Independent Canadian book publishers working in Dominica, W.I. specializing in coffee table books of architectural treasures and lush gardens. We also promote fine artistic photography. This blog contains unofficial reports and comments from our various trips, photo sessions, and jobs – an unofficial scrapbook of our travels, explorations and photo-related work. See “about” for more.

Archive for the ‘review’ Category

Independence Day Celebrations – Dominica 2014

So, we are in Dominica, organizing our things and awaiting arrival of our container from Canada.

Main stage of the concerts in the Stadium, opening night.

Main stage of the concerts in the Stadium, opening night.

We arrived in Dominica just in time for Independence Day celebrations: over two weeks of music festivals, parades, national dress contests and all sorts of lively events. Dominica gained independence only 36 years ago, and Dominicans are very passionate about it. Many of them living abroad come to the island on this special occasion to join in all festivities.WMCF2014small-0928

Music festivals attract also large crowd from French speaking neighboring islands of Guadeloupe and Martinique as well as Spanish and English speaking regions. WMCF2014small-9867They share love for the Caribbean rhythms of reggae, soca, zouk and bouyon performed at the World Creole Music Festival- three long nights of pulsating, electrifying music.

The World Music Creole Festival concerts were well organized by Discover Dominica, and there were enough bands to offer something to everybody. Surely, we all have different tastes and expectations and some bands were not as good as others – but that can be said about practically every festival, and we were impressed with professional organization, sound system, and visual presentation of it all.

Smiling Drummers gave a performance full of rhythms and flair

Smiling Drummers gave a performance full of rhythms and flair

Concerts started soon after sunset and lasted until morning hours – quite a marathon! Then, during day time there were many other attractions worth considering (we will share a story about this in our next post).

The biggest star this year and a crowd’s favorite was Jamaican reggae sensation Jah Cure. We quickly became fans of Dominica’s own bouyon group Triple Kay Band, after their energetic and groovy performance. Not only their playing was clearly at a high skill level, but the songs were full of surprises, cleverly composed and uplifting.

Triple K performing in the park

Triple Kay performing in the park

We quickly agreed with a paraphrase of a popular song they created: “When Triple Kay plays – nobody can say -No!” We will be following career of this fine local band and we hope to see them spread wings far behind Dominica.

Traditional performances took place in the park.

Traditional performances took place in the park.

Triple Kay also took part in the Creole in the Park- four days of music performances on the grounds of Botanic Gardens. We immensely enjoyed not only the music but also a more relaxed, casual atmosphere and the strongly present sense of togetherness of all performers and audience. CreoleInPark2014small-1427This event is a magnet for people of all age groups including families with children who are having a great fun together.

We hope you enjoy our photos from these events.CreoleInPark2014small-03924

In next post we will share our experience from other festivities, such as colorful parade, dress contests, and fantastic food offered during the celebrations. Stay tuned, share if you like it, and FOLLOW to be notified about it!
Thank you!

Margaret
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All photos copyright Derek Galon. Story by Margaret Gajek. Please respect our copyright. No usage without authorization, please.

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Notes From Linz

_DAG8388We came to Linz in Austria for the judging session of the famous Al- Thani Photo Awards,  superbly organized by Chris Hinterobermaier and his efficient staff. They also run Trierenberg Super Circuit – one of the largest and most prestigious international salons of photography. This hard-working team was very hospitable, and it was tremendous fun to be around them. You can separately see Derek’s series of posts about the judging experience at Al-Thani. This post is about our impressions from visiting this interesting city.

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Linz is not only industrial city but also a vibrant cultural centre hosting numerous festivals (including electronic art) and art exhibits. The various artistic events are held in striking glass and steel (and glowing at night!) Lentos Museum of Art, in Brucknerhouse on the banks of Danube river, or in Musiktheater, the modern opera house.

In the Old City

In the Old City

When we arrived, the city was already in Christmas mood, Altstadt – the old city decorated with lights, street vendors were selling hot cider, perfect for cold winter evenings. If you are not into hot cider, you could grab a delicious cappuccino, or some hot food – typically different kinds of wurst (sausage).

