Return to Nature When in Grief

Grief

Real time. This summer has been one of the hardest of my life. My grandpa passed away in July after a hard end with cancer, and exactly one month later my boyfriend’s mom, Cindy, passed away from a vicious cancer that took her in months while I was in Alberta. I tried to fly back to Toronto in time to see her before she passed and I missed her by 12 hours.

This combined heartache of these months, with trying to do thesis fieldwork at a time when so many more important and difficult family things were happening, while trying to function, while trying to post photos and act like nothing was wrong, while trying to not cry all the time, while trying to sleep, was exceptionally difficult. Barely possible. Of course things were wrong. Everything was wrong. Everything is still wrong. Life is not the same. Life is difficult. It is difficult for me to go to school and care. It is difficult for me to think about the future, about dreams. It is difficult to realize that we can plan our entire lives for a retirement, a life of travel, a break after it all… and you might not get it. So do it now.

So life is tough right now. It will continue to be tough for quite awhile, I think. As we get older we are bound to get human-shaped holes in our lives, people we love who leave us too quickly or too painfully. Still, it’s never easy.

After Cindy’s funeral, we felt the need for nature and respite. It is really true when people say nature helps with grief. It helps with sadness. It doesn’t heal, but it helps. I also find more and more that photography helps me. It gives me focus, it gives me a reason to be out there, it gives me constant perspective, and I feel, for a little bit, like life is normal when I’m taking photos.

So here are some photos from Niagara Falls (a little full of people) and Lake Huron and Georgian Bay. It was a nice break from the stress and exhaustion of the last few months. I hope to keep going back to nature over the next year or two. Well, hopefully for the rest of my life. But right now, to try and heal.

 


Adventure: Toronto Islands

Several weeks ago I managed to get a day off to take a few hours to go to Toronto Islands! Toronto Islands are a chain of islands just off of the shores of Toronto itself! You have to take a ferry to get out there. It has an airport, summer amusements, beaches, yacht clubs, and get this, some pretty cute old squashed houses! I wasn’t expecting them, for some reason.

I decided to go on one of the chilliest days in late October. I took a ferry across at 3:30. Despite the cold I made sure to stand outside and watch the wake of the boat and the giant city behind me getting a bit smaller as we got closer to the island. Because it’s the off-season, there isn’t much shelter there. So after 3 hours of wandering a bit (I only got through half of the eastern islands because I was taking so many photographs!) I was so cold it was time to hop on a ferry back! I wanted to make sure I got the sunset, and I definitely did. The Toronto skyline is a gorgeous site, I took too many photos! I will definitely be back to the Toronto Islands to check out all the sites I didn’t get to see.

The best part: walking around the back of the island and seeing Lake Ontario look like the ocean, a peaceful still mirror of the sky with giant maple trees dropping their leaves gently into the water.

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Technique Tuesday: Wide Angle

Today’s Technique Tuesday focuses on a certain shot type that is fun, dramatic, and creates beautiful landscape photography as well as unique portrait shots! Yes, I am talking about the (often under utilized) wide angle shot.

So what does it mean exactly when you’re chatting with someone and they say “oh, and then I brought my wide angle lens…” and you nod and smile but really wonder “what did they just say?” Let’s look into it!

What is a wide angle lens? 

A wide angle lens is a lens that has a substantially shorter focal length. This means it says something like 35 mm or 25 mm and lower (the lowest without starting a rounding edge–known as a fish eye–is 17 mm). Basically, this shorter focal length allows for a wider view of a shot: perfect for landscapes or for capturing a smaller scene in a limited amount of space.

Truth be told, wide angle lenses are some of my favorite. I bought my Sigma 18mm-200mm zoom when I was in high school. It was the second lens I bought for the sake of diversity. I was too poor for Canon so I bought a Sigma, and let me tell you… it is one of the best purchases I have ever made! I highly recommend Sigma lenses. I’ve had it for 7 years and only now it is starting to clunk a bit, mostly my fault. It has traveled all over the world with me, dealt with sandy deserts in Peru, humid socks-turned-lens-bag in Asia, and more. Unfortunately due to its age I need to start looking into new ones, if anyone has suggestions!

Why do I love it so much? It is so versatile. It really allowed me to work on my landscape photography which I love so much to do. In one move I can go from 18 mm and get an entire scape, and then I can shift and get closer and closer with a few clicks. This allows me to get different perspectives of the same scene much faster. However, the zoom feature is not my favorite part by the wide angle part… the 18 mm!

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My Sigma 18-200 mm resting peacefully.

Downsides: the zoom lens means not as great of photo quality as a prime lens. You can get a smaller zoom (17-55 for example) or go for the wide angle prime lens (a lens that doesn’t zoom). They have the best quality. Any wider than 17/18 and you start to get a fish eye look.

What is a wide angle shot?

Okay so we know what people mean now when they talk about their “wide angle lens”. What about the wide angle shots? As I briefly mentioned above, those are photographs taken when the lens is at a wide angle focal length (anything 35 mm and shorter).

I like them for their dramatic look, as well as the fact that it lets you see everything. As someone from the prairies, I am happiest when I have a big open sky in front of me. The wide angle lens achieves that same feeling with ease! It’s also good for variety when taking photos of people; who wants constant close ups of their face? By the way, this is something I am still working on… 🙂

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This is an example of a wide angle shot. I took this in Jasper 2 years ago. My lens was at its shortest, 18 mm for this. It allowed me to capture some of the reflection of the mountain as well as getting those in the distance, with still enough room for a sky!

How to know when you take a wide angle shot

If you are unsure of what constitutes a wide shot, make sure to watch your lens as you move it (if you have a zoom). You can see the little line changing focal lengths as you rotate the zoom. Try to stick in the 18-35 mm range for wide angle shots. The more you do it the more familiar it becomes until you can scroll through your photos and know by instinct ones you have taken are within that focal range.

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Between the 18 and the 35 constitutes as a wide angle shot.

Examples: Landscape 

There is no doubt that wide angle lenses show off their best in landscape work. Think of dramatic National Geo landscape shots or those with a subject and a vast background behind it. Photojournalism loves wide angle shots. I’ve used some examples below to show what I like about them. All are taken with my Sigma 18-200 mm lens.

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focal length: 24 mm


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focal length: 18 mm

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focal length: 18 mm

Examples: Portraits

This is something still new to me but I know will be lots of fun! It’s a chance to get the location into a shot with your subjects and gives a feeling of gravity. I can’t wait to make more!

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Technically a portrait… focal length: 24 mm

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focal length: 28 mm

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focal length: 18 mm

There’s some information on wide angle lenses and shots. I hope you all go out and experiment with them now! Make sure to use the rule of thirds from a few Tuesdays ago and see how it looks. If you have any questions about the photos, tips, or more, feel free to comment!