Back to Photography

Although this blog has been more about writing, I’m better known as a photographer. During the ’80s and early ’90s I had a lot work published in outdoor adventure magazines and during the 2000s my focus moved to commercial and fine-art aerial photography with some newspaper work thrown in for good measure!

All of that got me some shows in public and private galleries and published portfolios in national magazines. After a lull that’s lasted a few years I’m back at it. You can check out my work at or my Etsy print store.

The Beach (2015)

“The Beach (2015)”   St. Ives, Cornwall is one of my favourite seaside towns. I’ve made a couple of visits in the last few years and for me this image captures the energy and joy of the harbour beach.




Baya Exotica

Sunset in Baya Exotica.

The grey haired man approaching with the wheelbarrow smiled and said, “Hi.” We were on a secluded forest trail and a wheelbarrow didn’t seem too out of place, even though it contained what I believed to be a guitar in a black case. After all, this was Baya Exotica. I turned a few seconds after we passed and looked back. He strode purposefully across the planks that spanned a small creek, his tall body flickered in the sunlight permeating the lush spring foliage. Suddenly he veered off the path and descended a steep dirt track down to the rocky foreshore.

An hour later, as the Vancouver Island’s mountains cast their long shadows deep into the bay, I heard a lonesome melody wafting on the breeze accompanied by a guitar. Not unusual I mused. Only last night I had been entertained by a djembe beating out a jungle rhythm. It appeared to be coming from a group ashore huddled around a fire. And earlier today I was shaken by wild buglings, eerily bounced around by mighty cliffs surrounding the bay, that seemed to come from nowhere. Who are these wonderful people? Where do they come from? Thank goodness there are still some left!

Here in Baya Exotica it didn’t seem to matter that Rainbird was surrounded by a collection of decaying vessels, some already half sunk and one in particular a hazard to navigation. Others were works in progress, or more appropriately, works in regress. With boats, as with other material things in life, entropy always wins.

I had felt the need to be back on the water. This time I was alone except for Maio my faithful Portuguese Water Dog. First Mate, Juliana, departed this world last December. She had fought many battles in her life but she was never going to beat the cancer that invaded her body.

Rainbird was as much her boat as mine and I wondered how I would fare. Would the memories held in her cedar hull be too painful to endure? I’ll admit to being fearful a few days earlier, when I untied Rainbird from her dock and headed out into the brisk southeasterly breeze. But the wind and the sunshine soon worked their magic and quickly settled my mind.

I was heading for Baya Exotica. I love its eccentric charm and always marvel at the surrounding hills and forest, which hold lush hay meadows. With unseasonal spring warmth and sunshine, everything was bursting into life. Birdsong permeated the air. Eagles and ospreys soared and swooped. Seals went leisurely about their business.

I was crossing a meadow with Maio; no houses, no people, no noise. We stood in the brilliant sunshine, feeling fully part of our surroundings. I had to remind myself that it really doesn’t get better than this.

Juliana’s vision and determination to get back in touch with nature led her to Rainbird. She has now gone, but for me, Rainbird is helping me do what Juliana had wanted for us both.

Wild as this image may seem, it actually originated as a reflection in a creek. The "sky" is the creek bed viewed through flowing water. The image was flipped horizontally and the colour enhanced. Taken on location in Baya Exotica.

Wild as this image may seem, it actually originated as a reflection in a creek. The “sky” is the creek bed viewed through flowing water. The image was flipped horizontally and the colour enhanced. Taken on location in Baya Exotica.

Clouds and Silver Linings In A World Where Things Fix Themselves

I love quality; that’s why I have always used Nikon photographic gear. It’s the same with other aspects of my life; I once spent the five years driving a diesel Land Cruiser. A quality product, even if it was nearly half my age. I’m also an amateur radio operator, and a fairly miserly one I’ll admit. I can’t afford quality new gear so I dig around flee markets and “ham fests” for quality old.  Most of my equipment is from the era of large, chunky dials, and vacuum tubes. This type of radio is often referred to as a “boat anchor,” as once “dead,”these extraordinarily heavy devices fit the bill exactly. By now you are probably starting to get the picture.

A couple years ago I acquired a Yaesu FT 901 DM, one of the finest radios from the early 80s. It’s called a hybrid radio, because it has both transistors, and in the power amplifier, vacuum tubes. It’s a heavy beast, weighing in at nearly 45 pounds.

This one was almost cosmetically perfect but I bought it for a couple of hundred dollars knowing it needed some electronic TLC. I’m no radio engineer but I know that 90% of problems in electronics usually arise from a mechanical failure, such as a “dry” solder joint or a corroded contact in a switch or relay. Transistors and vacuum tubes have no moving parts and do not wear out in the conventional sense. So I optimistically dug around in the radio with it switched on – something requiring great care and focus as vacuum tubes in these old radios require a whopping 900 volts to operate.

Sure enough, as I prodded one of the many circuit boards, the receiver crackled into life and after 30 minutes of poking around I isolated the problem down to a little metal can containing a crystal filter – a device which helps tune-out unwanted signals. Lifting the corner of the can caused the receiver to scratch and crackle. With a soldering iron in one hand and the vacuum de-soldering tool in the other, I carefully melted and removed the solder from the wires connecting the can to the circuit board. Freed from the board, I then cut the can open to reveal an interconnected web of precisely ground quartz crystals. Further prodding revealed the culprit – a dry solder joint that was easily fixed.