Stained glass window in one of numerous churches of Old City

Stained glass window in one of numerous churches of Old City

Walking in old town, we were lucky to notice a small announcement on Ursulinenkirche door about a late evening music concert held there. We decided to go, and for us, it was a truly memorable experience. Not only performance was great (what a superb choir they have!)  but also the ambiance: main church’s altar lit by candles with their lights reflected on gold ornaments and baroque putti.

_DAG8389Being in Linz it’s difficult not to notice an excellent network of long, silently gliding trams, a part of great public transport service. They run like clockworks, and add to the image of efficient, prosperous and well kept city.

Linz is known as the birthplace of one of the oldest pastry recipes ever recorded: the famous Linzer torte. As I was eager to compare my homemade version to the original, I started to visit various pastry shops and bakeries.  My tasting experience resulted in gaining a few extra pounds, as I found  local pastry shops totally irresistible. With my tests still inconclusive, I feel I need to return to Linz soon, and continue trying some more of their exquisite pastries…

Thank you for stopping by, have a great Holiday Season!
Margaret Gajek

If you like this post, please SHARE, and Follow us. Cheers!
_DAG8387All photos copyright Derek Galon.

The Vibrant Scent of Roses (Hatley Gardens again)

Bridge in Japanese Garden seen through wisteria.

Bridge in Japanese Garden seen through wisteria.

May and June were unusually rainy this year in Victoria. Taking the advantage of more rains, all plants are growing fast, and are more impressive than usual. To enjoy this natural “plant festival” we went once again to the Royal Roads University Gardens (also called Hatley Gardens).

In Italian Garden

In Italian Garden

Their Rose garden is now simply spectacular. Thousands of rose flowers create not only an amazing visual display, but also a strong, beautiful scent in the air. Literally millions of other rose buds are about to open, adding their part to the symphony of colours and scents.

Countless rose flowers create vibrant scent in the air

Countless rose flowers create vibrant scent in the air

We don’t remember such a fantastic display of bloom in previous years. Rose lovers around Victoria – just go there now!
As described on Royal Roads’ web site, the gardens were established by The Honourable James Dunsmuir, born at Fort Rupert, BC on 8 July 1851, the oldest son of Robert Dunsmuir, a Scottish miner who, at the time of his son’s birth, was on his way from Ayrshire to “Vancouver’s Island” to prospect for coal. The rose garden was first planted in 1913, but fell into disuse in the second half of the century. It was renovated in 1997 with a lot of hard work and modern shrub roses donated by Brentwood Bay Nurseries, and now has one of the largest private _DAG6563smcollections of David Austin roses in North America. Cared for with great knowledge and visible love, these roses bloom like no others, creating together a small miracle.

If you add to it the fantastic, dense and delicate scent of peonies, and wisterias in Japanese and Italian gardens – that makes for an unforgettable garden day._DAG7255sm

While Victoria is often called The city of the Gardens – the Royal Roads Gardens are among our most favourite. Diversity of styles, several ponds and streams, the combination of well-manicured areas with almost wild growth – they all create the most spectacular garden experience well worth a visit…

If you like these pics, click and Share them.
Thank you for stopping by, cheers!
Derek and Margaret – (authors of Exotic Gardens of the Eastern Caribbean and other books.)

Photos – copyright Derek Galon, Ozone Zone Books.

Back in Italian garden

Back in Italian garden

A goose meditates over a lily pond

A goose meditates over a lily pond

Stained glass- like colorful foliage in Japanese garden

Stained glass- like colorful foliage in Japanese garden

Roses and more roses...

Roses and more roses…

Water Wheel in Japanese Garden

Water Wheel in Japanese Garden

Visiting early in the morning has its perks...

Visiting early in the morning has its perks…

I had it posted on my technical blog, but I received comments I should share it with other Nikon users as it may be of use to them. So, this one is mostly for photographers – Nikon users. More regular posts are coming soon. Cheers! Derek

Derek Galon - Photo Tips

Often working in studio, I wanted to use tethering to fine-tune my images. Unfortunately, I was disappointed with tethering options I had so far. My experience was not so good with my older cameras (Nikon D700, D300s and D7000), and it turned for even worse with my new Nikon D800.

