Behind the images…

Some images from our recent Bahamas sailing adventure are now on sale at Getty Images. These are a few of my very favorite photographs from the trip.

Over the next few posts I thought I’d share just a little bit of the story behind each one.

New Getty Image. The Hopetown Lighthouse. Elbow Cay, Bahamas

Like many photographers, I am in love with lighthouses and I gravitate to them wherever I go.

This one, however, has a special place in my heart and my collection.

It happens to be the last of a dying breed. It’s one of the remaining two or three lighthouses in the world that is actually still lit every night. I hadn’t realized that there were so few.

Most lighthouses have now been automated. This one is still fueled with kerosene.

It’s located in Hopetown, one of the most picturesque of the little settlements scattered throughout the Abacos.

One day in April we sailed from Marsh Harbour to Elbow Cay for a visit. It was a stunning day and we had a beautiful sail. We grabbed a mooring ball in the Hopetown Harbour and spent the next few days touring this fabulous cay and its pretty little settlement. I fell hard for this lovely place and its laid back friendly foks. I can’t wait to go back again.

One of the highlights of our stay was climbing the 101 steps to the top of this lighthouse. It wasbuilt in 1862 and became operational two years later. Its light can be seen from 23 nautical miles (43 km) away.

It is maintained by a family of lighthouse keepers that goes back many generations.

It has a spring mechanism that has to be hand cranked every several hours to maintain the sequence of five white flashes every 15 seconds. The lamp burns kerosene oil with a wick and mantle. The light is then focused as it passes through the optics of a first order Fresnel lens that floats on a bed of mercury.


Looking down from the lighthouse on Hopetown Harbour

Looking down from the lighthouse on Hopetown Harbour

I took this picture from the top. When you look down from the lighthouse, you can see the Hopetown Harbour with its many boat visitors tied to moorings.

The strip of land behind it is the little settlement of Hopetown. Neither cars nor golf carts are allowed in the town but you can travel throughout the rest of the cay using golf carts.

Our sailboat, Windsong II, and that of our buddy Mike, the Casey Dee are circled. It was just a short dinghy ride from the boats to the settlement.The water visible behind that is the sea of Abaco and there is a gorgeous beach that lies along that shore.

While there, we had another of those “small world” experiences that make you slap your head in surprise. One day a fellow sailor going by in his dinghy happened to see that we were from Ottawa. In that neighbourly way that cruisers have, he stopped to invite us over to his boat for drinks that night. We went and had a great time exchanging stories and learning about their experience living eight months of the year in the harbour on their sailboat.

But the funniest part? Not only did they live in Ottawa during the summer, but they lived right around the corner from our old house — and in the 17 years we lived in Ottawa we had gone by their house hundreds of times while walking our dogs. They were former neighbours!




Preserving and reliving memories through photo books…

Screenshot 2014-05-22 12.16.56Screenshot 2014-05-22 12.17.03

For me, there are few better ways to preserve and relive memories from a great trip than to make a photo book. (One of my most popular posts last year was about making a photo book so I know others are also interested in the process.)

I’ve been holding on to a discount for a photo book from Photobook Canada that expires in a few weeks (they’re always having sales), so I decided I better get going on making a photo book of the Bahamas sailing trip we just returned from.

(I’ve used Photobook Canada before to make a large hard cover book of memories for my mother’s 85th birthday and was very pleased with the result and the awesome price. There’s also a Photobook America and they sell to many other countries as well.)

Screenshot 2014-05-22 12.17.29

I adore the process of printing my images in books for so many reasons. It allows me to go through all my photographs and pick out the ones I like the best and will enjoy returning to over and over.

These are usually the ones that give me a little quiver of excitement when I look at them and bring me right back to the place and time when I captured them. They let me enjoy the adventure again and again.

Of course, I love posting images on this blog, but I find the books to be more present and tactile and you experience and see the images in them in a completely different way. There is a longevity and a permanency to the photo book that I really appreciate.

