Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Chignecto Game Sanctuary renamed to Kelley River Wilderness Area

In a 1934 Nova Scotia Department of Lands and Forests annual report, the government of the day suggested that "Game sanctuaries are places where game of all kinds live their lives as nature intended, undisturbed except by their natural enemies. They serve the purpose of preserving at all times a nucleus of breeding stock, thus preventing the extermination of any species."

Whether that included all wildlife is somewhat suspect, yet the record shows that Chignecto Game Sanctuary was established in 1937, primarily for the benefit of the province's largest indigenous ungulate - the mainland moose.

When the legislators of the day drafted the Sanctuaries Act to protect the wildlife within sanctuary boundaries, it would be quite safe to assume that 'chain saw' had yet to enter the forest industry vocabulary. It would certainly stand to common wisdom that a harvester cable of flattening acre after acre per day would be something. well, of Star Wars proportion. This was, after all, still the day of double-bitted axe and pulp saws, no consideration was given to protecting wildlife habitat.

Since that time the mainland moose population has declined, and especially so since 1980 to the point where its very survival is now threatened. Is it just coincidental that this is the same time period that chain saw silva-culture work in Chignecto gave way to million dollar harvesters and clear cut operations?

Somehow, between then and now, we have permitted Chignecto Game Sanctuary to become less of a wildlife refuge and more of a forest management area. It would appear the bureaucratic psychology of the Department of Natural Resources has drifted from allowing "game of all kinds (to) live their lives as nature intended" to a measuring a sanctuaries worth in board feet and metric tonnes.

 In 2005, the government of the day proposed to de-list all game sanctuaries in Nova Scotia and as a consequence open them to any and all industrial activity. A public engagement process was initiated, and the governments plan seemed to backfire. Following that review, and according to a February 2006 Department of Natural Resources press release "Nova Scotians want more wildlife management areas and improved habitat protection in the currently designated areas."

In 2007 I wrote the following entry in my field journal while waiting for my canoeing partner who was off exploring an incredible pine stand bordering the River Hebert River:

This was my classroom, a wide-open classroom without walls and standards, where I could learn the difference between a white and red pine, how to identify a hemlock, a sugar maple, a merganser and bobcat. 

Chignecto truly is more than a sanctuary for flora and fauna; it is also a sanctuary for people. It is a special place, a place where no legislation or words can do justice. 

This is a place where the chorus of cool summer breezes whistling through the mature pine and hemlock sing a song of life. It has to be felt, experienced and breathed in.

It is a place where man can learn that he is no greater than any other creature or tree that surrounds him.

What a travesty should the life known as Chignecto be snubbed out by not protecting her lifeblood: the air, the land and the water that courses through her veins.

Today, 06 June, 2012, I was delighted to share a room with many kindred spirits to listen to government representatives announce the protection of not only “the Sanctuary” –now called Kelley River Wilderness Area—but also a large neighbouring parcel on the Bay of Fundy coastline to be called Raven Head Wilderness area.

This Wilderness Area designation and protection of 64,793 acres will ensure the words of those visionaries of 1937 finally comes true: Perhaps now the natural elements of this incredible place will remain undisturbed, just as nature intended.

Here I am joined by my friend and long time naturalist and advocate, Harry Thurston, 
at the announcement in Amherst, Nova Scotia. 

Saturday, March 3, 2012

A Wheelie Great Case


It’s one wheelie great camera case.

Ok, so I watched too much Bugs Bunny when I was a kid.

As reported in a blog entry several months ago, I had acquired the newly released Tamrac Big Wheels Speedroller. Since that time this kit has been rolled around town and eastern Canada on assignment and I now feel comfortable reporting on its pros and cons.

As any commercial photographer knows, we are in an imaging business. Not only is this imaging restricted to our deliverables, but also how we deliver ourselves and staff to the client. This case has become an integral part of my location work not only because of its practical functionality but also because of its business-like looks.

What do I like about it?

The wheels, the wheels, the wheels. This case has oversized ball bearing wheels that allow it to be rolled along behind me as smooth, if not smoother, than any case or piece of luggage I have ever owned. It is smooth and easily navigates the many cracks and potholes along Halifax streets with ease.

The telescoping handle is rugged and dependable, and when extended provides a beautiful balance to offset the weight of the case when fully loaded with equipment. The combination of perfect handle length, and big wheels, means this case feels like mere ounces when “in tow.”

There are many other features on the exterior of the case which I find appealing: a small corporate logo that doesn’t scream “camera’s – steal me,” tough fabric and reliable zippers, and a really cool and practical tripod attachment system.

On the inside the case has ample capacity for a couple of DSLR’s, four lenses (my bigger zoom, the 100-400mm, has to lay flat and that takes up some real estate) a couple of flash guns and various other accessories including a 15-inch laptop. Basically, in a nutshell, by adjusting the foam padded adjustable dividers it is possible to carry sufficient equipment to accommodate any shoot that doesn’t require a full lighting set-up with grips.

