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Adventure to Barron Canyon

Barron Canyon

The drive along the 407 over the top of Toronto was rather quick. Started in Burlington, all the way to the Peterborough cut-off and north on 135 into the Shield. Dragon’s Landing was still another hour or so north. That’s what my brother, Slavko, affectionately calls his cottage, nestled on 20 acres of area in the Shield with 2 bordering lakes. This is far from civilization. No electricity, no plumbing, no people, and spotty cell service. It gets more remote as we go deeper into the Shield.

Image courtesy Encyclopaedia Britannica 

The Shield is The Great Canadian Shield and is probably the oldest part of our planet. Farther north, in Quebec along the Hudson Bay shores, geologists have dated rocks from the Shield to be in the 4 billion year range. The Shield was also a very high mountain range, as high as 39,000 ft/12,000 m, and with volcanic activity, but over the last 500 million years has eroded to what it is today.

Algonquin Park was established in 1893 and with 7,653 square kilometers in area, takes up the majority of central Ontario. There is an abundance of trails, waterways, and lakes, and quiet camping in wilderness is its main attraction. The road to Algonquin Park, to where Barron Canyon is, takes us through the outskirts of Petawawa just north of Pembroke. There aren’t any superhighways and traffic was almost nonexistent save for some locals, with logging being quite prevalent in the area. It was one of these logging roads that took us to Barron Canyon.

After obtaining our permit, we parked our Honda SUV in the lot beside Barron River, where we would begin our venture upriver to the canyon. There weren’t many cars in this lot indicating that there probably weren’t that many people in this area of the park. The skies were clear and the temperatures were in the mid-20s C, which made it surprising that there weren’t more people. Unpacking our camera gear, canoe, and life jackets, we were prepared for our adventure. Only 5 km to the canyon by canoe, which, for Slavko and I, was quite the distance since neither of us have canoed any kind of distance in many years. And then there was that portage.

The waters were calm and the forest was eerily quiet of the hustle of city life I had become used to. No cars nor planes. Just the soft sounds of our paddles pushing our canoe along the water. Yet, there was a sound. A loon in the distance. The gentle breeze through the trees.

Barron Canyon was formed out of a geological fault that separated the granite bedrock at the time of the Rodina supercontinent some 750 million years ago and is part of the Ottawa Bonnechere Graben, a section of bedrock that spans up to 55 kilometers wide that had dropped during this time. A graben is a section of land that drops when the earth’s crust is pulled apart. Often there will be boundary faults resulting in steps along the graben. The Barron Canyon is one such boundary fault. But added to this is the effect of the ice age and the flow of water from the Glacial Lake Algonquin. Speculation is that this canyon had “an equivalent of thousand Niagara Rivers”.

After paddling past swamps with lily pads, partially sunken trees, and a couple of kayakers, we had to disembark and portage, a term used to carry gear and boat along the shores due to impassable rapids. It was an uphill battle. Literally. Slavko was able to carry his load, but with camera bag strapped to my back and with some help from my big brother, the canoe was hoisted onto my shoulders for this 300 meter exercise. I’m not quite as young as I used to be and did have to stop and rest a couple of times. We did reach the end of the portage and after a break for refreshments, we were on our journey again.

The second section of the journey was much longer. Perhaps 4 kilometers, with the river widening and the breeze from upstream slowing us down. The river widened and meandered, and the river banks started to show signs of the canyon walls we sought. But further upriver, the dark waters became narrower and as we came turned the long bend, the canyon came into view. A majestic sheer rock face of red and grey granite that rose 100 meters into the sky. A young lady at the top looking down, waving to us. We followed the great walls of the river. Walls of a forgotten mountain range that soared into the sky more than a billion years ago. Bedrock of granite formed from the heat and pressures of the internals of this planet; exposed to the tensions of the flow of magma that is still slowly reforming this land.

Canoeing within the canyon did take us a while but we made our way to the next portage where we stopped to have a quick meal that we brought along. There, we met some students from Toronto that came to also do some canoeing and take in the sights and some swimming in the dark but clear waters. They had come from the north end of the river and were just as intrigued as we were by the canyon. Their portage was closer to 800 meters. Something that we were glad we didn’t have to partake in.

The journey back was much easier as the wind was with us, but we did take our time, taking more pictures and trying to get closer to the rocks. And, although the canyon wall was mostly on the north side due to the graben and how the canyon and the valley were formed, we did look over the south side of the river, finding a small waterfall and a riverbank filled with trees reaching down to the water. Again further down river, we paddled through swallow waters filled with lily pads. The sun and paddling all day along a cool river did take their toll on us and we were glad to get back to the car to head back to Dragon’s Landing where our journey began. After unloading and a very hearty meal, sleep came too easily that night. An adventure that will live on in our memories and I’m sure will not be our last.

