Canada Travel Diary: Day 4 – 03/04/15

“Don’t worry, there isn’t any grizzlies in these parts”. That’s what Bob said, just before letting me loose to photograph the wild horses that live on the rescue site.

I arrived not long ago when Bob, the president of the society ‘Wild Horses of Alberta Society’, and his partner Fran picked me up from the B&B. They arrived slightly early so I rushed to cram the remainder of my belongings away and run down the stairs with my luggage to meet them. In my rush, I almost slipped up on the wooden flooring.

I would miss the homeliness of the B&B and the city, but I am moving to a new place where the work and the real fun starts.

“Bye Louise, it was nice having you” Arlene the B&B owner hollered down the stairs.

“BYE! Thanks again” I yelled back before letting the door swing shut and walking towards the big red car that awaits.

I haul my luggage into the boot; Bob extended his hand as a greeting and so does Fran.

“Well hop in, ” Bob said. I clambered up into the big car; it was quite a way up for a short person.

We chatted for part of the journey to Sundre, talking about R.Vs, the Canadian domestic life and about the horses of course. I chatted with ease, which surprised me as I’m normally quite shy and don’t say more than ‘Hmm’.

So that how I ended up at the facility to meet the volunteers, the rescued wild horse, and the wild onsite band, much to my pleasant surprise.

This was where I was when Bob said about the bears. If I’m honest, the fact a bear could eat me didn’t cross my mind until he said that. I was actually worried more about the stallion charging at me!

Two types of bears actually reside in Canada. The grizzly bear and the smaller black bear  are both species that are omnivores, which means they eat anything from berries to salmon.

In fact, what are the odds of me being killed by a bear?

Incredibly low in fact, I remember reading in Stephen Herrero’s book Bear Attacks that attacks are events and in North America there are approximately six hundred thousand black bears and sixty thousand grizzlies. Anyway, statistics say in the 2000’s in North America including Canada, U.S, and Mexico the Black Bear killed 15 people and the Grizzly killed 12 in the same period. Not that many when you think about it. In other words, less than 3 people are killed each year in North America.

So there I am. Walking towards the back of the rescue site towards the area where the wild horses are lingering. There are so many trees in the woods, mainly birch. I stand in a clearing, silence. I look up at the tall trees, they’re huge. I walk on the pine cushioned floor littered with dirt and leaves. You would have thought there’d be a fresh, nature smell in the area, but I smell….nothing. I’ve never smelt nothing before. The air is fresh and crisp. The sun filters through the trees creating a dazzling light.

I spot the stallion first. The stallion they call ‘Portero’ which means gatekeeper in Spanish. He is magnificent with this great presence and this beautiful long wavy mane covering his dark eyes. The sun shining over his coat, his muscles rippling. His mares stand behind dozing peacefully and heavily pregnant.

The horses, this place, the silence, is magnificent. I can’t believe I saw the wild horses on my first day and managed to get some stunning photographs.

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Wild stallion known as Socks. My first sighting

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‘Portero’

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Canada Travel Diary: Day 3 – 02/04/15

It’s been a hell of a long day, I’m exhausted and it’s only 2 pm. The weather was on my side once again thankfully and this morning was spent at Calgary Zoo.

I suppose one of the upsides to not having a car is walking to the places and being able to stop easily along the way. The walk to the zoo was great once I got away from the main road as it led me along the river.  The river water amazes me; it’s a dazzling aqua blue and crystal clear. It’s magnificent.

One of the benefits I’ve found by travelling solo is I can do what I want and when I want. I can leave the house whenever I want and not have to wait for other people to get ready. Plus, whilst at the zoo, I found I can move around the enclosures in my own time, as I like to read the signs and spend time watching the animals, as usually others don’t like to read and tend to move on as soon as they have caught a glimpse of the animal.

Now that I’d spent the majority of the morning at the zoo and I must say my favourite part was the Canadian Wilds section which is great as they have information on the various habitats, what lives there, and a display of the animals found in the various regions. It really led you on a journey and it was great to see the Canadian Wildlife (even if it was in enclosures).

I did also fall for the photogenic Gorilla in the African section as he/she really posed for the camera, much to the delight of a school class watching. It’s amazing how alike humans they are though one did eat off the floor!

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Photogenic Gorilla

Some brave House Sparrows approached me at lunch and tried to steal parts of my food. Much to their dismay, they were unsuccessful, until I emptied my crumbs.

***

I set out on the one of the bikes from the shed at the B&B and followed the Elbow River Pathway, hoping to make it to Weaselhead Natural Area, an hour’s bike ride away apparently.