I tested Lightroom tethering, I tried Nikon’s Camera Control Pro, as well as some other third-party software. The story repeated itself: errors, crashes, “camera not found” messages, sluggish action, unbelievably crude and user-unfriendly interfaces, you name it. Yes, user unfriendly – and plain silly too. For example – you have a Live View window on your laptop, but it remains so small (and you can’t resize it) that it really defeats its purpose of seeing better than on camera LCD. On top of all that, control options offered by most software are so basic that it makes you run between…

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Jon Hoadley – Between Light And Shadow

4e94e2c7ae9d1In our previous post we profiled Julie Lea – a fine painter from far-away Bequia. Today, we will bring you closer to our roots – photography. We also return closer to our home – Victoria, BC, Canada. Right here, at our doorstep in Victoria, you can meet one of the finest, most outstanding photographers we know. It’s Jon Hoadley – a real master of studio art photography. Working in the same studio space since 1984, he can be compared to the great Dutch or Italian painters of the past centuries.

_MIK2361Perhaps the most visually arresting aspect of Jon’s work is his masterful use of light and shade. He is a virtuoso of chiaroscuro and “shading” – creating depth by using light effects. Shadow and light are powerfully contrasted and used in different degrees, subtle or strong. They are deliberately interwoven to give the work spatial and psychological depth and to create an atmospheric mood. On the human body, chiaroscuro makes a very powerful effect.4aa10d3bd7e9a

Had Jon been born a painter in Italy in the early 17th century, he would easily be one of the followers of Caravaggio, a master of powerful chiaroscuro, whose use of light to create dramatic intensity inspired generations of artists often called “Tenebrists” or “Tenebrosi” (“Shadowists”). 50c15dc87a679Jon’s work often reminds me of other paintings by famous masters of light, like the 17th century Spanish painters, with Jose de Ribera among them. Perhaps Jon doesn’t always seek such strong dramatic effects. The light in his art portraits is often used to create a broader and more intimate union between figure and space.

493f0ba58c704Similar in feel to fine paintings, Jon’s portraits are carefully composed and stylized. Only the photographers themselves and models (sometimes exhausted after the process) know how much time and energy consuming such shoots are; how much care, and – clearly, love – goes into their preparation and each actual photo session. Not to mention hours of digital work afterwards “to get the image right.” And yet, Jon’s photographs don’t appear to be that heavily staged and controlled. Models are given freedom of expression within the boundaries of the image. That gives us, the viewers, a glimpse into their true personalities, each different and unique. It also creates a psychological bond, touching directly the viewer’s soul, a rare feature in art of portraiture today.

49c1b3a6907a5Obsessed with fine nuances of light and forms of the human body (be it in portraits, art nudes, or other styles), Jon Hoadley works tirelessly expanding his huge collection of masterpieces. Digital photography gave him much needed expansion of editing tools.

Earlier back, he worked very successfully on the international commercial scene, photographing for renowned brands; but although his photographs were winning awards, he was never really interested in that or in any competitions.

Same with his self-promotion – rather than making efforts to promote and market himself, he uses all his energy and time to create ever new images. For those reasons, Hoadley’s works are relatively little known – but they stand really strong among the best of art portraits on the international scene – real masterpieces, fit for the finest collections. His best, heart-and-mind-touching art, selected for limited editions, can be displayed proudly by the most discerning connoisseurs.4f30b73de8b56

4974036fe8134See more works by Jon at www.modelmayhem.com
Browse and order his art prints at Photo Gallery Vibrante

We hope you enjoyed this post. If so – please SHARE with friends.

Until next time!
Cheers!

Text by Margaret Gajek, art historian, researcher, writer
and by Derek Galon, photographer

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Images – copyright Jon Hoadley – please respect his copyright.

Jon Hoadley contemplating Zen of Perfect Lighting

Jon Hoadley contemplating Zen of Perfect Lighting

Photographing the Isle of Skye, Scotland (part 2)

If you missed our first part of Skye experience, read it here.

