Insta of the Month - October 2016 by Andrew Strain

Each month, I feature my best 'gram, as chosen by the hearts and emojis of my followers.

In October, I travelled to upstate New York for a friend's wedding. The fall colours of the Adirondacks put our west coast conifers to shame, with fiery displays of red and orange that stretched as far as the eye could see.

Though snow had yet to fall on the summit of Whiteface Mountain, rime had began to accumulate, coating the higher elevation trees with a white frosting that contrasted beautifully with the flaming leaves below.

Insta of the Month - September 2016 by Andrew Strain

Each month, I feature my best 'gram, as chosen by the hearts and emojis of my followers.

For the first time since I started this series, an iPhone photo comes out on top. While shooting an assignment on BC's Sunshine Coast, this ridiculous cloud formation showed up right at sunset and belched out a rainbow. One of those "is this actually happening??" moments, to be sure.

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Insta of the Month - July 2016 by Andrew Strain

Each month, I feature my best 'gram, as chosen by the hearts and emojis of my followers.

It was a tight race this month between two images I shot on assignment for Destination BC / Tourism Northern BC last summer along the Alaska Highway. This aerial image from an evening of flightseeing with Liard Air (Northern Rockies Lodge) at Muncho Lake won the race, with 7 more likes at the time of posting.

 

Night Vision: the Sigma 20mm F1.4 Art in Iceland by Andrew Strain

On an assignment in Iceland this spring, I had the opportunity to test drive Sigma’s newest lens in the Art series, the 20mm f/1.4 DG HSM. The trip was primarily ski and snowboard action, but I knew that if the weather cooperated I might have a chance to photograph the northern lights.

I was shocked at just how sharp the lens was, straight from 1.4. Mounted on my Nikon D810, focusing was fast and accurate, allowing me to run-and-gun to catch action and candids, even in challenging light. I was expecting the 20mm Art to be a niche piece in my kit, but I soon found myself choosing the 20mm in almost every situation where I would normally reach for my workhorse 28mm f/1.8.

When I finally did have a shot at the aurora, I was able to keep my shutter speed low without compromising image quality with high ISOs. When the northern lights really start dancing, you want to limit the exposure time in order to capture the fine details of the aurora. 

Here's a selection of images shot using the 20mm f/1.4 Art. Enjoy!

Nikon D810 + Sigma 20mm f/1.4 Art @ f/1.4 | 1/20 sec | ISO 3200 The maximum aperture of f/1.4 allowed me to gather enough light to shoot this image of the Hof Cultural and Conference Center, handheld from a sailboat in the harbour of Akureyri, Iceland.

Nikon D810 + Sigma 20mm f/1.4 Art @ f/1.4 | 1/20 sec | ISO 3200
The maximum aperture of f/1.4 allowed me to gather enough light to shoot this image of the Hof Cultural and Conference Center, handheld from a sailboat in the harbour of Akureyri, Iceland.

Nikon D810 + Sigma 20mm f/1.4 Art @ f/1.6 | 1/50 sec | ISO 800 The ‘Gold Coast’ of Eyjafjörður is named for the epic glow it casts during the prolonged arctic sunsets. I’m partial the the subtle hues of twilight

Nikon D810 + Sigma 20mm f/1.4 Art @ f/1.6 | 1/50 sec | ISO 800
The ‘Gold Coast’ of Eyjafjörður is named for the epic glow it casts during the prolonged arctic sunsets. I’m partial the the subtle hues of twilight

Nikon D810 + Sigma 20mm f/1.4 Art @ f/1.4 | 1/100 sec | ISO 1600 Dinner is served about the Donna Wood, a 98 year old dutch lighthouse ship repurposed as a sailboat by North Sailing. I waited until twilight to capture this perfect balance of the dim tungsten and deep blue ambient.

Nikon D810 + Sigma 20mm f/1.4 Art @ f/1.4 | 1/100 sec | ISO 1600
Dinner is served about the Donna Wood, a 98 year old dutch lighthouse ship repurposed as a sailboat by North Sailing. I waited until twilight to capture this perfect balance of the dim tungsten and deep blue ambient.

Nikon D810 + Sigma 20mm f/1.4 Art @ f/1.4 | 1/1000 sec | ISO 100 I used continuous autofocus to track Ole-Kristian Strøm as he dashed out of the frigid North Atlantic and into the seaside hot tub of the Sigló Hótel in Siglufjörður, Iceland.

Nikon D810 + Sigma 20mm f/1.4 Art @ f/1.4 | 1/1000 sec | ISO 100
I used continuous autofocus to track Ole-Kristian Strøm as he dashed out of the frigid North Atlantic and into the seaside hot tub of the Sigló Hótel in Siglufjörður, Iceland.

