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.

Posts tagged ‘reviews’

Secret Bay… once again!

Secret Bay as it looks today

Recently, we felt lucky again to work at the Secret Bay eco-resort here, on the island of Dominica. We felt lucky because this is one of our favorite places on earth. We witnessed the birth of the Secret Bay when six years ago we photographed the first, newly constructed villa called Zabuco, and watched with excitement their further development over the years. This time, our job was to photograph two Ylang-Ylang villas, a newest addition to six already existing ones.

One of Ylang Ylang villas

 

Shortly after arrival, when carrying our photo equipment (heavy!) and setting it up, I felt it again: calm joy of being there, my blood pressure decreasing, my muscles relaxing. The place is of extraordinary beauty: situated on a cliff with stunning wide view of the Caribbean Sea visible from every villa and bungalow. Looking at the new villas I’m amazed how well they fit into the landscape; they look like they were always there!

Covered patio with kitchen blends inside with outside space

We’re photographing the state of the art equipped kitchen entirely open to the surrounding nature. Inside the villa, sliding doors and huge windows allow the inside space harmoniously blend with the outside.

Another angle on patio reveals its fantastic view

Secret Bay was built by sustainable methods: all the surrounding trees were preserved, only higher brunches were trimmed to open up the amazing vistas. We’ll write more about sustainable development of Secret Bay for the next MACO magazine; please check it out.

While working on our first Caribbean photo coffee-table  book  “Tropical Homes of the Eastern Caribbean” we saw many extraordinarily beautiful homes and resorts all over the Caribbean. Secret Bay is unique among them; it has it all: breathtaking location, exceptional organic architecture, fabulous food and unpretentious friendliness of people who work there. Being here is a very special privilege for us. After work, we take a swim at the Secret Beach and night snorkel – what an uplifting and blissful experience!

 

Ylang Ylang villa with its swimming pool connected by hardwood patio.

We did not post anything for a while, and we missed you! We will try to publish another post soon. It is just that we are getting incredibly busy at times – working on many projects such as photo-shoots of Miss Dominica, photo sets for hotels and resorts, and also – building our own little house! But that is yet another story…

Stay tuned! Cheers!

Margaret

Story by Margaret Gajek, all photos by Derek Galon. Please respect the copyright.
Thank you.

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Giraudel Flower Show 2016

_DAG8956-smWe were fortunate this year to attend the Giraudel Flower Show in Dominica, where we live now. This special event was held in the village of Giraudel situated on the slopes of Morne Anglais, one of the tallest mountains in the south. The village of Giraudel is known as the “flower basket” of Dominica.

At the entrance to the show

At the entrance to the show

Rich volcanic soil and frequent rains make ideal conditions for growing flowers and healthy vegetables this village is famous for. The Flower Show started in 1973 and grew out of local celebrations of Achievement Day, showcasing local produce, crafts and the best gardens. Since then it was run every second or third year with a bigger break after devastating hurricane David. _DAG8903sm

Sybil Alfred and Desmond Augustine at the Show.

Sybil Alfred and Desmond Augustine at the Show.

We, the Flower Grower Group, recently bought this piece of land and finally have a permanent home for the show,” explains Sybil Alfred- one of the organizers who is involved from the very beginning. “It is very much a community effort, everyone contributes in a different way and everyone is welcome – from small individual growers to commercial flower shops and gardens”.
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”We went into the small house containing flower arrangements. “This year’s general theme is ‘Flowers in a changing environment’”, says Sybil. “When you look around, you see trees being cut, too much garbage and destruction. We say- stop this and concentrate on natural beauty instead.” The display space is divided into sections with different themes and corresponding flower arrangements. Some of the themes are: “Prevent destruction”, “Protect nature’s diversity”, “Resilience”, “Bury careless damage”, “Eat local”, “Harmony with nature” and the last one: “We will bloom again.”

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The display is colourful and striking. Different varieties of Anthurium, Ginger and Costus are the most frequently used plants, together with Alstroemeria, Dahlia and Marigold. I really like a bouquet made of blue Agapanthus- these showy globes are three times bigger than what we grew in our garden in British Columbia, Canada. I truly started to be fond of these strong combination of reds, orange and yellow only when we begun to work on our book “Exotic Gardens of the Easter Caribbean”. As a gardener, I’ve always preferred pastels, whites and textural plants – but here, under tropical sun these vibrant colours really make a strong statement against the background of intensely green rainforest.

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We step outside into the sunshine and wonder around another section showing a variety of natural landscapes and different growing conditions on the island: from lush rainforest of the interior to dry Caribbean coast. This section is skilfully put together by Desmond Augustine, owner of the local plant nursery and a master florist. Here the display includes funky mannequins impersonating workers in the fields.
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But this is not everything: there is a tree house with ferns, a shade garden, a field of colourful zinnias, bromeliads… there is still so much to see! We had a wonderful time discovering all corners of the Giraudel Flower Show and ended up buying beautiful peace lily, spathiphyllum wallisii to be planted in our garden later on. I can’t imagine a more enjoyable Sunday afternoon.
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I wish you were here!
Until next time!
– Margaret.

