The oopoomoo team – 2013 in Review – Stephen DesRoches

What’s in a top 10? Are they the best of the year? And if so, how do you define best? Everyone has their own set of standards on what justifies a great image and everyone is unique in what visually pleases their eyes. For my year in review, I’m going to honour that title and simply talk about the past 12 months.

Brace yourself, summarizing my year is going to take many more than a selection of 10. The following are surely not all winners but here are my most memorable photographs of 2013. More often than not, the memory is triggered heavily around the story that accompanies it.

Story #1: Mount Rundle, Banff National Park

It took me over 2 months to get away from the desk and creating images this year. The start of 2013 for me was kick started by a planned trip to Alberta to visit with the rest of the oopoomoo contributors. Our first stop with a camera was at Vermilion Lakes – low hanging fruit for some – but overwhelming for me. It took some time to ignore the iconic mountains but eventually, I found myself focused on the patterns in the snow.

©Stephen DesRoches - Mount Rundle, Banff National Park

©Stephen DesRoches – Mount Rundle, Banff National Park

Story #2: Abraham Lake Bubbles

It’s late in the season for crystal clear bubbles but Darwin, Sam, Catherine and I traveled up to Aurum Lodge at Abraham Lake. It was my first visit to this popular place and glimpse into the home base of oopoomoo workshops. The scratches and cracks in the ice looks like some type of deep space warp speed.

©Stephen DesRoches - Abraham Lake Bubbles

©Stephen DesRoches – Abraham Lake Bubbles

Story #3: Castle Mountain

Is Castle Mountain too easy? Maybe, but as I traveled up and down the highway alone in my rental car, I really had no idea of where I should be. Castle Junction is where I stopped the car, squeezed through the frozen fence and walked along the ice cold water. I live on a sand bar with no true wilderness. The feeling of being so small and surrounded is hard to explain.

©Stephen DesRoches - Castle Mountain, Banff

©Stephen DesRoches – Castle Mountain, Banff

Story #4: Missing Tulips at Parliament Hill

This is more of a lesson than anything else. I was in Ottawa during the tulip festival and on my first day, I made the decision to travel light and scout tulip patches. Walking from Ottawa to Gatineau is no quick stroll but I found this great full-of-colour tulip garden with Parliament Hill as the backdrop. It was in the shade and the range of brightness was just too much for a handheld photo. I made a note to return the next day but obviously an opportunity passed, is an opportunity lost. After swearing a bit, I made the image anyway.

©Stephen DesRoches - Missing Tulips at Parliament Hill, Ottawa

©Stephen DesRoches – Missing Tulips at Parliament Hill, Ottawa

Story #5: Stanhope Beach, Prince Edward Island

This was my only black and white image of 2013. I don’t know why I don’t do this more often because I do fall in love with the results. The deep blacks work much better than the dull blues of the day. I’m working on seeing past the colours.

©Stephen DesRoches - Stanhope Beach, PEI

©Stephen DesRoches – Stanhope Beach, PEI

Story #6: Misty Morning Sunrays

Chasing mist and fog early in the morning on side country roads can require a bit of luck. Completely soaked from the tall unmaintained grass, my focus was on a field of buttercup flowers with patches of lupins. This image was created as I was packing up for the morning and about to call it quits.

©Stephen DesRoches - Misty Morning Sun Rays

©Stephen DesRoches – Misty Morning Sun Rays

Story #7: Prince Edward Island Erosion

Thundercover beach is a popular location. Both for photographers because of the unique sea stacks and for teenagers and their beach parties. I have visited this location – codenamed teacup rock – many many times, but it was this time that I found these recently fallen sandstones that I feel really shows the effects of erosion. They were gone on my next visit. We lose an average of 0.5 metres (1.6 feet) on the south shore and 1.5 metres (5 feet) on the north shore per year.

©Stephen DesRoches - Prince Edward Island Erosion

©Stephen DesRoches – Prince Edward Island Erosion

Story #8: A Bee in Flight

At the end of 2012, I said I wanted to capture a bee in flight. It was a challenge that felt both impossible but achievable. I was completely shutout this year for island wildlife but am fairly satisfied with my first attempts at insects in flight.

©Stephen DesRoches - Marco Insects

©Stephen DesRoches – Marco Insects

Story #9: Rotting Abandoned Pier

PEI has many piers that most would consider an eye sore. Actually, everyone should. Photographically speaking, they can be quite interesting.

©Stephen DesRoches - Rotting Abandoned Pier, Rocky Point, PEI

©Stephen DesRoches – Rotting Abandoned Pier, Rocky Point

Story #10: Northern Lights, PEI National Park

The further north you live, the less impressive the aurora borealis may be but for PEI, it’s a very rare occurrence. During a very active season, you might be lucky enough to see them off the north shore once or twice. If you happened to be there on one of those special nights, it’s a real treat.