Sweet!!! I can now haul everything along behind me with ease, including a small tripod, and still have one hand free to navigate doors and elevators. Those who have been there will know what I am referring to – few things raise my blood pressure more than trying to manoeuvre two cases and a tripod into an elevator at 9:00 o’clock in the morning. Now I just look like any other office worker and can stare at the “up” arrow with the rest of them.

Are there issues with this case that concern me? Yes.

As much as I like the wheels they are also a concern if flying to an assignment. The inscription on the product card raises the concern: “Carry-on compatible... This case complies with the carry on restrictions (22”W x 14”D x 9”H) of most current USA airlines (with laptop removed).” It should be noted that these dimensions measure the actual hard shell case and does not include the protruding wheels. In addition, it should also be noted that US carry-on sizes are slightly larger than Canadian carry-on sizes.

While I have carried this case onboard without being challenged by the luggage police, photographers should be aware that the wheels make the case larger than Canadian carry-on allowances. Because of its briefcase looks, you probably won’t be challenged, but, be prepared to check this luggage if the heavy hand of a diligent luggage cop comes down upon you.

Beyond the concerns of aircraft carry-on compatibility, the Tamrac Speedroller has become the case of choice when my work takes me to commercial assignments around town.

It really is a great case.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

The Travelling Road Show

Anyone who flies on a fairly regular basis knows how frustrating it can be with the downsizing of both physical size and number of pieces that can be checked. As well, there are also differences in these restrictions from one carrier to the next.

And, don’t even get me started about the variances in security from one airport to the next. Let’s just say that I have learned to accept the fact that I will be randomly selected for a body pat down or x-ray. At least I have a choice and this always amuses my travelling companions as I tell them well in advance.

I digress.

It is a given when I fly to a job my luggage will be overweight, oversize and excess pieces. This adds up to a serious amount of money. What these increases in restrictions has forced commercial photographers to do, however, is to be extremely vigilant in the size and weight of their equipment cases.

I just returned from a job and all my road cases were piled on the dolly in my studio. Seemed like a good time to take a photo of some cases that have been with me for upwards of 20 years (the blue custom case), but will soon become storage cases as I streamline my kit and replace my cases to better suit air carriers.

So what are in these beasts?

Case 1: This is affectionately called the Tickle Trunk (Even though an Air Canada employee with a great sense of humour once asked me if it was my mother-in-law inside. No, said I, but pointed to the gentleman beside me and said Father-in-law ... Pop was travelling with me on that job to northern Manitoba. All three of us had a great laugh, and I hope my Mother-in-law never heard!) This case is, however, my grips case. It is loaded with stands, tripods, cables, magic arms and everything else from light gels, to black velvet fabric to clothes pins. If it is not in this case, I don’t need it.

Case 2: This case is the entire back-up camera system ranging from spare bodies, lenses not usually used and redundant lenses.

Case 3: This case carries my strobe heads. I use Paul C. Buff White Lightening mono blocs. I prefer the mono bloc for the style of work I do. I don’t have to worry about power packs and cables, the mono bloc just plugs into any regular household outlet, and they have a fabulous slave system.

Case 4: Back-up portable lighting which consists of Canon 580 EXII flashes, back-up light meter and Pocket Wizard remotes for camera and flashes.

Case 5: This case doesn’t fly with me but usually goes with the Wilson travelling road show. When I can drive I take along my Honda generator. It is unbelievable how many times I have got on location to do scouting to discover there is no power. More times than not it became difficult trying to get power on the set, so I simply bought this generator.

Case 6: This is the newest addition to the arsenal and I really look forward to hitting the airports with this puppy. It is a brand new release from Tamrac and is carry-on compatible. It is the Tamrac Big Wheels SpeedRoller, Model 5591. There is a bigger version, model 5592, but I stayed away from it as it's slightly larger (36 x 23 x 56) than Canadian airlines carry-on allowance of 23 cm x 40 cm x 55 cm. I am hoping someone from Gentec, the new Canadian distributor for Tamrac products, can take one of the larger cases to an airport and see if it will physically fit in the “test rack.” I wasn't prepared to accept the risk of one cm over and having to fight with the luggage police! I have already transferred all my ready-use gear from a back pack to this roller case and can see where it is going to be a nice improvement as I begin to upgrade my road cases. I know this case won’t be the best for all worlds, and will never replace a backpack when trekking is involved, but I highly suspect it is going to be the perfect ticket when I am on location doing industrial or commercial work. I’ll report later how I actually like its functionality.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

78th Highland Regiment granted Freedom of the City

His Worship, Mayor Peter Kelly inspects the Regiment

What a great weekend to be a military history buff in one of Canada’s oldest incorporated cities – Halifax.

The current Highland Regiment garrisoned at the Halifax Citadel National Historic Site is the 78th Highland Regiment, primarily consisting of civilian students on summer employment programs. The original 78th arrived in Halifax in 1869 and remained stationed here for just two short years. In 1871 the 78th were transferred to Ireland, but not before given a true send-off by the now famous brewmaster, Alexander Keith (Keith’s beer).

Traditional music on Canada’s east coast dates back to its very beginnings in Scotland. In fact, Nova Scotia is the Latin translation for New Scotland. The swirl of bagpipes and the beating of drums is nearly as old as the City itself.