Nikon D810 + Sigma 20mm f/1.4 Art @ f/1.4 | 1/1000 sec | ISO 100 I love using wide + fast primes for environmental portraiture, and the 20mm Art did not disappoint here. 

Nikon D810 + Sigma 20mm f/1.4 Art @ f/1.4 | 1/1000 sec | ISO 100
I love using wide + fast primes for environmental portraiture, and the 20mm Art did not disappoint here. 

Nikon D810 + Sigma 20mm f/1.4 Art @ f/1.4 | 1/8000 sec | ISO 64 A candid at the relaxing hot springs of Grettislaug, Iceland.

Nikon D810 + Sigma 20mm f/1.4 Art @ f/1.4 | 1/8000 sec | ISO 64
A candid at the relaxing hot springs of Grettislaug, Iceland.

Nikon D810 + Sigma 20mm f/1.4 Art @ f/8.0 | 1/60 | ISO 64 Basalt columns at Hofsós, Iceland. While it is tempting to shoot everything at 1.4, I stopped down for this shot to enhance the starburst from the setting sun.

Nikon D810 + Sigma 20mm f/1.4 Art @ f/8.0 | 1/60 | ISO 64
Basalt columns at Hofsós, Iceland. While it is tempting to shoot everything at 1.4, I stopped down for this shot to enhance the starburst from the setting sun.

Nikon D810 + Sigma 20mm f/1.4 Art @ f/1.4 | 5 sec | ISO 400 The northern lights dance over the distant twinkle of Grímsey Island, off the northern Iceland coast.

Nikon D810 + Sigma 20mm f/1.4 Art @ f/1.4 | 5 sec | ISO 400
The northern lights dance over the distant twinkle of Grímsey Island, off the northern Iceland coast.

Nikon D810 + Sigma 20mm f/1.4 Art @ f/1.4 | 1/640 sec | ISO 64North Sailing’s fleet rest at harbour in Húsavík, Iceland

Nikon D810 + Sigma 20mm f/1.4 Art @ f/1.4 | 1/640 sec | ISO 64North Sailing’s fleet rest at harbour in Húsavík, Iceland

Nikon D810 + Sigma 20mm f/1.4 Art @ f/1.4 | 2.0 sec | ISO 4000 Goðafoss is one of the iconic waterfalls of Iceland, and I had been hoping for a chance to photograph the aurora here since the day I arrived. On my final night in Iceland - 6 hours before my flight home - I was rewarded with clear skies and an unforgettable electromagnetic storm.

Nikon D810 + Sigma 20mm f/1.4 Art @ f/1.4 | 2.0 sec | ISO 4000
Goðafoss is one of the iconic waterfalls of Iceland, and I had been hoping for a chance to photograph the aurora here since the day I arrived. On my final night in Iceland - 6 hours before my flight home - I was rewarded with clear skies and an unforgettable electromagnetic storm.

Insta of the Month - April 2016 by Andrew Strain

Each month, I feature my best 'gram, as chosen by the hearts and emojis of my followers.

This image was the grand finale to my recent assignment in Iceland - on my final night, just hours before my flight home, all of the elements lined up for me to capture this ridiculous photo of the aurora borealis above the iconic waterfall Goðafoss. Iceland overload achieved.

Insta of the Month - March 2016 by Andrew Strain

Each month, I feature my best 'gram, as chosen by the hearts and emojis of my followers.

I was just in Haines, Alaska to cover the Freeride World Tour event - one of the down days had good afternoon weather, so I went on a photo flight over Glacier Bay National Park. I cranked up the processing on this one, and my followers loved it! I doubt it would look good in print, but, hey. It's all about the likes.

Thompson Okanagan for Destination British Columbia by Andrew Strain

I've worked on various projects with Destination British Columbia since the launch of their epic new brand in the fall of 2014, and last summer I had the opportunity to shoot on assignment for them in my homeland: the Okanagan Valley.

My family moved a lot when I was growing up, and the south Okanagan was where we settled for my teenage years. Since finishing school, I've spent very little time in the valley, returning only for holidays and weddings, so it was a real treat to spend an extended time with my family and reconnect with old friends.

As a kid, I spent countless hours labouring in vineyards and roaming the desert hills - to be able to return as a photographer and showcase my valley to the world is a true honour. Being old enough to actually drink the wine is a huge bonus!

I'm not sure I could go back to living in the Okanagan full-time, but man... those summers. It doesn't get much better.