This bike felt strange; when turning it moved too quick and felt kind of loose, but it was the only one in the shed my size. At least, the seat was comfy! I’ll go slowly I thought to myself, that way if I fall, it won’t be too bad.

This is so relaxing by the river apart from going up those dreaded hills.  I got distracted by woodpeckers, squirrels and rabbits along the route. I’d been going for quite awhile and had to take many detours away from the river due to erosion and work on the riverbank.

Passing big rich houses like the ones you see in the movies, I drooled, they are lush. I really want to take a peek inside one.

Uh oh….the path ahead is closed and it’s pointing up a very big twisty hill. I am not biking up that. I managed to get a quarter of the way before hopping off and walking to the top. Taking a seat to catch my breath, I look at the view. Wow. Directly below is the blue river, twisting and turning. Behind that, an array of posh houses and mansions, with tall dark conifers and brown land stretching into the distance, until the mountains fill the horizon. What a view.

I carry on biking and stop at a map. I’m half way and I’ve been over an hour. I’m never going to make it in time and it’s starting to get dark. I carry on for a bit and it starts to snow. Great, I’ve come out in a thick fleece and fingerless gloves. I sigh and turn around; I guess I should head back.

Jeez! My legs are killing; it’s a good job I turned around. I ploughed on through the light snow and about 20 minutes from the B&B the snow suddenly got heavier, thicker and more pellet-like. It’s a blizzard.

I’m trembling, frozen and my legs are burning; I want to give up.

I push on, against the wind. My face hurts and can’t feel my fingers. I feel like I’m going to hurl.

I will my legs to bike faster.

Success! I finally reach the B&B. Frozen I fumble around and put the bike away and rush inside for a cup of tea and a nice warm bath.

Note to self: Always take an extra layer, whatever the weather.

Canada – Day 2: 01/04/15

I slept like a log.

Normally in new surroundings I find it difficult to sleep, but not this time. It was 7.30AM; an hour before my alarm.

I arrived at the B&B the day before. After struggling to find a taxi due to my booked taxi not showing, I finally made it. To top it off when arriving at the B&B nobody answered the door for 20 minutes. Great, it’s a scam I thought. Now what do I do?

I crawled out of bed and peeked through the blinds. The sky was tinted pink like candyfloss, the light reflecting off the city buildings “wow…..” I breathe.

I’d been told to help myself at breakfast and make myself feel at home. I showered and crept down the stairs. I feel slightly awkward just helping myself. I do it anyway, no one else is around.

It takes me a while to find the cutlery; I’d truly gone through all the draws now.

It was a lovely, warm day with clear blue skies.

I keep looking the wrong way when crossing the roads. People must be able to tell I’m not from here, which must be what the strange looks are for. The walk into the city was straight forward and relaxing with a slight breeze ruffling through my hair.

I used the weather to my advantage, and went up the Calgary Tower, the third tallest building in Calgary and much like the Empire State building in New York.

I’m glad I did. What a site! You can see for miles.

The views are spectacular! I gasped as I walked around, soaking in each direction I look out of. I can see the snow covered mountains in the distance. It’s beautiful.

It’s strange; everything looks flat up here and looks to be no hills. It’s so brown here; where’s the green trees and grass?

I wander back over to the glass bottom and look down. Whoa it’s a long way down. I feel myself start to sway and grab the bar. I must have pulled a face, as a Canadian lady turned and said “Yes, that is the building swaying in the wind”.

“Well that’s reassuring to know, I wasn’t sure why I was swaying” I replied.

Gosh I love the Canadian accent.

I left the tower and with my feet safely back on the ground I went to explore downtown.

First impressions? It’s posh. Everyone is dressed up in posh suits, dresses and heels. I looked very out of place in my jeans, outdoor coat and canvas shoes. Wandering around I searched for a shop to buy a sandwich.

I feel worn out, my feet are killing. I should have broken my shoes in before coming. I head back in the direction of the B&B. I see a model horse outside a shop, oh my gosh! There are cowboy hats in there. I’m quite excited by the model horse. Turns out you can have your picture taken with and by the cowboy hats. I really want one. I step inside gingerly and am immediately greeted by an elderly cowboy.

He certainly looks the part.

Cowboy: “Hello, how are you today?”

Me: “I’m good thanks, how are you” 

Cowboy: “Good, where are you from?”

Me: “The United Kingdom”

Cowboy: “Ooohhhh say hello for the Queen for me when you’re back won’t you”

I chuckled. Why do people assume you know the Queen as soon as they know you’re British?

Cowboy: “I have one person in here last week who I said the same thing too and turns out they work for Prince Charles, small world isn’t it?”

“Sure is” I reply.

I wander off and look at the hats, they are so cool! Yikes, rather expensive though. I wander over to the clothes rack, where there a sale section. Bonus, I make a beeline for it.

