Monday, September 3, 2018

On Exhibit - Mount Fuji


Mount Fuji, also known as Fuji-san, is the highest mountain in Japan, and is an active stratovolcano. It is not too active, though; it last erupted in 1707.  

Click on the above image to see a close-up of it.

With broad slopes, Mount Fuji is an easy mountain to hike. The first recorded ascent was in 663 by an anonymous monk. Women were forbidden to hike it until the Meiji Era (late 1860s). Sir Rutherford Alcock was the first foreigner to hike it (1868). Lady Fanny Parkes, the wife of British ambassador Sir Harry Parkes, was the first non-Japanese woman up Mount Fuji (1869).

Today, Mount Fuji is only open to hikers from July to early September. Since it is relatively easy to hike, even for beginners, and it only takes about 6 hours to go up, Mount Fuji is usually packed with hikers. Despite the challenges of the sometimes harsh weather conditions at the top, the biggest challenge is often the hordes of other climbers! There is a saying “A wise person climbs Mount Fuji once in their life. A fool does it twice!” I wonder if the crowds of people had anything to do with the origin of that saying?

In the 1800’s, the forest at the north-west base of the mountain (Aokigahara) was one place that poor families abandoned their very young and their very old. Sadly, Aokigahara is now the world's second most popular suicide location, after San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge. It has an English nickname Suicide Forest, and is the site of around 30 suicides a year. While we were visiting Japan, a controversy broke out when a popular YouTube blogger posted a video showing the body of a suicide victim in Aokigahara.

Mount Fuji is a tall and lonely mountain, standing at 3,776 m (12,389 ft) with nothing else around it for about 10 km. With a very symmetrical cone that is usually snow-capped, Mount Fuji is a very pleasing sight. It is the embodiment of the perfect mountain! All this combines to make Mount Fuji a powerful inspiration, and writers and artists from around the world have used it as a subject throughout the ages. Mount Fuji is so dominant in art that, in 2013, UNESCO added it to the World Heritage List as a Cultural Heritage Site and not as a Natural Heritage Site. It is an icon so powerful, that its profile is instantly recognizable to people around the globe.

Like many artists, I have long had the Mount Fuji bug. When I visited Japan in late 2017, it was at the top of my “must see” list. To ensure we went to the best places for seeing Mount Fuji, and to better understand what we were looking at, we booked a guided tour instead of trying to plan an itinerary ourselves. My only worry for the visit was that the weather would occlude the peak, or even the entire mountain. Fortunately, on the day of our pilgrimage, the weather was clear and crisp. The sky was a deep blue, and there was only a small cloud at the top of the mountain itself.

I quickly learned why visual art of Mount Fuji depicts it from a distance, as I could find no attractive composition of the mountain from its base. It was only when we later got to the top of Mount Hakone, some 20 km away, that I was able to finally capture Mount Fuji in a composition that resonated with me.

Standing near the top of Mount Hakone, at an elevation of 1,300 m, I was still only around one-third the height of Mount Fuji! The angle of view from my vantage point, however, was just about perfect. I had an unimpeded view of the mountain and its peak, and I could include enough of its base for a foundation of a composition. The only problem was the bitterly cold, blustery wind. It was so cold and so strong, that my hands shook while holding my camera.

That same strong wind was blowing over the peak of Mount Fuji, which was high enough for condensation to appear as the wind moved over its slopes. This condensation formed an ever-changing cloud that seemed to dance in front of me.

With the tones of the sky and the mountain itself in such contrast to the ragged, windswept cloud that seemed to fly from the snowy peak like a flag, there was no question in my mind that the image had to be done in black and white.

This image is on display at the Artpoint Studio and Galleries in the Members Exhibit during the month of September.




Artpoint is located at:

1139 11 St SE,
Calgary, AB
T2G 3G1

A link to the Google Map location is here.

The print on display is about 86 cm wide (34"), so it shows all of the interesting detail of the cloud at the top and the slopes of the mountain. I made it on a traditional baryta photography paper, using a high-dynamic range, archival ink-set. The folks at 17th Avenue Framing did the matting and the framing using archival acid-free mats and museum grade, anti-reflective 99% UV ray protection glass.

I hope you are able to get to Artpoint sometime in September and have a look at the print. It has much more impact in person than it does on a computer screen.
In conjunction with this exhibit, I am offering a show special through my on-line store. Use the discount code Eyeconic2018

I have two other prints on display at this exhibit. You can read about these images here (the Round Tower) and here (Carbonear Island).