After hastily reassembling, I fired it up. I now had a working receiver but unfortunately my voice couldn’t be heard on the airwaves. I prodded and pulled wires, removed circuit boards and cleaned contacts but to no avail. Frustrated and lacking some essential diagnostic equipment, I could not move forward. Eventually I took the radio to the basement store room and placed it carefully on a shelf several feet from the floor. I covered it with an old sheet and told myself it would be a winter project – one of many requiring my attention. For more than an instant I thought about selling it – no doubt there were lots of capable enthusiasts out there who were knowledgeable enough to be able to fix it. But then it was in such beautiful condition that I hated the thought of parting with it. After all, it’s a piece of history from the days when men were men and radios were huge, tactile machines and indestructible to boot – not the modern wimpy, nano sized devices driven by multifunction buttons and menus.

A few months later, I stepped into the storeroom in search of some unrelated household item, only to find this beautiful piece of history laying on its side middle of the concrete floor. I couldn’t believe it – how could that have happened? My blood pressure was rising as fast as my heart was sinking. Sparks flew in my mind. Had my dear wife accidentally knocked it off the shelf? Hardly likely and hell she would have known if she had, the impact would have been enough to shake the house down to its foundations. I lifted it gingerly, turning it over to inspect the damage. The rear of the casing was bent and the textured green paint irreparably damaged. I was, to say the least, hopping mad. Several hundred dollars had been wiped from its resale value and God knows what damage I might find inside.

Disgusted, I placed it back on the shelf pushing it several inches back from its earlier position. I shook my head – how in the hell could that have happened?

Several months past before I could bare to look at it again. Eventually I took it into the workshop and removed the bent covers to inspect the damage. The impact had popped the vacuum tubes and a mechanical relay from their sockets. I pushed them back into place. Besides the damage to the paint, the chassis was so badly twisted that one of the supporting feet now hovered a good quarter of an inch above the bench.

I plugged it in, expecting nothing. Strangely everything seemed to work on receive at least. Encouraged, I connected it to an antenna, grabbed the microphone, cleared my throat and announced my call sign. To my surprise power needles flicked to very healthy deflections. Wow! I took a deep breath and called, “CQ CQ CQ,” – the amateur radio operator’s request for contact. Instantly a reply came in the form of a male voice with a deep southern drawl, from the other side of the continent, telling me that I had “five-nine” copy and good audio!

I still haven’t figured out how a 45 pound radio ended up on the floor and I doubt that I ever will. Having crashed to the floor myself – literally and figuratively on several occasions over the last few years, I am reminded that not only had other people “written me off”, that I had also taken to writing myself off. But parts of myself had been shaken up in my falls and and like the 901 DM, despite being a little tattered around the edges, I believe I am now in better working order than before.

Change of Tack

It’s 15 years since I gained my commercial pilot’s license and I started my aviation career as a flight instructor a few years later. I had fun teaching others to fly and especially enjoyed helping amateur aircraft builders complete their projects. These projects often concluded with some challenging test flying and problem solving, which I thoroughly enjoyed. After clocking up some 1500 hours of instruction, and flying some exotic aircraft, I turned to the world of bush flying.

For me, bush flying wasn’t the positive experience I expected. The work was seasonal and I had to juggle with other jobs to make it happen. It also quickly became clear that the dangers involved are considerable. When I pulled myself out of the wreck of a Cessna 206 in June 2011, I clearly recall thinking to myself, “I guess it’s all over.” There was barely a pang of sadness; in fact, I felt an upwelling of relief. Relief that neither I or my passengers were hurt and also that I had now acquired the perfect excuse to quit.

I may do some recreational flying from time to time or some aerial photography, but as for flying people and supplies into remote mountain strips, I’m done with it. Aviation at this level is way too underpaid considering the level of risk, and the current gold rush is leading to corner-cutting with potentially lethal consequences. Also, as a colleague once remarked, “aviation is ego driven.” That remark stuck with me and as I reflected on it long and hard I realised he was spot-on. As with other ego driven occupations, aviation tends to bring out the worst in people more frequently that the best.

Financially, a career in aviation – certainly at the seasonal bush flying level – is best suited to young, unattached men. My wife has suffered immeasurably and no doubt she was as relieved as I am that a career change is in the making!

On the other hand I had enjoyed the opportunity to fly in the north and see a little of the Arctic and meet some wonderful, inspiring individuals. This is something difficult to do as a tourist and to see this remote beauty is one of the reasons I chose to come to Canada in the first place.

So what does a newly unemployed bush pilot turn his hand to?

Well, I love boats and sailing. Twenty years ago I set out on a three-month voyage around Britain in a 26 foot sailboat that I had built myself. It was a wonderful, fulfilling experience and as I sailed home for Plymouth in the fall of 1991 it felt as if the journey would continue for the rest of my life.

That journey, however, has taken a rather long pause as other neglected aspects of my life demanded my attention. Although its nature has changed there is still a longing to get back to the ocean and a simpler life and this has been somewhat shared by my wife. After all, I did propose to her on a sailboat so I figure she knew what she was getting in to!

Back in the late eighties and nineties I made my living building and refitting boats. It paid the bills and I also made a name for myself as a freelance sailing writer and photographer. I’m naturally reluctant to go backwards but I considered that if I could find a niche somewhere I would make a go of it. That opportunity came quickly and I’m now on Vancouver Island building and restoring wooden boats.

The world of wooden boats moves at a slower, more humane pace than aviation. Boats, and wooden boats in particular, are driven by aesthetics rather than ego or money.

I’m looking forward to getting back onto an even keel. I’ll keep you posted.

To see my unique aerial photography go to