. On the cycling side of things, Taylor did incredibly well on her first cycletour, despite tough headwinds and enormous climbs that rivalled any major climbs I’ve done in my past trips. It was also our first bicycle tour together, and a friend we made on the trail perfectly summarized how it went after seeing us hug as we took in the view on the Skyline Trail: “They’re on a bike tour and they’re still hugging? That’s pretty good!”. Here’s a slideshow of our trip, with captions to tell the story (hover over the image to see captions).
On our first day, this was Taylor's first major climb ever! On a major highway with lots of trucks, it wasn't the most pleasant introduction.
Looking over Boularderie Island
A well deserved break mid-climb.
First Camp Site
The chaos of dinner, on the menu KD!
The Alexander Graham Bell Museum
Our second day was nice and hot and sunny, and we made it through Baddeck where Alexander Graham Bell lived and worked for much of his life. We were also happy to find that our National Park Family Pass also works for National Historic Sites!
Booze Tour Stop #1: Big Spruce Brewery
We made an addition to the Cabot trail, in the form of several boozy stops starting with the Big Spruce Brewery. Great beer, friendly people, both welcome on a hot day of riding.
Rail trail near Mabou
We accidentally discovered a lovely piece of rail trail near Mabou. Mabou is most famous for the Red Shoe Tavern, owned by the well known Rankin Family.
Booze Stop #2: Glenora Distillery
The second stop on our Cabot Trail detour was the Glenora Distillery, an incredibly lovely spot. It looks idyllic here, but it was actually freezing and windy!
But actually huddling for warmth.
This is how you make whisky. The Glenora Distillery is the only single malt whisky maker in North America. It was quite nice, we got a sample on our tour.
Day 4, and after a ridiculous day of headwinds and cold weather we were completely exhausted. That day was one of the low points. We splurged on our first seafood and lobster meal of the trip, at the first restaurant we found. It was the most touristy one, but we didn't care at that point.
Cheticamp is one of the remaining Acadian outposts in Nova Scotia, and is decidedly french-speaking, which was kind of a nice surprise. I had no idea about it before arriving.
Traps for Sale #5
We saw signs for old wooden lobster traps for sale all along the cabot trail. I'm not sure these were, but they were still nicely arranged with the lines of the house and deck.
Fishing boats at rest
This was the harbour of Cheticamp, still an active fishing port. We forced ourselves to go for a walk in the sunshine, even though we were exhausted.
Onto French Mountain
This is the road leading to the bottom of French Mountain, the first large climb of the Cabot Trail in the clockwise direction. It was a beautiful day, and we'd thankfully recovered well from our previous day's fatigue. We were so lucky to have such nice weather and few cars on the road.
On the skyline
We made it to the top of French Mountain, and hiked to the lookout at the end of the Skyline Trail, one of the most iconic spots of the Cabot Trail. This is where we met the friend who commented on our hug.
This is the view from the famous Skyline Trail.
Fishing Cove River Valley
Descending from French Mountain and along the Boar's Back to MacKenzie Mountain, this view showed up, with Fishing Cove River valley on one side (seen here) and MacKenzie River valley on the other. There wasn't a car to be seen, so we had the open road to ourselves. The sun was shining and we even saw a moose. What a day!
Margo and Mike with Friends
We met Margo and her friend from London, ON, at the top of the skyline trail, and they were nice enough to invite us home for lobster dinner...along with a beautiful feast, good company, and a nice spot to pitch our tent in the backyard. Such amazing people!
On our way to Cape North, we crossed North and South Harbours.
Plastic Bag Feet
Anticipating two days of rain, we rented a cabin for two night in Cape North, planning to go for a day trip on the middle day. It was indeed raining, and we tried to waterproof our feet with plastic bags inside our shoes. Though marginally successful, our feet still got wet (and smelly). Our shoes in particular took days to dry.
Bay St. Lawrence Feast
Our day trip took us to Bay St. Lawrence, and their community centre. While using the bathroom in the local grocery store, we read on a billboard that a Father's Day Lobster Dinner Special for 15 dollars was happening there, and ending in 5 minutes! We rushed over, and received the most hospitable greeting. 15 bucks got you a 2-lb or so lobster or snow crab, with two scoops of mashed potato, salad, tea or coffee, and strawberry shortcake. An additional lobster or crab was only 5 bucks. Current self regrets past self's decision to pass on the extra crab!
Warm Tea and Dessert
The end of the feast.
Cold Sea Gulls
After our feast we visited the small fishing village of Bay St. Lawrence, which was very charming, even though I was utterly chilled from being wet and the blustery wind.
It was very cold in our cabin, which was unheated, making it difficult to get out of a cozy sleeping bag in the morning. This particular morning we were so cold that before we could get the energy to head off for the day, we huddled together fully clothed in our sleeping bags to warm up.
This was our cabin, with our fully loaded bikes in front of it.
I found these cute flowers behind our cabin.