On Exhibit - Round Tower



The Rundetårn (Round Tower) is definitely a must‐see stop for anyone travelling to København (Copenhagen). The tower is part of the Trinitatis Complex. When it was built in the 1600's, it provided the scholars of the time with a university chapel, an academic library, and an observatory. Historians generally accept that Hans van Steenwinckel the Younger was charged by Christian 4 with a commission to design the new edifice, although he (Hans) did not live to see the tower completed.  Construction began on November 24, 1636. In 1642, the tower was completed. The church and library were completed in 1657. 

Click on the above image to see a close-up of it.

Instead of putting in stairs, the architect designed a spiral ramp to form the only access way to the tower-top observatory. The ramp is 210 m long and climbs 3.74 m per turn. Along the outer wall, the corridor has a length of 257.5 m and a grade of 10%. Along the wall of the inner core, the corridor is only 85.5 m long but has a grade of 33%. The ramp turns 7.5 times around a hollow masonry core. On the way up, you pass doors leading to the Library Hall as well as the Ringer's Loft above the church. This design allows a horse and carriage to reach the library, making it easy for scholars of the 17th century to move books in and out of the library, as well as to transport heavy instruments up to the observatory.

Not only does the hollow core provide the load bearing structure for the tower, but it also solved one of the problems perplexing the designers of the day: how to provide toilet facilities. These facilities, used by the researchers and astronomers working in the tower, consisted of a seat almost at the top of the tower, and a shaft leading down through the tower's hollow core to the very bottom floor. This shaft has no way of emptying, nor is there any ventilation to the outside! It is one giant septic tank!

Another item of note is the Rundetårn Unicycle Race. Held every spring, contestants go up and then down the ramp on a unicycle. The world record, set in 1988, is 1 minute and 48.7 seconds.

Not surprisingly, the Round Tower plays an important part in Danish cultural references:

  • In Hans Christian Andersen's fairy tale The Tinder Box, the largest of the three dogs is said to have eyes as large as the Round Tower at Copenhagen.
  • In another Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale, The Elder-Tree Mother, an old married couple remembers how they went "up the Round Tower, and looked down on Copenhagen, and far, far away over the water; then we went to Friedericksberg, where the King and the Queen were sailing about in their splendid barges!"
  • The asteroid 5505 Rundetårn commemorates the tower.
  • In Denmark, heights of buildings are often compared to the height of the Rundetårn.
  • A phrase in Danish is "Which is highest, the Rundetårn or a crash of thunder?" (loud and high are the same word in Danish). It is often used in a discussion when someone tries to compare incomparable quantities. In English we would use the phrase "comparing apples and oranges."

When I toured the Round Tower, I was struck by the tonal qualities of the light on the inside. Light from the windows on the outer wall make for wonderful shades of grey on the white walls inside, with the ramp providing a stern, dark base.

I tried to figure out how to capture this during my walk up the ramp, but didn't come up with an answer. It wasn't until my descent that I figured out that I needed an extreme wide-angle composition.

Finding a suitable location wasn't easy. I needed a mix of light and dark, in a geometry that was pleasing to the eye. I needed windows on the left and the right, but not behind me, for they would make for an evenly lit interior with no shadows to create the moodiness I wanted. I found only one such place, which is the location in the photograph.

With a composition set, I then needed to wait for all the visitors walking up and down the ramp to be out of the frame. I waited nearly an hour to make this capture, and even then I had scant seconds before the next party entered the frame on their way up. In fact, the party leaving the frame cast a shadow back into this photo, in what I call The Ghost of the Round Tower! Can you see it?

This image is on display at the Artpoint Studio and Galleries in the Members Exhibit during the month of September.



Artpoint is located at:

1139 11 St SE,
Calgary, AB
T2G 3G1

A link to the Google Map location is here.

The print on display is about 100 cm wide (40"), so it shows all of the interesting detail in the image. I made the print using archival, high dynamic range pigment inks on a 100% cotton rag fine art paper that is acid, lignin, and chlorine free. It is also pH buffered with calcium carbonate for a true archival sheet. I love this paper for its extremely high colour gamut and deep black density. The folks at 17th Avenue Framing did the matting and the framing using archival acid-free mats and museum grade, anti-reflective 99% UV ray protection glass.

I hope you are able to get to Artpoint sometime in September and have a look at the print. It has much more impact in person than it does on a computer screen.

In conjunction with this exhibit, I am offering a show special through my on-line store. Use the discount code Eyeconic2018

I have two other prints on display at this exhibit. You can read about these images here (Carbonear Island) and here (Mount Fuji).