Location search

Very often, when I’m asked to do a shoot, I will seek out a location. This can sometimes become an adventure. My assistant, Slavko, and I decided to look at Bluffer’s Park in Scarborough in Toronto’s east end. What we found was nothing less than spectacular. Nice parkland but the cliffs was what we were after as a backdrop.

Several weeks before, I was asked by Brittany to do a wedding based shoot. She asked her friend, Stela to also be a model for this shoot. Being one to try and get the most out of my shoots, I looked around for a spot that would give that Wow! factor.

Bluffer’s Park is located at the southern end of Brimley Rd and looks out onto Lake Ontario. It does have a marina, and beach area, and as I found out during our search, a residential area comprised of boathouses. Yes, this would be a great place for this shoot.

Come photo day, and as Mother Nature isn’t quite as cooperative as she sometimes can be, we woke to fog and rain that morning. I kept a very close eye on the weather reports and with some luck, the rain would stop and the fog would lift. We took our time as yes, the rain did subside but the fog was still there although not quite as thick.

The shoot went on, and I think we did get some great shots. Brittany asked to have the images submitted to an online modeling magazine whose theme was wedding based and 2 months later, our images were accepted. 

Headshot Intensive

Well, maybe not intensive, but headshots are an important part of your business. It shows the world what you look like and with the right expression, shows your confidence. That’s where the photographer comes in. My job is to pull out that confidence and have it show in the image.


But what kind of headshot? Well, I shoot basically two styles. In studio and usually on white, and cinematic which is often shot outdoors, but can be done indoors if the area behind is far enough away.

Headshots are quite basic in their setup. One light illuminating the client from the front. Can be from either side but relatively close to the camera. Putting the main light farther away from the camera’s side often required either a reflector or another light to illuminate the other side of the clients face. Sometimes a reflector from the bottom is used to open the shadows under the chin and add a secondary ‘catchlight’ in the eyes.

But shooting headshots in-studio versus cinematic can be quite dramatic in their look. Both require that main light up front. Cinematic uses the background as part of the image. I will often choose a location that has either brighter colours or spectral highlights. And the background will always be extremely out of focus; to the point that the viewer cannot distinguish what is in the background. Also, with cinematic headshots, I will add a ‘kicker’ light, from behind the client to add a 3 dimensional feeling to the image, altho I can also do this on an in-studio session.


But its very important, in both styles, to get that expression. This is why when I do shoot headshots it’s not just one shot and we are done. My job isn’t done until I can get that expression from the client, and this is why it often can take 100 or more images to take that perfect image that the client will be happy with.

Which style you prefer is up to you.

Christmas with Andy

Woman hugging teddy bear in front of a Christmas tree.

As a professional photographer, I’m always looking for a new method; a different way of getting images that make people say “Wow!”. It’s what keeps artists going and creating. I could have just taken a shot with the standard lighting style, but in last night’s shoot with Andy Rose, I wanted some that would make her say “Wow!” I think I accomplished my goal.


Andy and I both live in Brantford ON, so getting over to her home for this shoot wasn’t a problem. We shot in her living room with her Christmas tree that was tucked in the corner nook as the backdrop. Now Andy is a master of expressions, and as always, she did give some great ones.

We didn’t shoot long. About an hour after I got the strobes set up. I used my portable system of the Godox AB600BM as the main light. Most of the shots were done with only this one light. Camera was a Canon 5D mk4 with the Sigma 85mm f1.4 ART, which is the sharpest lens I has ever used. Setting were f10 and I dropped the shutter speed down as low as 1/15th of a second to get the lights of the Christmas tree bright enough to show.


Woman opening Christmas gift and light glowing from it.

For the glow from the gift box, I added a flash inside the box set to shine upwards. I also dropped the power of the main light down to make the image darker overall. In post editing, I softened the image and added a ‘glow’ for effect. A couple of test shots and we were ready. And the results speak for themselves. I posted both images to Instagram and they are doing well with my audience.

If you are looking for something beyond the standard portrait, maybe something like this is what you are looking for.

Quick and Colourful

Andy called me up and wanted to just do some shooting with a few new outfits she picked up that week, in and around the Paris area. That’s Paris Ontario. Paris is a small satellite town just northwest of Brantford. Nice downtown with an abundance of boutiques of all kinds.
I noticed a very bright blue garage just off the path beside the river and I thought that posing Andy there might give an interesting effect. I think I got the ‘The Shot”. I know Andy is pleased with it.


Last September, David Jones contacted me about doing a shoot for Halloween. He wanted to do a Addams family theme. Great. So I put the word out to get a lady to play Morticia to David’s Gomez. We shot at a local park that has a medieval style staircase and I brought out a couple of swords this this loving duel. Lighting was a challenge but with the help of Mr. Randi Scott, another local photographer, I think we were able to get what we needed. You be the judge.

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