29 Canadian dollars and a top later, I leave the store and walk back to the B&B to relax before heading out to the thing I’d been dreading – Eating out alone.

Lucky for me I picked a small local restaurant with hardly anything there. I slid into a booth, ordered, ate and left in a breeze. Not that bad I thought to myself, walking back in the snow and bitter wind.

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5 things I learnt at The Digital Imaging Show

Last Thursday I attended ‘The Digital Imaging Roadshow’. This show travels around areas of the UK and gives a series of Masterclasses each year. I really enjoyed all the talks and I learnt a lot!

So, seeing as there were five talks on the day, I’m going to share one thing I learnt from each masterclass!

Damian McGillicuddy -I Bet you wished you’d brought your brolley

Umbrellas may be the single most overlooked weapons in the photographer’s arsenal. The societies seven-time photographer of the year will demonstrate the power and versatility of the humble brolley by combining classic, contemporary and downright cool lighting techniques.

This talk seemed more tailored to those with studios and portable lights. Though I did learn a number of things in general from this talk one being when shooting a headshot you point the lens at the mouth, if a mid you point at the chest and for a full body shot you point at the stomach.

Charlie Kaufman – Selling, Selling, Selling!

Charlie will inject 25 years of experience in sales into the delegates of this fast paced, fun packed and informative talk.

Well this, certain was fast packed and fun! I did think during this talk I’d nod off because of the subject but actually it was really interesting and upbeat! I think this is one I learnt the most from so will be hard choosing one thing!

The major thing I’d take from this class would be don’t give all images in high res on a CD – as you don’t want to give them too much as overshooting and undershooting is bad! – Generally from photoshoots I come away with anywhere between 200-400 pictures a person which I cut down to 80!

Mark Cleghorn – The Photography Xperience

In this session Mark looks at ways that you can simply move from Bland to Brand with your photography and business.

Another talk I enjoyed! One thing to take away from this talk: Plan every session – Write a shot list, get that creative shot, change accessories, session flow new ideas and always do something different with every client.

Richard Storrs – The Power of Websites

An insight in to the importance of websites for photographers. Why, in today’s world you cannot afford not to have one.

Now, I already have a website so wasn’t sure how much I would take away from this.

If used correctly a website can save time in terms of order processing, taking and making payment, involving and customer contact – I don’t have a shop built into my website at the moment, however it is something I will now look into!

Richard West – Colour Management made simple

Former head of Apple’s Photography Market team in the UK and subsequently country manager for photo plug-in manufacturer Nik Software (now Google). Richard West runs Datacolor in the UK.

Monitor calibration is something I keep seeing pop up in a number of photography groups I am apart of on Facebook. One thing I learnt from this class (and there is a lot) is softproofing! I honestly thought this button in lightroom just showed you what the image looks like on a white background! Not that you can see how the image will be seen on the internet and also using printer profiles to see how it will come out when printed! I tested this out with my printer (I don’t use this to print photos) but if I did they would come out with a horrible blue tint! I then downloaded the printer profiles from the printing lab I use to see the difference – it’s not quite as drastic as the tint but they do come out duller than on screen!

Canada – Day 1: 31/03/15

The wind rippled across the lush green grass. Was it the wind? Steel wings rattled and shook, the engine hummed in anticipation, patiently waiting its turn.  The time came and it surged forward and accelerated to over 140 miles per hour, gently pushed me against the back on the seat. We have lift off.

I had successfully navigated Heathrow Airport on my own and made it to the plane. I’m on my first solo trip.

Ever.

And that would be across the world to Canada.

Talk about throwing yourself in the deep end.

I haven’t felt overly nervous, well only at the airport. Once sat on the plane I was fine.

The flight was long and tough on the legs. I slept for a short while on the flight, woke up to a very numb hand and cramps. Sleeping on planes is not easy; I’m dreading the flight home as its overnight.  I ended up reading, watching Paddington and Into the Woods to pass the time.

10 hours later I landed in Calgary at 12pm. Compared to the UK where the field were an array of patchwork green in colour, here it looked flat, brown and dull and everything looked square.

I took a taxi from the airport to my B&B in South East Calgary. The B&B (Riverpath B&B) is a lovely house very big and spacious, the owner Arlene was very friendly and we got along pretty well. It felt like I was visiting someone I knew.

I had a big debate with myself, stay awake and battle the jet leg or conk out. I chose option one; it was a lovely warm day out so despite being tired I went for a walk to the river. It’s beautiful a real nice aqua blue and clear too. I then walked to Inglewood which was voted ‘Canada’s coolest neighbourhood’. It was pretty windy out despite the warmth.

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