Stormset by Strain

A few weeks back, the most intense thunderstorm that I can remember parked itself over the lower mainland and unleashed Zeus' fury for the better part of an afternoon. Having been out of town for the previous weeks' electrifying weather, I was eager to get out and put a pair of new wide lenses to the test. I quickly found out that the bulbous front element on the Rokinon (aka Samyang aka Bower) 14mm 2.8 is not well suited to shooting in a thundershower; spending more time wiping rain off the lens than shooting, I failed to capture any lightning strikes. As the storm tapered off into the evening, I figured I wasn't going to have the opportunity to catch a night sky light show. The storm was fading, and thick cloud to the west was making the prospect of decent light seem remote. As I was packing up my bag, however, the windows along the English Bay waterfront began to light up - the telltale sign of a classic Vancouver sunset. The sun, nearly at the horizon, was beaming through the sliver of clear sky between sea and cloud, illuminating the final showers pulsing from the underbelly of the dying storm with a vibrant orange glow.

Nikon D800 18-35 AF-S @ ISO 100 / f/16 / 1/6 sec

Rain can be a real buzzkill while shooting. Sometimes the best approach is to embrace it and see what happens.

Though the storm had broken, the rain had not yet subsided and wind-driven drizzle continued to pile up on my lens. I rolled with it, since the effect of rain on the lens was kinda neat and the colour was amazing, but I knew I wasn't getting anything spectacular. I turned back to my camera bag to try a longer lens and was blown away by what was unfolding behind me.

oh my god!

I hastily swapped out the 18-35 for the Rokinon 14, dialed in the focus and started shooting. The over-sized front element seemed to draw in rain from all angles, but I managed to get a couple frames that were free of large droplets. The sunset was intensifying at my back and the rain had all but stopped; satisfied that I had a keeper, I swung my camera back around to capture the blazing sky to the west.

Boats

No sooner had I framed this shot, the storm's last fork of lightning struck the downtown skyline, searing an unforgettable 'what if' into my mind's eye.

As the colours faded over English Bay, I shot a couple tighter frames with another new addition to my quiver, the AF-S 85mm 1.8G. Highly regarded as one of the best-value Nikkor lenses, it fully reveals the power of the D800 sensor - the level of detail resolved is truly remarkable. Every time I've used it, something special seems to happen.

Nikon D800 AF-S 85mm 1.8 ISO 100 / f/4.0 / 1/80

It's been years since I photographed a sunset from Kits Beach, but it used to be my go-to spot for a quick creative fix. It's nice to know things haven't changed too much.

Next up for the blog, a different perspective on the night sky, and some more thoughts on the AF-S 18-35mm and Rokinon 14mm 2.8. With the fresh look I'm trying to keep the content a little more current - more soon.

Wide Sky by Strain

Dramatic sky over West Vancouver. Nikon D800 AF-S 18-35 @18mm f/11 ISO 100
Dramatic sky over West Vancouver. Nikon D800 AF-S 18-35 @18mm f/11 ISO 100

I picked up a pair of wide angle lenses to complement my Nikon D800 - the Nikon AF-S 18- 3.5-4.5 (used here) as my go-everywhere, travel / bush / hiking / splitboarding wide, along with the Rokinon 2.8. I'm really excited about the Rokinon - my next couple posts will explain why - but it is big and bulky and likely won't be in my bag for most outings. The 18-35 looks like it's going to be a staple, and I can't wait to put it through some more field testing.

UPDATE MAY 2016

So, apparently this image is ridiculously popular as a photoshopped sky background. From a Bengali movie poster to a local wedding photographer, a quick google image search turned up a wide range of uncredited and unauthorized uses of this image. Here are a few screenshots of offending commercial uses:

 

If you are interested in legally licensing this image for use in whatever background you wish, you may do so on my photoshelter page, or my contacting me directly. Thanks for not stealing my work.

Aisle or Window? by Strain

I put an inordinate amount of thought into seating on a commercial flight. Safety and convenience play a minor role, yes, but the primary focus of my pre-flight planning is determining which side of the plane will afford better photo opportunities. The best shots are often close to approach or takeoff - does the seat allow a bag stowed at the feet, or is it overhead only? Is the wing in my way? What side of the plane will the sun be on? What time of day am I flying? Is the weather shit, rendering all other considerations moot?

On a recent trip to the Okanagan to visit family, I made a last minute switch from port to starboard and was rewarded with dramatic raking light across the southern Coast Range, and a golden glow on the Port Mann Bridge as the cables caught the last light of day. I was hoping to pass a little closer to the downtown core, but Surrey was looking pretty good that evening. Maybe next time.

Even when confounded by imperfect conditions or the inevitable distorted window, the view outside is (almost always) better than the in-flight entertainment.

Bonus image: Popocatépetl, before it got angry this year.

One thing is certain - you won't catch me in an aisle seat.

What about you? Aisle or window?