I’ve made many numerous books in the past and there are many great companies out there. I’ve been very pleased with Artisan State and Milk Books/Moleskine. For more casual softcover books, Shutterfly works well.

Generally, you have many page layouts to choose from and it’s great fun to find the ones that best enhance your images and allow you to tell a story. I have included some screenshots here to show the user interface I’ve been using and some shots of my project in process.

Screenshot 2014-05-22 12.16.10

The strip down the left hand side contains images I want to include somewhere in the book. The horizontal strip at the top contains finished and unfinished page layouts in order. The horizontal strip at the bottom contains possible page layouts. You can’t see all the potential choices here but there are zillions.

Then it’s just a matter of sliding your image into your selected layout and applying a background. It’s all placed and automatically resized for you. Then it is easy to tweak to perfection using the right hand panels. You can make each page different if you want, you can add borders and scrapbooky type things, but I prefer to keep this one simple with consistent black backgrounds.

If you change your mind about the placement of an image or a layout — which I do all the time — and want to remove a photo or try another layout or background, it’s easy peasy. It’s simple and fast to reorder the pages too. I haven’t added much text yet, but you can add a lot or a little and the font choice is enormous.

Screenshot 2014-05-22 12.14.59

I’m approaching this book chronologically, but I’m also trying to keep the images on the same two-page spread in the same tonal range and on the same theme, for coherence. I generally make a rough list of all the places/people/subjects I hope to include, but I basically approach the initial selection of images according to my gut and intuition. Once I upload a bunch of photos I love, I check against the list to see what I might be missing and then go in search of those.

I generally prefer to have fewer bigger images on a page spread for greater impact, but this time I have so many images that are vying for a spot that I’m creating some spreads for a larger number of smaller images. Naturally, Charles gets a two-page spread to himself!

Making a photo book is really a continuation of the creativity that was at play when you were making the images originally.

Well, I guess I better get back to it and finish playing!

I know many of you reading this also make photo books. What do you enjoy most about the product and the experience?


Back home, with projects…

Now that I’ve settled back into the swing of things in my Canadian home, I’ve been compiling a long list of photographic projects I would love to accomplish before we go away again. (What would I do without lists?) This includes making prints, making books, and making a video from my Bahamas images, as well as reorganizing my portfolio and streamlining my blog. I also have ideas for several series I would like to start shooting and have identified some new techniques I would like to learn. I’ve noticed that I’ve been moving more toward 500 px and away from Flickr lately, although I still pop in at Flickr intermittently. I’ve found that  500 px has so much more functionality for me, especially since it acts as the back end of my portfolio. It is so easy and pleasant to use, plus I enjoy the quality of the photography there. This week I uploaded a few images from my winter sailing experience to 500 px and have been surprised and gratified by the positive feedback. I encourage you to have a look at 500 px if you’re seeking an easy way to set up a portfolio or you would like to sell or license your work. And if you’re already a member of 500 px, let me know and I’d be pleased to follow your work. Enjoy your weekend, everybody!


Sea of Abaco

The Sea of Abaco in a tranquil moment, as seen from our sailboat Windsong II.


Quiet is peace. Tranquility. Quiet is turning down the volume knob on life. Silence is pushing the off button. Shutting it down. All of it.

Khaled Hosseini

We crossed successfully!




We had an idyllic crossing of the Gulf Stream this time. We’re slipped next to an iconic vessel, the CHanticleer in port Salerno. Our friend Joan’s former husband used to captain this boat, which has spent lots of time in the north channel of Lake Huron.

I have video of our crossing that makes the ocean look like a pond! Can’t post it right now though. Trust me.

We’re cleaning and stripping the boat for storage now. When we’re ready we will head back to Canada.

We want to wish Joyce a wonderful 86th birthday. I must have inherited some of that spirit of adventure that took her to Singapore some 60 years ago!

love ya mum!

Sail to Great Guana Cay

guana beach for blog

Great Guana Cay has a seven mile beach and the island is not more than 400 yards wide at any point. The barrier reef makes for amazing snorkeling and diving.