Sunrise and first frost on Skye. View from Dunyre Cottage. (see previous post)

Cut trees in Storr area

The Old Man of Storr is a magical place. The hike starts at the highway, but sadly its first 30 minutes lead you via an extensive forest clear-cut. Whatever the reason behind this massive operation, it looks sad and ugly, bringing to our minds the terrible, indiscriminate clear-cuts here on Vancouver Island, in Canada. Skye is voted one of the10 most beautiful islands in the world – and such operations should not be allowed – at least in such extensive form. Yet, driving around Skye, you will not fail to notice old stumps of cleared forest, extensive wastelands clashing with the natural beauty of this island.

The Storr formation

Once you are higher, the view becomes wide, beautiful, and you can enjoy the beauty of Skye once again. Sheep graze in the most remote and steep parts of the high hills, and the rocky Storr formation stands magnificently right above your head. At the top plateau, where the path ends – once again you feel you are in photographers’ paradise. The pinnacle called the Old Man stands magnificent right in front of you, a panoramic view of Skye and surrounding islands opens wide, the air is crisp and fresh. You are on top of things.

Our next stop is famous Lighthouse on the west coast of Skye.  The west coast presents the most hostile environment on the island. Battered by strong winds, spectacular high cliffs reach right up to the headlands. On one of them stands Neist Point lighthouse, impressive in this truly dramatic setting. It was built in 1909 by David and Charles Stevenson, who belonged to the long and distinguished dynasty that constructed almost one hundred major lighthouses in Scotland.

Old Man of Storr

It looks across the water to South Uist, an island in the Outer Hebrides and its lighthouse in Ushenish, built by Thomas Stevenson, the founder of the pioneering dynasty of Scottish engineers. He was greatly disappointed when his son Robert Louis Stevenson did not want to follow the family’s tradition choosing to pursue a literary career instead. A steep path leads to the lighthouse, but not many people know that in mid-way, already on the lower level – if you are not afraid of heights – you can step out of the known path, go to the right, traverse a meadow neatly trimmed by sheep, and enjoy a totally different view at the lighthouse.

The Lighthouse

Be careful though – you can see it only when you are just a few meters from the sharp, unprotected cliff. On a windy, rainy day, it can be really hazardous. We were lucky to have perfect weather, allowing me to set up my tripod and take some nice photographs. Thank you for stopping by.

Please stay tuned for more from Skye – coming soon!

On the way to Lighthouse


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Previous parts:  Train trip     Part 1

Commentary: Margaret Gajek and Derek Galon
Photographs: Derek Galon (please respect copyright)

Photographing the Isle of Skye, Scotland (part 1)

There are just a few passengers on the ferry from Mallaig, a fishing port on the mainland, to Armadale on the Isle of Skye. Most travellers prefer the more convenient option of reaching Skye – by car and taking the Skye Bridge, opened in 1995. From the ferry deck, the island looks beautiful and mysterious with the Cuillins, its highest mountains, enshrouded in mist. The ferry deposits us in a village near the end of Sleat peninsula, a place of lush vegetation and dense forests nowhere else to be found on the island.

So! We’ve arrived on Skye! Wow, what a beautiful trip that was! First – the fantastic West Highland Train from Glasgow to Mallaig, then a short but beautiful ferry hop, and a local bus to Portree, the island’s capital town.

Long distance call, anyone?

Once again it turned out that our thorough research on-line ahead of the trip paid off. Our car rental exceeded our expectations and simply is the finest car rental we’ve ever experienced! We booked our car on line with a company from Portree called M2 Motors. Not only did they offer the best deal on Skye, but their car hire service made our visit easier and nicer.

Portree – harbour area

How was it so? After a long flight, train trip, ferry, and a bus ride to the town of Portree, we were really tired, ready to crash. Add to it 8 hours of time zone difference, and you can understand we were simply  cooked. I expected car rental procedures to take half an hour or more.  To our surprise, our car was delivered to the bus station where we were met by a charming gentleman. He showed us the car, gave us the keys – and presto – after just quick formalities, off we went to our rented cottage!  To even greater surprise, we were told to simply drop off the car in the same place on our way home. Simple? Yes, very much so. And, to make it even nicer – when we were already getting off to Glasgow on our way back – the company manager popped in to the bus station, just to thank us for our business, and to wish us a good journey home! Wow! At 7am! Just to say “hi”! And did I mention – the little, peppy Renault was just perfect for what we wanted?