If you enjoy this story, please SHARE, let your friends read it too!
Thanks!

Story by Margaret Gajek
Photos: Derek Galon, Ozone Zone. Please respect copyright.

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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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…

View original post 1,055 more words

Visiting Chosin Pottery Gardens – Once Again

It is hard to believe that it’s already a year since we visited this place for the first time! When enjoying this garden in August 2011, we decided to return here in autumn, to see and photograph this beautiful place in its full glory of of fall colours. So a couple of weeks ago we did just that.

Chosin Pottery Studio Gardens welcomed us with rain, fog, and unmistakeably late autumn mood. We remembered it lush and green, therefore this was the Garden’s new face for us. Quiet, misty, full of colourful autumn leaves, it was inviting to take nostalgic photographs, and I obeyed.

You can see our post from the previous visit HERE, therefore I won’t be writing again about the Studio and its owners. Let’s make this post more about photographs, passing seasons and returning cycles of nature.

Some images – quite intentionally – show the same spots photographed on the previous occasion, in summer 2011. We love it when a garden gives joy, offering its ever-changing beauty all year long. And the Chosin Pottery Garden does just that…
Thanks for stopping by, until next time!
Cheers!
– Derek

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Commentary: Derek Galon
Photographs: Derek Galon (please respect copyright)

P.S.
I just noticed a nice comment  one of readers of our coffee table book Exotic Gardens of the Eastern Caribbean wrote on Amazon’s site in UK (this book is available on all Amazon sites).
Such a nice comment, it really is the best compansation for long and hard work of our team – let me share it with you:

“Exotic Gardens is more than just another coffee-table book; it is an experience.  From small gardens to grand gardens this tour through selected islands of the Eastern Caribbean is an absolute delight.
The photography is nothing short of stunning, to which the insightful commentary is the consummate foil.”

Wow, thanks for this amazing comment!
Derek

West Highland Train – Glasgow to Mallaig, Scotland

Early morning photo from the train. Just out of Glasgow.

By any measure our trip to the Isle of Skye in Scotland was absolutely fantastic!
Although it was already late October, weather was summer-like. And of course people in Scotland – as always – were helpful and friendly. Not only did we take all the photographs for our client, but also did some extra sightseeing, ending up having lots of additional photos, as well as amazing memories.
While the whole trip was just over one week long, it was packed with memorable moments and activities. Therefore we decided to split our post into several separate parts, in order to share our memories with you in the best possible way.

Dark clouds add drama to green hills.

So here is the first part – the journey from Glasgow to Mallaig:
When we boarded the West Highland Train in Glasgow early in the morning, we didn’t expect such a spectacular journey ahead of us. We knew that West Highland Line was voted one of the best scenic train journeys in the world, but nothing prepared us for that fantastically picturesque delight.

views are getting better and better…

The view from the train starts to be interesting almost immediately after leaving the station. The train runs parallel to the River Clyde along its north bank. After that the landscape opens wide. The line continues to wind its way through glens, alongside lochs, across moors, climbing up the mountains. It goes through scarcely populated areas before reaching Rannoch Moor, a vast upland wilderness. Scenery changes as in a kaleidoscope. Stations’ names become more Gaelic sounding; we are now in the heart of the Highlands.

Constantly on alert – I had only couple of seconds from seeing this, to taking this photo.

The morning sky becomes light blue and sunny, all colours of the landscape are saturated after the rain. We are glued to the windows determined not to miss anything; one blink of an eye and the view will be lost forever. We enter “the Horse Shoe Curve”- instead of crossing the broad valley, the train makes a big, spectacular bend over the neighbouring hillsides. Next, for some people on the train comes the biggest attraction: the Glenfinnan Viaduct, the biggest bridge on the line, featured in the “Harry Potter” films.

Near Rannoch train station

For us, the highlight of this trip comes next, past Fort William: the incredibly picturesque Loch Eilt, studded with tiny islands with towering trees. After crossing several viaducts and tunnels, we can already catch a glimpse of the sea. Our journey ends in Mallaig, a fishing port and a gateway to the north-west islands.

the Glenfinnan Viaduct – recognize it from Harry Potter?

The whole 264 km journey takes over 5 hours, but we felt like watching an incredibly fascinating 2- hour movie. If not for the train, it would be otherwise impossible to see such a stunning variety of Scottish landscape in such a short time. West Highland Line was built over the period of almost 40 years starting from 1863.

Beautiful Loch Eilt with dozens of tiny islands

The latest extension – from Fort William to Mallaig – was opened in April 1901. Since then, the train gives a chance to experience one of the most memorable rail journeys in the world.

We plan to take a ferry from Mallaig to one of the biggest Scottish islands, the Isle of Skye. For us, the West Highland Train is only the beginning.

ruins of a  house on a moor

Thank you for reading, please SHARE with friends, and if you like it – click FOLLOW to get notified when next parts are posted.
Story – Margaret Gajek, author of multi-awarded books Exotic Gardens of the Eastern Caribbean and Tropical Homes of the Eastern Caribbean
Photography – Derek Galon (please respect copyright).