We’re still leaving and heading back to Florida — really! — we’re not just trying to find excuses to stay here…

But our crossing has been delayed and so has our departure. So we took the opportunity to head over to Great Guana Cay with Mike and Keith and Bobbie for a bite of lunch at the famous Nipper’s.

We sailed over on Mike’s boat the Casey Dee. The voyage took about two hours each way and at one point I was below and Bob was at the helm.

bob on mike's boat

Mike has a 33-foot Alajuela and it is a great salty boat, which Mike has been singlehanding for many years. He is amazing to watch…his ease and calm come from all his experience and training as a licensed captain.

At one point the auto pilot took over and Mike and Keith and Bob were on the bow and Bobbie and I and Charles were chatting in the cockpit. It was a lovely sail at 5 knots with just the jib. Winds were 15 to 20 knots from the north.

mike and crew sailing to guana

bobbi and charles

bob and sherry 700

At Nipper’s — Thanks to Mike for taking pics of me and Bob together. I’ve trained him up on my back button focus and he does and great job!

While walking on the beach, Bob took Charles off the leash just at the time that a little white poodle showed up. Charles took a fancy to her and raced off and up the steep wooden staircase with Bob in hot pursuit. What a little devil he can be. After that he was tired so he just laid under the table while we ate (Charles, not Bob!)

Oh, it’s mighty hard to leave this beautiful part of the world.

Happy Easter to all of our family and friends!





Charles, the perfect cruising boat dog…

charlespaw down 2charles on tahiti beach 2cute charlescharles resting on doorstep2charles hopping into boatcharles getting ready to go in dinghy

I wanted to pay tribute to our perfect little cruising dog, Charles, who has been incredibly adaptable and laid back this trip, not to mention affectionate and fun to be with.

Charles never complains, enjoys all activities, socializes nicely with others, loves exploring new spots, and puts up with a few inconveniences! He can be quiet or active depending on what the situation requires.

As for us, we just try to follow his lead!

We’re still in Marsh Harbour. We think we’ve spotted a good window for crossing to the US — next Wednesday. That means we need to start our journey to West End tomorrow since a storm is forecast for the weekend. We hope to resume the journey on Monday after taking a slip at Green Turtle Cay. If all goes well we will be at West End ready to go across the Gulf Stream on Wednesday morning. Hope the weather is mild and cooperative so that we have fair winds and smooth sailing.

See you back here soon!


Postcards from the Bahamas…

pinkandwhitehouse postcard-small500


I was just about to give up on posting here after trying for a few hours…when magically, things started to move.

The weather looks like it will be great for cruising the Sea of Abaco this week so we will be heading back to Man-o-War to pick up our jib and then go on to Hopetown, which Bob tells me is lovely. And there is a lighthouse there for my collection of lighthouse pics!

I’ve been creating a series of Bahamas postcards from some of my images just for fun. There’s something about the views and light here that seems to suit a stylized kind of treatment. I’ve been experimenting and having fun with Topaz filters.

So here are some postcards for you, from Bob and Charles and me in the Bahamas…

Joe's Studio POSTARD small

postcard marsh harbour-small500 shell postcard-small500 mermaid reef-small500

Man o’ War Cay…

We headed over to Man o’ War Cay the other day to drop off our jib for repair. It was a 50 minute ferry ride from Marsh Harbour. We stayed for the rest of the day to explore the cay and have lunch.

The history of Man o’ War Cay began with a shipwreck and a love story. In 1820 16-year-old Benjamin Albury found himself shipwrecked on the cay. He fell in love with Nellie Archer, whose parents had settled there to farm in 1798.

They married and today the name Albury is everywhere, from on the ferry line to boat-building to a popular canvas bag-making enterprise.

Boat-building began in the 1880’s and today Man o’ War Cay is home to self-sufficient and resilient residents who are proud of their island and their boat-building heritage.

We loved this little unspoiled cay and here is just a brief taste of what Bob, Charles and I enjoyed recently. (You may notice a certain colour story going on here…I can’t seem to get away from it, but nor do I want to!)