Friday, August 29, 2008

Grand Manan Images: The Flock of Sheep

Flock of Sheep

The Flock of Sheep is a set of glacial boulders sitting on top of the darker volcanic basalt on the southern end of Grand Manan Island. From the sea, these boulders look like a line of sheep on the shore (at least kind of), and that's how they got the name. While on our trip out to Machias Seal Island from Seal Cove, I saw this formation for the first time, and I was determined to hike there to see them close up. The hike is actually quite easy, given that we could start out from the beach at South-west Head. From there, it's a 10 or 15 minute walk along a cliff-side path to the formation.

Looking out to sea from the Flock of Sheep

This set of boulders, one of which is precariously sitting on the edge of the cliff, is actually the "Lower" Flock of Sheep. There is another set slightly further north, called the "Upper" Flock of Sheep. I'll get there next year!
. . . Rob Williams

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Grand Manan Images: Grass at Pettes Cove

Grass at Pettes Cove

When I got to Pettes Cove, the fog was thick, and it was raining. The cove itself was dreary, but I got out of the car just long enough to photograph some grass just beside the car. I like the image in quite a bit in colour, but it really looks good in black-and-white -- the photograph is pure texture.

. . . Rob Williams

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Grand Manan Images: Red Rocks at Red Rock Point

Red Rocks at Red Rock Point
These rocks lie at the base of an indent in the cliffs, exposed at low tide.  I'm sure these rocks are responsible for literally carving out their own niche in the cliff, thrown about by storms and tides.

. . . Rob Williams

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Two interesting announcements: Photosynth and TinEye

This past week I saw two interesting photographic announcements.

One announcement was Photosynth, a Microsoft endeavour that I first saw demonstrated in a short but mind-blowing Ted Talk by Blaise Aguera y Arcas. This is a fascinating application that combines a large number of photographs into a single "3D" continuum. You can browse the images, zoom in, out and move around, essentially providing a higher-order view of the images. It's quite amazing when the "synth" is done well. This "synth" of the Temple of Heaven in Beijing is a good example. The Photosynth website opens up this application to anyone who wants to try it.

A second announcement was TinEye Image Search, the kind if image search that I've always wanted, and the kind I expected Google to offer. This search engine uses a photograph as a search key, and uses pattern recognition to find that image on the web. It can also find alterations to the image, or use of the image in a collage. This concept is great -- it offers a way to see how an image is being used on the internet. The main drawback right now is that the image database is limited in size, and to be honest, it's too small for any practical use. However, the database is constantly expanding, and at some point it time, it will reach a critical mass of images. It's clear that this is a small start-up comany with a great idea. Hopefully they will get sufficient funding to make this search engine a go (or look for them to be acquired by one of the major players).

I really like the Photosynth app because it opens up a completely different way to process images -- a different concept of how to use and think about the billions of images available. In fact, both of these announcements open up the use of images on the web in a whole new way.

. . . Rob Williams

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Grand Manan Images: Castalia Beach

Castalia Beach at Sunset
The fog was thick in North Head, but at Castalia it was clear. This view looks north towards the fog bank which was letting the red glow of the sun peek through.

. . . Rob Williams

Grand Manan Images: Men with Hats

Men with Hats
While driving along the Ingalls Head road towards Ingalls Head, you can see a line of posts with what looks like plastic buckets on top. So when the time came (i.e., a nice sunrise), I went out to see what these "men with hats" were all about. Well, here they are -- posts with old tires to protect some infilled land.

I almost called this post "We stand on Guard" using a phrase from Canada's national anthem. Instead, I used the first and only phrase that comes into my mind whenever I see these posts, "Men with Hats" after the musical group Men Without Hats.

. . . Rob Williams

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Grand Manan Images: A Midsummer Cushion

A Field of Flowers, Grand Manan Island

My wife, Wendy, saw these flowers beside the road on the southern part of the island, and named them "A Midsummer Cushion" after a custom in rural England in the 1600s or 1700s. People would cut a section of flowers out of the turf, and bring them indoors for decoration. The only reference I can find to this practice online is from the English poet John Clare who wrote in the early to mid 1800's. He wrote that "a very old custom among villagers in summer time to stick a piece of greensward full of field flowers and place it as an ornament in their cottages which ornaments are called Midsummer Cushions". He used this as the name of a collection of poems, that was not published until 1979.