Early morning view at the Storr

M2 Motors made us feel more welcome on Skye, same as our nice host who rented us a tiny but nice Dunyre self-catering cottage. Yes, that was another lucky thing. Perfectly fitted for two or three persons, offering a fantastic view towards the Storr, modern equipment, internet, and an excellent price, Dunyre is run by very helpful and pleasant hosts who made our stay truly enjoyable. Yes, I know – this sounds like a “plug” – but both above businesses honestly deserve very highly to be known to the public for their above-average service. And if you happen to plan to visit Skye and Portree, then this may be a useful info for you.

Ok then, let’s get back to our story. You can find an astonishing variety of scenery on Skye. The Black Cuillins is the most spectacular mountain range with dark, jagged volcanic peaks. In the Trotternish Penninsula there is another ridge called Quirang, full of dramatic pinnacles and gullies. The ridge rises to its highest point at the summit at the Storr –  where years of erosion formed a distinctive pinnacle, the rock needle visible from a long distance: The Old Man of Storr. Between the ranges, undulated hills interpenetrate in a gentle way embellished by moors and cascading brooks. All that scenery is surrounded by extraordinary picturesque coastline, a smorgasbord of bays, hidden lochs, caves, tidal islands, massive cliffs and waterfalls.

Kilt Rock waterfall

What is making Skye’s scenery even more breathtaking is the extraordinary luminous quality of light. It creates a delicate chiaroscuro, a gentle transition between dark and light. It also helps the colours to be more saturated. Skye is situated rather far north; in December, winter nights last almost 18 hours, the 4 hours long nights in June are never totally black, they remain in a kind of twilight. 

Well, I had to stop the car sometimes every 100 meters! Views along the north east shore are nothing short of amazing. Just out of Portree – you get the view over the Storr formation. Morning light made it a spectacular photographic feast. Every hundred yards the view changed, with densely saturated colours of moors, rocks, cloudy sky, glens and tiny lakes. Skye is a photographer’s paradise! No wonder quite a number of celebrated photographers actually live there!
Next we arrived at Kilt Rock with the famous waterfall pouring down from a cliff straight into the sea. While the view of the waterfall itself is restricted by tight access to the shore, it is nonetheless spectacular and worth stopping your car. (If you plan to photograph it, try to be there in the morning, because around noon you will lose the direct sun on the water, which makes for sparkly and vivid display.)

rock landmarks (inuksuit)

After passing a few villages and stopping our car for a quick photo another dozen times, we came near to Quirang – another amazing area. Past the Quirang and Flodigarry, the very northern tip of Skye welcomed us with open views of the sea, and quite unexpectedly, with a display of rock landmarks (inuksuit) created by visitors over many years. 
Next, we went to Uig, driving a single-lane, winding road looking down at this small town connecting the northern isles via local ferry. A short drive from there, and we arrived at another stunning destination. One of the best examples of the more intimate scenery – The Fairy Glen, is a magical miniature landscape (obviously made by the magic of the fairies!) made up of grassy, cone-shaped hills and pockets of bizarrely  twisted bonsai-like trees.

Trees at the Fairy Glen

This tiny oasis stands among much higher hills and mountains like a land of garden gnomes. Perhaps the combination of awe-inspiring nature (sought by the Romantic artists as an experience of the Sublime), and of pastoral, more gentle landscape, is what makes Skye so truly exceptional. What an unexpected delight!
We returned to Portree tired and happy, and with plenty of photographs. For next day, we decided to go see the Old Man of Storr and the Neist Point Lighthouse – but this is another story, for another time…

One of many old croft cottages


Please stay tuned for more from Skye – coming soon!
Click Follow to get notified with next posts, and SHARE with friends.
Next parts linked here:  part 2
Thank you for stopping by.

Commentary: Margaret Gajek and Derek Galon
Photographs: Derek Galon (please respect copyright)

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