This past Friday, Aug 19th, the 78th Highland Regiment marched from their garrison at the Citadel through the streets of Halifax to receive the “Freedom of the City” proclamation from His Worship, Mayor Peter Kelly. On Saturday evening the Citadel came alive with military precision as the 78th and the Royal Canadian Navy’s Stadacona band performed music and military drills in what is known as the “Sunset Ceremony.”

Gunpowder, dust and fire add to the pageantry and drama

There is a long and storied history with military traditions that comprise the Sunset Ceremony. Suffice to say it was at one time a necessary part of garrison life and a means of communicating in battle. Today the ceremony is one of pageantry and nostalgia.

With bagpipes swirling, kilts flailing, drums beating, canons and muskets roaring it is an evening of entertainment that will leave you a little prouder of our heritage. Due to mobility restrictions it is a tough event to photograph, but a few snapshots are always available for the making.

Considering the event is about theatre, shouldn't photographers allow the movement to show?

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Georgian Bay Re-visited

I spent the first part of my working life in Canada’s armed forces. My first trip on Her Majesty’s Canadian Ship was west along the St. Lawrence River, through the Welland Canal, up the Detroit River and eventually into Lake Huron and a final destination of Midland, Ontario.

It is now 28 countries, and quite a few years later, and I am back in Midland and the eastern Georgian Bay again. This time it is all fun, however.

In my last few entries I have been giving my friend and guide on this trip, Ethan Meleg, a hard time. Let’s just say it was an adventure in more ways than one, and in five years from now these yarns will be so embellished they will be the stuff of legend.

In addition to having a good sense of humour, Ethan knows this corner of Ontario better than any photographer I know. Should he offer a workshop here, get yourself booked ... I doubt you will find another photographer better qualified.

So rather than pick on Ethan any further, I will just say thanks for a couple of great days shooting along the shores and islands of the Georgian Bay. I have no doubt the following images would not have been possible without Ethan leading the way.

Monday, July 18, 2011


I have written this entry several times in an effort to save my integrity but came to the conclusion it just wasn't possible.

I have seen many photographers go to great lengths to get an image. Some create get laughs, others great horror, and yet others are just downright scary.

While my friend Ethan Meleg was capturing that really impressive image, 2nd from last, reported on his blog entry 25 June, he didn't give you the entire picture ... figuratively speaking.

I had the worst view in the house, and it was a really, really small island so I had nowhere to run and hide. So I will let you draw your own conclusions, but Ethan Meleg walking around hot rocks in wet boxers just kinda put me off my feed, if you know what I mean.

Now that I have picked on Ethan sufficiently over these last two entries, I will show in the next post a handful of my favourite images from our trip that will show he is a pretty decent guide in addition to being a damned fine photographer ... even if he has no shame!

Sorry ladies but I didn't have my zoom lens on for this sequence ... and I'm glad I didn't!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

With Due Respect to Group of Seven

Many photographers will suggest the adventure behind the shot is the ... well, the adventure and the final image is the prize.

Nothing could be closer to the truth than a recent excursion with my friend and fellow photographer Ethan Meleg experienced when we embarked on a cruise to the thousands of islands that dot the eastern shoreline of Georgian Bay on Ontario's Lake Huron.

Ethan has a boat, I spent a good part of my life in the Navy, so we seemed a natural crew to complement the good ship Viewfinder. It would seem, however, that 15 years of cruising salt water from below the equator to north of the arctic circle on a 365-foot ship with seasoned crew of 250 professional sailors is a different matter than steaming freshwater inlets with a skipper who has difficulty knowing that the sun rises in the east and sets in the west!

The first indication of the adventures this trip would bring was the fact that we were steaming into the sun at four o'clock in the PM, yet the compass was showing East! Ye gaddes, what is this about? Mmm, well, Ethan took my advice and loosened two bolts that was holding the compass in place, re-configured the placement of the compass by rotating it 180 degrees and alas... we were on the right course!

To watch Ethan navigate with a marine chart is akin to watching Gumby and Pokey go to a Saturday night dance with bellies full of gin and 60's rock and roll as the tunes. He gives a whole new definition to “Ships Centre” and north being the top of the chart only applies when...well, you are steering north.

I won't even mention the fact that the plug came out and we were taking on water faster than a leaky basket or the fact that a brand new electronic plotter couldn't be employed because the charts weren't loaded. Or....

The fact of the matter is Ethan's recounting of events will probably be much different than mine. I highly suspect, given Ethan's prowess (or lack thereof) of navigation skills, his recollection will probably be 180 degrees opposite to mine.

The one topic we will surely agree upon is the prize: In this case a fabulous fun filled three days of incredible photo opportunities exploring the eastern Georgian Bay that was made even better by sharing laughs and libation around a campfire on the inspirational home of the Group of Seven.

Thanks, Ethan, for introducing me to this incredible sampling of iconic Canadian Shield. Several additions to my “Sticks and Stones” portfolio are indeed the prize; the adventure -that will surely be embellished over time- will be the memory.