Neils Harbour Fishermen
I love this shot of Neils Harbour, taken after enjoying seafood chowder and chips at the aptly named Chowder House. I like the moodiness and detail of the image.
One Night of Luxury
After riding down the coast from Cape North, after 3 days of rain and cold, we nearly skipped the turn off to the Middle Head hike in favour of finding our next campsite. Lucky we did: the hike itself was beautiful, we saw gannets, a seal, and met some nice hikers, but most importantly, we discovered that a night at the Keltic Lodge, a beautifully located resort, was only 130 per night, with full buffet breakfast included. We debated the whole hike whether we should stay or not, discussing whether the expense was worth it - in the end we did. The deal was even sweeter when we were told that the regular high season rate was 300/night. We slept so well on the super comfy beds.
Our part of the hotel
The Keltic Lodge has several buildings, the old and new parts. This is the new part, where we stayed. Great views and very comfortable rooms. We would highly recommend, particularly if you're there in the shoulder or off-season.
View from Mount Smokey
The day after the Keltic Lodge, we climbed up Smokey Mountain. It was a beautiful sunny day, and the views were breathtaking. Riding the trail In the clockwise direction, Smokey Mountain is a gentle slope, which you can enjoy at your own pace with not too much effort. The other way the ascent is a brutally steep set of switchbacks, which I was happy not to be riding up.
We saw this in the Cape Smokey Provincial Park, where the previous view was taken.
Another shot from Smokey Mountain
Last Day Flip Pizza
Riding back in to North Sydney, we were making really good time so we didn't stop for food for a bit too long. By the time we reached town we were starving, and Taylor saw a small house-like restaurant called Jane's. There were people dining in the windows and lots of parked cars, so we thought why not. For 14 bucks we got not only a personal sized pizza, about 8", but also this gigantic flip pizza. I joked with a nearby patron about its size, and proceeded to gobble up the whole thing. Later, riding the last 20 km or so, a pickup truck pulled over ahead of us, rolled down its window, and the driver waved us over. It was the nearby patron from before and his wife, who offered us a ride the rest of the way home, not so much because of the headwind, the rain, or the hills, but more because he couldn't imagine I was still riding with all that pizza inside me!
We had one day left before flying back to Toronto, so we made our way to visit the Fortress of Louisbourg for the day (thanks for the car Linda and Peter!). It is a well-reconstructed french fortress from the 18th century. It was a beautiful visit, and I can imagine that in the high season it would be even better, with warmer temperatures and many more period-dressed park guides/actors making it feel real. You would think the dressed up actors might be cheezy, but it is so well done that it was very enjoyable. It was great to get a bit of the local history in addition to our outdoors adventure, and I'm glad we were able to make the detour.
Living in Toronto makes it hard to get out to the places I love (primarily mountains), so I decided to try and explore the urban landscape. It turns out that I enjoy urban photography, and it’s got me exploring new techniques, compositions, and designing, building, and trying new equipment. Specifically, I’ve learned a lot about light trails, High Dynamic Range (HDR), and panoramics, including multilayer ones. Not only am I documenting the city with interesting photos, but I’m also exercising the technical half of my brain, which I enjoy quite a lot as well. Learning how to properly create a multi-layer panoramic HDR image is not so simple as point and shoot! For several years now, since I left the engineering world, I’ve been subconsciously avoiding technical things, which I think was an attempt to disconnect from my past work – I’m a photographer now, it should be all about ‘art’, right? However I’ve come to realize that I actually like working on technical projects when they relate to photography, and it may be that to do so will result in interesting (and some day, unique) photographs. From learning about HDR and using the software for it, no-parallax points of lenses, making my own panoramic tripod head, new panoramic stitching software, to making what I’m calling a ‘dark’ box (for shooting through windows – as opposed to softbox or lightboxes), I have so far enjoyed this project, and I think it may stay as a pastime for a long time. I’m working on a series of HDR multi-layer panoramic images which I hope to display somewhere sometime. So, here’s a short slideshow of some of the photos I’ve taken so far for this project.
This past spring I had the option to bid on a project for corporate headshots (the job never went through), but I realized in the process that my portfolio is lacking in this type of photo. So to fix that, I emailed some friends asking if anyone wanted free portraits, and of course got a pretty enthusiastic response. I’ve still got more portraits to take in the corporate portrait style before I feel it’s complete, but I’ve also realized that I’d like to work on more interesting portraits of people, trying to capture their personality in a less formal setting. If you’d like to have a portrait, please get in touch. Here are some of the portraits I’ve taken so far.
Lastly, I’ve also been on a couple of adventurous fall trips, and thought I’d share some of the photos from those. First I went on a 3-day kayaking trip, and then on a 3 day trad climbing trip.
The wedding season is winding down, so I’ll have more time to take photos, work on my equipment, and hopefully blog. Of course, you can see more frequent tidbits on my instagram, twitter, or Facebook page.