A small part of the cushion

The weather on the island this year was perfect for photographing grasses and flowers like these. There was a lot of overnight rain, and of course, fog, especially on the southern part of the island. The wet conditions intensified the colours, and the overcast sky gave a very even light. The only problem was that I had to use a long exposure, and I had to wait until even the faintest breeze stopped to get a really sharp photograph.

Every time we passed these flowers, I thought of the "midsummer cushion", and I could almost imagine myself living two or three hundred years ago, walking through the fields of wildflowers.

. . . Rob Williams

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Grand Manan Images: Buoys

Buoys at Ingalls Head

I love the look of fishing buoys, especially when they've been weathered like these. The colours remind me of a set of crayons after being worn down.

For more photographs of Grand Manan Island, see

. . . Rob Williams

Saturday, August 9, 2008

The Ross Island Lighthouse

Ross Island Lighthouse at Fish Fluke Point

The lighthouse at Fish Fluke Point on Ross Island has been abandoned for 44 years, and as you can see, it is crumbling. It is highly endangered, and continues to deteriorate in the face of hostile weather. Unfortunately, the island is privately owned, and nothing is being done to preserve this dramatic and important landmark.

Getting to Ross Island is an adventure all on it's own. At low tide, and for a couple of hours on either side of low tide, you can walk to the island from the end of Thoroughfare Road in Grand Harbour -- there is still water flowing on the path, but with some carefully chosen hops, you can get across with dry feet. However, you have to keep careful track of the time, and not overstay. The tide returns quite quickly, and the path is dangerous if it's under water.

I wanted to visit the lighthouse close to sunset, so I picked a day where sunset corresponded with low tide, and hiked to the lighthouse with my daughter. The day was overcast, but the lighthouse is dramatic in any light. We arrived at 8:15pm after a 35 or 40 minute walk, and unfortunately only had a few minutes to photograph in the fading light. I didn't want to be walking on an unfamiliar trail in the dark, and with the tide returning!

I plan on returning to Ross Island the next time we visit Grand Manan, and photographing the lighthouse in different kinds of light. It may be the only way this lighthouse will be remembered.

For more photographs of Grand Manan Island, see

. . . Rob Williams

Dawn at Grand Harbour

Dawn at Grand Harbour
During our visit to Grand Manan Island, there was only one clear morning. When I realized that the sun would actually appear at dawn, instead of the ever-present fog, I immediately drove to a nearby spot along Ingalls Head Road that I had previously scouted as having good possibilities.

At low tide, a significant amount of the harbour drains to expose rocks, seaweed and sea grass. The tide in this area is around 5 or 6 meters between high and low tide.

Coral Weed, Grand Harbour
. . . Rob Williams

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Grand Manan Images: Swallowtail Lighthouse

Swallowtail Lighthouse

Swallowtail Lighthouse near the northern tip of Grand Manan Island is probably the most visited and photographed site on the island. It is particularly stunning at sunrise, whenever the sun breaks through the fog. This year, we visited the lighthouse at sunset hoping for strong dramatic light. Just after we got to the lighthouse, the sun went behind some high clouds, but it still managed to give us a gentle warm glow that went very nicely with the grass blowing in the wind.

. . . Rob Williams

Monday, August 4, 2008

Trip to Grand Manan Island, New Brunswick

   Cliffs at Long Eddy Point, Grand Manan Island

I have just returned from a yearly trip to Grand Manan Island in the Bay of Fundy, and I'm finding the transition from island life to city life more difficult every year that we make this trip.  What more can you say about a lifestyle where the evening's entertainment is to go out to a lookout with the whole family to watch the sunset, or to the ocean to collect rocks and shells?  It may not be paradise for some people, but it is for me, at least for a couple of weeks every year.

As usual, photography at Grand Manan is fantastic, but you have to be prepared to photograph with rain and fog as constant companions.  June and July in particular are known to be months for fog, but I've been told by some of the Grand Manan-ers that I've talked to that August and September have more sun.  Hopefully we'll test out this advice the next time we visit.

As I go over my photographs from the island, I will be posting new images as they get produced, so be sure to check back here often over the next couple of weeks.

. . . Rob Williams