Do you love Canon?

My very first SLR camera was a Pentax film camera. It was a great start into the world of photography and served me well for many years. I bought it in 1998 at London Drugs in Grande Prairie, Alberta. Oh the memories!

When I decided to pursue photography further, as more than just a hobby, I switched to Canon and I have loved it ever since.

People ask me all the time … which is better? Canon or Nikon. My answer is always the same. Whichever you prefer to shoot with. Canon is better for some things, Nikon better for others. I’ve been a Canon-girl for at least 10 years now, so Canon is my preference, but only because I know it so well.

I met a photographer named Bob Davis at PartnerCon in New Orleans in 2010. He shot Eva Langoria’s wedding. At the time, a lot of Halifax photographers were in a big tizzy and had decided that Nikon was better than Canon so several of them were switching ALL of their gear over to Nikon. A huge undertaking and a huge investment. People were asking me if I was going to switch because so and so was switching. Hell no. If I were going to switch it would be for a good reason, not because so and so had decided to! Silly question.

In the back of my mind I’ve always said to myself … Bob Davis who shot Eva Langoria’s Wedding with Canon 5D gear gets phenomenal photos and works with celebrities, I think I can probably *suffer* through using the same equipment he does.

Just goes to show, although equipment is important in photography, it really is the brains and creativity behind the equipment that make or break a photo.

Cheers to Canon … I love you!

They are running a Fantasy Contest right now to win a fantasy dream kit. I’ve chosen the Adventure kit with a 70-300 mm lens. What will you choose?

It takes 1 minute to sign up and they really are just looking for new likes on their Facebook page. You can opt in to their newsletter, or not, up to you.

Hope you’ll sign up through this link below for your chance to win. Canon has always served me well and I don’t plan on giving up on them any time soon!

Casualties of a photo tour

It just wouldn’t be an adventure with Shari if a few things weren’t lost, broken or left behind along the way. It’s funny because I don’t consider myself particularly careless, but somehow I just have bad luck when it comes to travel.

Last year it was leaving my cell phone behind and then dropping a lens and breaking it before I ever went through security at the Halifax airport.

This year, my trip started with lost luggage in Lima. I thought that might be enough bad luck to hold me over for the entire trip, but no … that was only wishful thinking.

In case you didn’t read the Lost Luggage post, the gist of it is that I arrived in Lima with 11 of my 12 passengers on the morning of April 6th. All 11 of those folks had their luggage, but mine had decided to take the long route. Not a big deal … I had my camera, that’s what was most important!

Only a couple of days into the trip, one of our passengers dropped his glasses on the ground and they broke. It was several days later, as we got ready to do a little tour around the Puno market, that he found a little stand selling eye glasses. Lo and behold, he was able to replace them and despite dropping them a couple more times on the trip, they made the journey!

Next casualty of the trip was at Luquina Chico. Audrey brought a nice big Canadian flag with her and she pulled it out and we all gathered around for a group photo. What happens when a group photo gets taken? Everyone hands their cameras over to the person in charge of taking the photo, including me. So, we each handed our cameras over to Elard, our G leader who quickly took a group photo with each of all of our cameras and then handed it back. Mine was somewhere in the middle of the group of cameras. He handed mine back and we all continued to pose for the group photo.


After all of the cameras were handed back, Clever gathered our attention to explain what was going to happen for the rest of the day.

And then ‘thud’


There it was, my 5D MK II, face down on the rocky beach …

Pretty much everyone in the group turned to look, and I’m pretty sure my face was white.
I picked it up off the ground and looked at the damage.

Broken Filter Photo by Elard Aranibar
Broken Filter
Photo by Elard Aranibar

After letting Clever know that he could continue explaining to the group, I half paid attention and half studied the damage. The entire filter was smashed. The question was, did the smashed glass from the filter hit the lens? A filter is $60-$100 to replace. The lens is about $1000 to replace.

I slowly and tentatively unscrewed the filter from the lens. I could hear the glass shifting and starting to come loose. I had no idea what I was going to find behind that filter. Would my lens be equally as shattered? Finally, when the filter was off, I could see the lens. It had not broken, which was a good start, but with the shards of glass and dust all over it, I couldn’t really see how much damage there was.

A little in shock, I decided to just ignore the damage for the time being, pay attention to the day’s plans and deal with it later.

