Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Shots of the Alpine, with Basic Camera Work

The dynamic of familiarity often means that the longer you are exposed to something, the less likely you are to see its beauty. After 10 years in Whistler, I can safely say that this is not the case, for myself or for many of my friends. Maybe that’s why we keep sticking around.  All it takes is a ride up the gondola to see some of the impressive geological features that surround us to remember that we’re not in Ontario anymore, Toto.  That feeling of “holy s***, we live here” never really goes away. 

I'm lucky: working at the GLC gives me unlimited hiking and sightseeing for the summer. But now there's a pass that's totally worth the money. For under $70, that's less than 2 daytrips onto the mountains, you can buy a PEAK 2 PEAK 360 pass. That means exploring the hiking world has never been easier. That also means the mountaintop barbecues on the weekends will cost you only the ticket to eat, not the cost of uploading.

And even though a picture says a thousand words, that photo won’t say squat if it’s washed out to all hell. On our only day off together this week, my brother Jules (whom some of you may know) went tourist mode and went up on the mountain to go sightseeing. The glaciers in the distance were a great subject, both because of their impressive presence on the horizon, and the contrast between the ice and the earth, as well as within the layers of snow.  

The easiest trail for us, given that we didn't get up first thing in the morning, was the Harmony Loop - it's right by the Roundhouse and it's a great hike for families in that it's not too intense. We saw a ton of kids while we wandered, and Harmony Lake at the bottom, while smaller than usual thanks to our warmer than average year, was still good to skip stones across.  Maybe took about an hour.

A couple of years ago, I also hiked Decker Lake Loop - in inappropriate footwear. Definitely worth doing, as long as you're wearing hiking shoes. Total time: 3-4 hours.

A word of warning: So-called “point and shoot” cameras like the Olympus we were using are misnamed. It should be “point, focus, shoot”. It’s a basic step, but half-pressing the shutter button makes it automatically focus. No point having a memory card full of blurry memories.

L-R: Automatic, Landscape, Snowscape, Beach/Snow.

These settings are great to play around with when you're in no rush to get going. As you can see, each photo has its own merits, and it's important to compare each to the Automatic. Sometimes, Auto will be the best option but it's always worth taking a look see.

Now for the iPhone. Something really worth doing, especially in foreground/background shots, is to turn on HDR, or High Dynamic Range. This neat trick takes 3 exposures of the same shot, focusing on the brights, the mids and the lows and meshing it together to create a photo better than the original. It makes your photo pop that little bit more, and turns you into a little better of a cameraman. This is especially useful when shooting things like sunsets, so the light doesn't wash out the earth to blackness. Below, you'll see HDR off (left) and on (right). 

I deliberately chose this scene because you can clearly see the difference in the valley, and the trees nearest me - particularly the one on the right side of each. Where it blends into the darkness in the first shot, the branches light up in the second, giving an added depth to the photo.

I can't pretend to be a great photographer - my talent lies with words. But it's useful when people ask what really keeps me hanging around for so long, especially when I can say "It looks so much better in real life."

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm off to hike the High Note trail. (Total hike time: 5 hours with lunch at the top of Flute Bowl).

Seriously the best part. I felt like a 5 year old.

PEAK2PEAK 360 passes can be bought here.

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