On Exhibit - Carbonear Island


Like a cork in a wine bottle, Carbonear Island sits protectively at the mouth of the harbour of Carbonear, Newfoundland. Ever since Carbonear was first settled by Europeans in the early 1600s, Carbonear Island has played a significant role in the defence of the settlement. It was a safe haven the settlers could flee to whenever there was a threat. Its steep cliffs prevented attack on all sides, except for the south where there is a small beach. By building even limited fortifications on the island, the settlers could defend themselves from the likes of Pierre Le Moyne d'Iberville (1696) and Daniel d'Auger de Subercase (1705), who tried in vain to invade this small island. The island was a refuge even as late as the 19th century, when residents fled American privateers. Today, the island is recognized by the Government of Canada as a site of a national historic event (the English defence against the French, mentioned above) and is a source of many historical artifacts. 

Click on the above image to see a close-up of it.

 Carbonear Island is iconic for anyone who has lived in Carbonear. Of course everyone knows its importance in the history of the town, but I think it is so iconic because, sitting as it does at the mouth of the harbour, it is always visible from everywhere in the town. The coat of arms of my high school, James Moore, had a silhouette of Carbonear Island at the top. When I think of Carbonear, I see an image of Carbonear Island in my mind. As I no longer live in Carbonear, I have tried several times to capture the essence of the island to bring with me in the form of a photograph, but that essence always eluded me, until I took this image.

The photograph was taken on a mauzy day in May in the spring of 2014. The spring ice was just coming down from Labrador, and bits and pieces of icebergs were floating about in the bay. It was raining, cold, and very windy. Ignoring the weather, I walked out to Burnt Head, firmly anchored my tripod into some crevices in the rock to secure it against the bitter gale, and made this capture. 

This image is on display at the Artpoint Studio and Galleries in the Members Exhibit during the month of September.



Artpoint is located at:

1139 11 St SE,
Calgary, AB
T2G 3G1

A link to the Google Map location is here.

The print on display is about 100 cm wide (40"), so it shows all of the interesting detail of the Island. Using archival, high dynamic range pigment inks, I handmade this print using a split-tone process on a 100% cotton rag fine art paper that is acid, lignin, and chlorine free. It is also pH buffered with calcium carbonate for a true archival sheet. I love this paper for its extremely high colour gamut and deep black density. The folks at 17th Avenue Framing did the matting and the framing using archival acid-free mats and museum grade, anti-reflective 99% UV ray protection glass.

I hope you are able to get to Artpoint sometime in September and have a look at the print. It has much more impact in person than it does on a computer screen.

In conjunction with this exhibit, I am offering a show special through my on-line store. Use the discount code Eyeconic2018

I have two other prints on display at this exhibit. You can read about these images here (the Round Tower) and here (Mount Fuji).

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Cape Spear

At 52° 37’ 10” W, Cape Spear is the most easterly point in North America, excluding Greenland. It is where the day’s first light arrives on this continent.

The Portuguese called the area Cabo da Esperança, which means "Cape of Hope". The French translated the name literally to Cap d'Espoir. The English didn’t bother to translate the name and just used an Anglicised version Cape Spear.

The second lighthouse ever built in Newfoundland was constructed here at Cape Spear. Finished in 1836, the “old light” is still there today, although it is not in use. It was replaced as an operational lighthouse in 1955, and the “new light” is still operating, just down the hill from the old light.



In 1983, the Newfoundland Government commissioned visual artist David Blackwood to do a piece for Prince Charles and Princess Diana. Blackwood used the old light at Cape Spear as his subject, and I loved his treatment of it so much that I was inspired to explore Cape Spear myself many times while living in Newfoundland, and something I continue to do on every visit home.

Sunrise is a magical time for me, as both a morning person and a photographer. The first light brings the promise of the day, like a blank sheet of paper waiting to be written on. I feel like anything is possible at that hour. First light at Cape Spear means the day is breaking for the entire continent and I wonder what remarkable achievements the day will bring from all the people “behind” me. The Lights change their moods rapidly with the ever-changing dawn light.



Sunset does not have the same impact at Cape Spear, as the land faces east and not west, but nighttime can be magical if the sky is clear. Comets, meteors, stars, and satellites can all be seen with the unaided eye, and add a dimension to a photograph that is not possible to achieve during the day.



I have visited Cape Spear many times over the years and have created a collection of images from these visits. The images mark the range of the differences in the light that can paint the area, and I hope they inspire you to one day visit Cape Spear.


My images are available for purchase from my online store.

On Exhibit - Mount Fuji

Mount Fuji, also known as Fuji-san, is the highest mountain in Japan, and is an active stratovolcano. It is not too active, though; it la...