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Long Way Around

Friday, July 15, 2011

Starting tomorrow, I'm beginning a road trip that's been in the works for a long time. It will take me on a round trip journey across Canada, down the Pacific coast, and back home across the United States.

The route for the trip can be best described as planned spontaneity. Over the course of a month, I'm going to follow those red arrows on the map with an improvisational spirit. I'll be loosely following each arrow with a plan to avoid major highways as much as possible.


The source of inspiration for this road trip is two-fold - one part family and the other part documentary.

The primary inspiration comes from my Dad. He instilled in me a real thirst for travel. I often saw him devouring information about geography, history and travel which had a natural influenced on me. We often talked about the places he had been and the places he wanted to see. He was especially a huge fan of the Canadian landscape and had covered most of the country before his death ten years ago. We had taken a few solo trips together before my Mom died, but once she was gone, I became his full-time travel partner. The last road trip we did was to Atlantic Canada. We were planning trips to the Yukon and Newfoundland shortly before he died. In many ways, I'll be experiencing this road trip through my father's eyes.

The other inspiration is a documentary I've discussed with many people - Long Way Round, featuring Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman. In 2004, they rode motorcycles around the world and documented the entire adventure for the BBC. I bought the extended DVD set in 2006 and have watched it from start to finish a few times, never getting bored of the crazy adventures Ewan and Charley have on their trip! I've always wanted to do adventurous traveling, as opposed to touristic traveling, and seeing the Long Way Round series really gave this desire a kick start.

He's Got Legs

The road trip can essentially be broken into three legs. The first leg will last approximately one week and take me from Toronto out to Alberta. After spending a week or so bouncing between Calgary and Edmonton visiting family and friends, the second leg will take me to San Francisco via Vancouver. I'll be spending a few days in the Bay Area geeking it up with photography and technology, then I'll head home on the third leg of the trip, weaving a path across the United States until I'm back in Toronto. I'll write about each leg of the trip in separate updates in the coming days.

Clean Diesel, Baby

I'll be doing the road trip in my 2009 Volkswagen Jetta TDI Clean Diesel (long enough title, eh?). I bought that car because of its perfect combination of eco-friendliness (it was rated as the 2009 Green Car of the Year) and power (2.0L Turbo Diesel). I've been able to reach 960km on a single tank of fuel, which is amazing considering the power of the engine and size of the car. My goal is to reach 1000km on a tank of fuel at least once on this trip.

Shortly after I bought the car, I told fellow explorer Keri that "it's going to take me around the world". It may never leave North America, but the sentiment was there. ;)

28-135mm, 1/500 seconds, f/8.0, ISO 100

That's a brief overview of the trip. I'll be writing, photographing and posting video of the adventure on all the usual social media suspects[1], as well as here on the website. Stay tuned for updates!

Update (Monday, July 25th): Readers can follow along with posts about the trip by viewing the Road Trip 2011 category tag.


1. Social media presence: Twitter, Google+, Facebook Page, Flickr, 500px

Crack the Surface

Monday, July 11, 2011

Hot on the heels of yesterday's post about urban exploration documentaries, here's Crack the Surface. This video takes a slightly different twist than Steps in that it features slightly more extreme explorations, including active subway tunnels, urban spelunking and draining. For Canadians, watch for a mention (starting at 8:55) of an explorer that nearly drowned in Edmonton.

Regina Sy

Sunday, July 10, 2011

I had the opportunity on Saturday to do another photo shoot with the super fun and beautiful Regina Sy. We shot in two locations; a set of abandoned phone booths north east of Toronto and in front of the Guild Inn. These shots mark the beginning of a project I'm working on that will be launched in a few months.

85mm, 1/3200 second, f/1.8, ISO 100


Sunday, July 10, 2011

I'm often asked what it's like to do urban exploration. Steps, a short documentary by Scott Oller and filmed in Europe, is the most realistic example of urban exploration I've seen to date. This documentary is an exact reflection of how we experience urban exploration in the Toronto Exploration Society.

Six Flags New Orleans: Stacked Star Trails

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Four days ago, I wrote about a star trails photo I shot (on a recently urban exploration trip) near the ferris wheel of the abandoned Six Flags New Orleans amusement park. Immediately after taking that photo, I shot 20 extra exposures, lasting 1 minute each, of the same scene. My intention was to combine the 20 exposures to create a single long exposure photo using a program called StarStaX. The photo can be seen below.

10-22mm, 20 minutes (stacked exposures), f/5.6, ISO 100

The primary benefit of stacking multiple photos to create a single exposure is the clarity you can achieve in the photo. Particular in this situation, the skies were heavy with the haze of 42ºC humidity. Six Flags is located only 20 kilometers (12 miles) east of the downtown core (the famous French Quarter), so the light pollution was also very intense. Stacking allowed me to cut through the haze, so to speak, and achieve a clarity of star trails not seen in my other long exposure shot of the ferris wheel.

As mentioned above, I used a program called StarStaX (written by Markus Enzweiler).

"StarStaX is a fast multi-platform image stacking and blending software, which is developed primarily for Star Trail Photography. Besides star trails, it can be of great use in other settings. StarStaX allows to merge a series of photos into a single image, where the relative motion of the stars creates structures looking like star trails."

One critical issue with stacking photos like this is to minimize the amount of time between exposures. I used my remote sensor to trigger each exposure, which caused a 1-2 second gap between each one. That may seem insignificant, but if you zoom in on the photo, very slight gaps can be seen in each trail. This isn't something most people would see, but it's still a consideration when using this process/technique for star trails.

Overall, I'm quite pleased with the results of my first photo stacking attempt and will definitely try it again!


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