When I reached my home stay (about an hour later), I took a closer look. I carefully used my blower & lens pen brush to dust the remaining glass off the lens and held it up in the sun light. Miraculously, the filter had sustained all of the damage and the lens came out perfectly fine. As far as I can tell, not even a scratch. Guess it was my lucky day!

The next day, I stayed back at Luquina Chico while most of the group went on a tour of nearby Taquille island. I loved the tour of Taquille that we did last year, but altitude was affecting me and I knew that I could not do the physical exertion needed for this particular tour. I was really disappointed because they were also taking a different route than I had the year before, so it would have been a new experience for me.

They docked at a lovely beach and then meandered their way up, up, up and around the hilly island to the top where the main square is. While they were stopped to take photos of the beach area, Elard borrowed one of the passenger’s converters. Now instead of having a 70-200 lens, it would be more like a 400mm lens. I wasn’t there to see it, but I think he was a little excited. He took off, up another hill to take photos from afar and give the converter a try. Unfortunately, when he got ready to take it all apart and head back down, he dropped his lens with the converter attached to it.
This time, the lens didn’t land face down, but instead the rocks bent and twisted the ring that attaches to the camera. Luckily, a few days later in Cuzco, Elard was able to get the converter fixed relatively inexpensively. The 70-200 (his own), however, is still awaiting repair.

Last, but not least …

It was the day of our night photography workshop. Everyone gathered around with their cameras, tripods and rain gear as we could hear thunder in the distance. We headed out to an area of Cuzco called San Blas to take some golden hour photos before day turned to night.

About half way to San Blas, the rain started to fall. And then, it started to pour. We quickly dashed into a little bar for drinks, hoping that the rain would quickly pass. Not the best night to be out finding ‘golden hour’ … more like ‘grey hour’. After about half an hour of chit chat and drinks, the rain had stopped and we continued on our way up the hill to San Blas. We arrived to see vendors setting up their street market areas again and the sun just starting to peak through the clouds. Maybe we’d be lucky and see the sun again before nightfall.

Everyone went their separate ways to find something interesting to photograph in this quaint little bohemian neighbourhood. After snapping a few photos in the main square area, Elard and I headed up, up, up higher where we could get an even better view of the city. I took this photo along the way, when I needed to stop and catch my breath.

San Blas, Cuzco
San Blas, Cuzco

At the top of the hill, we found a small common area, enclosed by glass and one of the participants was climbing up on the railing to take photos.

Paul in San Blas
Paul in San Blas

I set my tripod down to line up my photo of Paul. Took a few shots and then we headed back down the stairs to our meeting point for the group. Quite a few group members were standing around staring at this little spectacle where a huge dog was greeting people, squeezed through the rungs on a partial balcony. It was quite the commotion when two or three other little dogs decided to join him.

San Blas
San Blas

After taking pictures of this curious dog watching over all of us from above, I got ready to gather everyone up to leave when I realized that I was missing something. Where was my tripod? Had I given it to someone to hold? Had I set it down?

Damn it. I had left it at the top of the hill.

Elard looked at my sadly and I laughed and said ‘I don’t think I’m going back up there to get it!’ The next thing I knew, he was headed that direction. I stopped him and said I would go. I walked to the end of the street, took one look at how many stairs there were to the top, turned on my heel and marched right back to the group.

‘There’s not a chance in hell I’m doing those stairs again. My tripod just isn’t worth it.’

To that, a couple of the men from the trip offered to go back up and looked for it, but I argued that it really wasn’t worth it. The tripod had been at least seven or eight years old, only cost $30 and it really was broken. I had decided to bring it with me because my good tripod was too heavy and the part that was broken on this one, I could work around for the few shots that I would be taking with it.

“Don’t worry about it. It was cheap and partially broken. I don’t really care about it.”

The next thing I knew, someone was asking me questions about photography and then, out of the corner of my eye I see Elard sprinting up the street. I yelled for him not to bother, but he kept going. I really didn’t want him to go all the way back to the top for my broken tripod that may or may not be there, but there was no way I was running after him (at altitude) to try to stop him!

A few minutes later, Elard returned, breathless from hurrying up and down the stairs ….. no tripod to be found.

So, all I can do is hope that someone in need found the tripod and will sell it on the street or at a market somewhere and make enough money for a day or two of food for themselves and their family.

Good news out of all of this? One less thing to carry in my backpack. Five pounds lighter and easier to pack!

Oh, the casualties of a photo tour.