Until next time, cheers!
Derek

Breathing Color – Amazing Photo Papers

Tile Tales looks spectacular on Metallic paper. All bright parts are almost glowing.

I recently prepared several prints for a Photo Salon in Japan, and used this opportunity to work on newly purchased selection of papers from a young, dynamic company Breathing Color. Results of that work are so pleasing that I decided to share them with you ASAP.

Normally I would use this kind of post  in my other, more technical blog (and maybe I will repost it there too). But this story is bordering between technical, and a simple sharing of a great photo experience. It also shows several photographs from my portfolio – therefore I decided to post it here.

Preparing for THE 73rd INTERNATIONAL PHOTOGRAPHIC SALON OF JAPAN, I selected images of different styles, subjects and techniques. Among them, my favourite image with model Koko, called Tile Tales (which -by the way- have been just published in a limited edition book showing select fine art photography from around the world, and titled No Words, by the prestigious Scandinavian gallery 1X.).

This image looks almost black and white, it is full of luminescence and contrasts. Along with Tile Tales I selected some densely colorful images, as well as couple of real black and whites. That choice made for a perfect testing ground for my newly purchased Breathing Color papers.

Silvery-grey clay on No Nirvana image simply shines when printed on Metallic paper.

Knowing well how the “Tile Tales” looks on traditional glossy and pearl Ilford papers, I was curious how it will look on Breathing Color’s Vibrance Metallic. This paper intrigued me instantly. It has a high gloss finish, and its surface looks a bit like mother of pearl, reflecting light in a very interesting way.
So, I printed Tile Tiles – and could not believe the effect. Image got an instant “boost of light”, an extra dimension of warm luminescence. It is hard to describe. Perhaps it can be compared a bit with viewing it on a top quality monitor, where light comes from behind – rather than hitting printed image from the front. The brighter the image part is, the more of that reflective luminescence it gets – effectively expanding gamut and dynamics well over typical limits. The image received its own life! If you would have two  Tile Tales prints – one on a lovely Ilford’s Pearl paper, and another on this Metallic – I bet you would pick first the metallic one, even without thinking why you did so. It definitely is a paper which will help your images being noticed. Even in a poor light it still has quite a lot of appeal.

I found it fantastic for images which strongly accent their bright spots, and with bright colours including grey/silver/white.
Therefore I couldn’t resist printing my new image No Nirvana (with Michael Ward – model) on it – and bingo! Again, the image was stunning. Light grey elements of clay look just AMAZING. Unbelievable print! I printed on this paper both with dye and Epson pigment inks – and it looks same spectacular with both.

“Abandoned by God” photo from Montserrat gets a new life on Metallic paper – all bright parts including grey volcanic ash are simply stunning.

Next, I printed Rain Dance (with Daniel Corbett – model) – image with vibrant colours and lots of dark elements. For this one – I picked luxurious, lush mat paper called Vellum Fine Art Paper (again by Breathing Color).
Wow! Rarely I see such elegant and deep palette as this. A beautiful gallery quality print. Thick and heavy, it is really impressive. I quickly varnished it with a matte spray to protect against fingerprints, as this image just asks to be touched.

Rain Dance looks rich and elegant on Vellum paper.

I used the same paper for my black and white image called Always Fresh flowers (with Eden Celeste – model). Again – amazing result: deep blacks look on this paper almost like on an opulent velvet fabric, you almost see a depth to it. A remarkable paper, and instantly on my favourites list.

I also tested a semi-gloss kind of paper, called Vibrance Rag, printing Revisiting Dr. Freud (with Rowen Bellamy – model). At first, I was taken aback by its look. It has a slight texture and a light glaze, which did not look to me very appealing straight from the box. It looked too “artificial”, I thought. But when I printed on it a photo full of colour, textures and contrast – this paper got life on its own. Covered with ink, gone was that “artificial” look, and it looks like a really fine gallery grade print. Thumbs up again!

Vellum Fine Art paper makes “Always Fresh Flowers” look almost three-dimensional. Fantastic art paper indeed.

I still have some other Breathing Color papers and supplies to test – but these first three got my highest approval, and I can say that with their price being significantly lower than other top brands (Epson or Canson for example) – they will be often used for my exhibition quality works. They exceeded my expectation – and those of you who know how picky I am – should realize it is not often happening.

Like with all photo papers, you should consider specific images and select paper which will work well to accentuate your photograph. But you will find that Breathing Color can offer you really fine papers for many situations when you need the best prints. And the great news is – they offer low priced sampler packs! This is what I just used.

Revisiting Dr. Freud on Vibrance Rag looks very classy and rich.

I hope you enjoy this post, and if you do – please SHARE it with friends.
Thank you, until next time – perhaps right after our return from Skye, Scotland, later this month.
Cheers!

All images copyright Derek Galon and Ozone Zone Books. Please respect it.

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