Floreana Island – highlands

Feb 15, 2012

And the adventure continues. Never a dull moment in my travel adventures! You will all enjoy my misfortune I’m sure!

There is a small town on the island called Puerto Velasco Ibarra. I guess it would really be a village.

Floreana Island, Puerto Velasco Ibarra
Floreana Island, Puerto Velasco Ibarra

We had a bathroom stop where it was actually my first public bathroom experience! Until this point I had managed to always go to my hotel which was lucky. It probably also has some thing to do with the incredible heat. I know that I’m dehydrated. I take water everywhere with me, but I could use about 10 bottles a day here.

So, the public bathroom (bano) wasn’t so great. The toilet wouldn’t flush, everyone had been squatting so there was pee all over the seat …. No toilet paper, no soap and no running water. Well, I had expected this at some point, so I wasn’t overly surprised. Some of the women were upset though. If you are traveling to South America … pack your own toilet paper and hand sanitizer! Don’t go anywhere without it! I sure was glad to have mine!

With that experience out of the way, I hope on board our open air truck to head up up up to the highlands. The open air truck is a cab and then on the back there is a separate covered area with benches under it. The sides are open and it’s quite a step to hop on it!

Transportation on Floreana Island
Transportation on Floreana Island

I met a lot of our group because many of us spoke English. Lynn and Melanie were from Washington State, Kate was from Minnesota, Sven was from Switzerland and another guy was from London – can’t recall his name though. We had some great chats about travel, the world and US politics. Lots of people traveling on their own and everyone is really friendly. Always happy to share a story or a tip about somewhere they’ve been that you may be going to.

It was probably about a 10 minute ride on the truck up the hill to where we would first stop. About 2 minutes away from the ocean it started to rain (no surprise) It seemed as though we were getting close, so I dug out my rain jacket. I love this jacket sooooo much! I bought it at MEC, it has a longer back part to keep your bum dry, it is light, has a hood and if you fold it properly it rolls right up into its own hood. Great for packing it into a day pack!

I set the jacket on my knee as I got my camera ready. We hit a few bumps and then Uht oh! Bump. The rain jacket fell right off the side of the truck. All of the English folks were yelling to the driver to stop. The Chinese folks at the front of the benches were pounding on the back of the truck, but to no avail. I guess it must have been loud in there and they couldn’t hear us. Glad that it was something, not someone who fell off the truck!

About a km after I lost my rain jacket, we stopped at our walking trail. The truck driver spoke very good English and he said he would go back and look for my jacket. Very nice of him!

So, in the pouring rain I headed with the group through the woods with my camera around my neck and partially covered by my t-shirt and my day pack on my back with another lens and all kinds of other things. I had planned to cover the day pack up with my rain jacket, but that wasn’t going to happen now! Once again, no use crying over spilled milk … just went on my way and tried not to worry about it too much.

Our first stop was to see some turtles roaming free. My understanding is that Floreana has no turtles directly from this island anymore. These turtles have been brought here to study and then be re-introduced to their own islands. We could get really close to them here, but it was really pouring so we didn’t stay for long.

At this point we were all soaking wet … well, except for the Chinese couple, Sven from Switzerland and the gentleman from London – they had umbrellas.

I don’t think I’ll ever travel in rainy season again without one (or two) umbrellas. Rainy season is rainy of course, but it is also incredibly hot. People have umbrellas all the time to shade themselves from the sun. In Nova Scotia we don’t think about this. I just laughed out loud at that. If we see the sun in Nova Scotia we certainly don’t want to be shaded from it!

We continued on our walking tour and stopped at some pirate ruins and labrynths. It was really interesting, but I didn’t get all of the history. The photo below shows a carving. I think they said that it was a monument to one of the pirate’s dogs. I’ll have to see if I can find something on the internet about it.

Pirate Monument Floreana Island
Pirate Monument Floreana Island

When I took my camera out, I was devastated to see ERR 20 – CANNOT TAKE PHOTOS RIGHT NOW.

The other part of the history that I remember that was really interesting was told to us when we got to an area where the town’s water is filtered. Let me tell you though, I don’t know why they call it ‘filtering’ … It is basically just rain water directed down through some rocks, on to a small tin like plate and then dropped into buckets.

Because this Is the only water supply for the entire island, this is one of the reasons that the population hasn’t grown.

The other reason is that there have been 15 mysterious disappearances of people. No one knows where they went or how they died. They just disappeared. Originally they thought that Maria (a German) who was here with the pirates might be responsible for the deaths. After starting an investigation though, her son also disappeared and they dropped the investigation. Please remember this is very loosely translated!

We headed back down toward the ocean and had lunch at a restaurant. Honestly, it is more of a home that acts as a restaurant with 3 or 4 large tables and chairs. Lunch was lovely, including a banana with red syrop for dessert. Then we walked back to the dock to catch a water taxi to our boat.

The water had gotten rougher in those last couple of hours and climbing on to the water taxi proved to be quite difficult for several of the travelers. We were on a stone staircase with the bow of the boat pointing straight at us and the waves hitting the boat from the left side. When a large wave came, it would push the boat away from the stairs and the driver would have to come back again. If you happened to be in mid step when a wave hit, you were in trouble. So, it was really important to watch for waves as you prepared to step on the boat. Thankfully we all made it safely, but there were a couple of close calls with people who had mobility issues. Then we had to repeat this again to get from the water taxi to our boat.

There are always one or two guides or decks hands to help you on and off the boat. They are used to these conditions, have great balance and when they offer you their hand, you should just take it.

I wasn’t really scared at any point as I’ve done these boat transfers before, but I do remind myself that the staff are there to help us and to keep us safe. I know if it is not safe, they’ll find another way.

All mishaps are now out of the way … RIGHT?

I’m usually pretty good at sleep. Excitement, stress … doesn’t matter, sleep comes pretty easy for me. Not last night! I was up until 12:45am then tossed and turned all night (loosely stated) before getting up at 5:30am. On a positive note, because I have to get something positive in here … I didn’t cut myself shaving and it may be awhile before I shave again, so I’m particularly enjoying my smooth legs. I’m trying to be positive here!

I got to my sister, Anita’s just a little past 6:30am … almost on time. We chat and head off to the airport. We hug and the last thing she says is ‘Tweet lots’ and I jokingly said ‘Should I start right now?’. I headed inside lugging two backpacks and an oversized ‘purse’ with my laptop in it. Attached my comfy new travel pillow to my camera bag and headed in.

Immediately inside the doors and part way up the escalator to US departures I realized I had made a devastating mistake! Panic struck. I looked for a pay phone … I looked for a quarter … no luck! I asked a lovely lady if she had one and she didn’t but she sent me to her husband as she had just given him the change from Starbucks. THANK YOU lovely strangers. I put the quarter in and dial what I hope is my sister’s cell phone number. Ring … Ring … Ring …. panic … Panic … PANIC! No friggin’ answer … answering machine, bye bye one begged for quarter.

I head back down the escalator to Starbucks to get change, except I have to buy something to get change! Can’t take a drink through security, so I decided to head to the change machine in the arcade. $20 Canadian bill in change? Well, that would add a little extra weight, but PANIC! Insert change machine noises … Insert Shari controlling herself and not kicking the machine as it spit the $20 bill back out! Back to Starbucks I go to buy a $2 bag of almonds and ask for a bunch of quarters. Who knows how many times I’ll get my sister’s answering machine and lose quarters!

Pay phone attempt number 2. What was that cell phone number again? Ok, it’s ringing … and ringing … and ‘Anita speaking’. PANIC … RELIEF … ‘Um, I’m an idiot. Is my cell phone in the cup holder in the car?’ … And, back my sister comes to the airport.

I head to the escalators for a second attempt to check in and I hear click, thunk and then I lightly kick something. Now, what do you think that was? To my utter dismay … I mean really stomach churningly disappointing … I look and my camera bag had come partially unzippered … out had tumbled a lens, hit the floor and smashed in two. Anyone out their crying for me yet? I haven’t even checked my luggage in yet!

I picked up the pieces (two of them, completely separated to be exact) and pretty sure I said out loud ‘Are you shitting me?’. Then I took a deep breath, thought to myself, wow am I glad I’m getting my cell phone back and thank you for only being my cheapie 50 mm lens and not one of my $1500+ lenses.

Cell phone returned by super sister … broken lens handed off because there’s no sense taking it with me now!

Lessons learned:
1. When I say ‘I’ll tweet about it’ … check for cell phone before vehicle pulls away.
2. Don’t attach travel pillow to backpack zippers.
3. Lenses, even from a short distance, don’t bounce when dropped.

20 minutes until boarding. Mishaps are all out of the way now … RIGHT?