©Stephen DesRoches - Northern Lights at PEI National Park

©Stephen DesRoches – Northern Lights at PEI National Park

Story #11: Victoria Range Light

This range light visible from the highway is not accessible to the public. It’s at the edge of a farmers field and surrounded by residential properties that I’m not willing to trespass across. I was full of excitement when I learned that one of those properties was a relative of a relative by marriage. Permission granted and a checkmark on the bucket list.

©Stephen DesRoches - Victoria By The Sea Range Light

©Stephen DesRoches – Victoria By The Sea Range Light

Story #12: Turbine Power

Prince Edward Island is covered with power generating turbines on both ends of the island. There are just shy of 100 turbines across 6 wind farms and as of 2013, 20% of our energy is generated by the wind. A local developer created this cool little tool that compares live current wind speeds against energy generated. I have seen it as high as 80%.

©Stephen DesRoches - Old and New. Turbine Power.

©Stephen DesRoches – Old and New. Turbine Power.

Story #13: Rough Coastal Surf

Most island days are windy and wind can create violent surf conditions. If you’re willing to get wet, anchor yourself down in knee deep high tide water, some interesting illustrations of erosion can be made. I could do this for hours and hours. No two waves are the same and it’s hard not to think the next one will be ‘the one’. It takes real effort for me to leave a location like this.

©Stephen DesRoches - Rough Coastal Surf, PEI

©Stephen DesRoches – Rough Coastal Surf, PEI

Story #14: Island Fishing

I hired a fisherman to take me out so I can view the island from their perspective. I didn’t really know what to expect but while we were there – he asked if I would be bothered by him doing a little bit of fishing. Sure, why not, it’s an experience, how bad can it be? Well, it turns out those mackerel jigger’s are brutal.

©Stephen DesRoches - Island Fishing

©Stephen DesRoches – Island Fishing

Story #15: Hay Bale Sunset

PEI is small and getting lost is an accomplishment in and of itself. With no set goal in mind, I was chasing a particular cloud and the fading light up and down back dirt roads of farmers’ fields. It’s not too often I need a gps to figure out where I am.

©Stephen DesRoches - Hay Bale Sunset

©Stephen DesRoches – Hay Bale Sunset

Story #16: Storm over Covehead

Chasing storm clouds requires a bit of luck. You can see them developing but it’s hard to predict where they will be. Weather moves very quickly across the island and after originally driving in the wrong direction, by the time I got ahead of this one, I only managed to frame 5 shots before it was all over. I love the cotton candy sky. The speed boat coming back in to port is just a bonus.

©Stephen DesRoches - Storm over Covehead, PEI

©Stephen DesRoches – Storm over Covehead, PEI

Story #17: North Shore Tides

Playing at the edge of a moving tide is so much fun with so much potential. Angles, directions, different shutter speeds and the unpredictable crashing waves has so much excitement and anticipation of what will the camera record next.

©Stephen DesRoches - Prince Edward Island North Shore

©Stephen DesRoches – Prince Edward Island North Shore

Story #18: Aerial of Confederation Bridge

I have had the opportunity to fly several times this year. A mix of personal work, tourism work and commercial work has kept me in the sky. I love flying and looking at the geography from above. What’s difficult, is predicting good flying days for photography. Some days, the visibility is pure awful. On this particular day, visibility was not ideal. It actually kind of sucked but even though you can’t see the buildings and landscape, the fog and shapes were attractive. I was frustrated at the time but this one is growing on me.

©Stephen DesRoches - Aerial of Confederation Bridge at sunrise, PEI

©Stephen DesRoches – Aerial of Confederation Bridge at sunrise, PEI

Story #19: Aerial of Fishing Boat

Intimate details from the air is a rush. Hanging out an opened window and zipping over a fishing boat at low altitudes is wild. Having a pilot that is well experienced with photographers is a bonus and can get you in the correct position before you even have the thought to ask for it. Did I already mention how much fun it is to fly?

©Stephen DesRoches - Aerial of a fishing boat, PEI

©Stephen DesRoches – Aerial of a fishing boat, PEI

Story #20: Linking PEI to New Brunswick

The Island’s Tourism Commission had given me an open assignment for the summer to photograph a wide variety of subjects that highlighted touristy type things. New bridge images was on that list. It’s just a bridge and although it’s something I see on a very regular basis, it is still a structure that impresses me every time I see it, 16 years after it first opened. Walking along the rocky beach below never gets boring.

©Stephen DesRoches - Confederation Bridge, Prince Edward Island

©Stephen DesRoches – Confederation Bridge, Prince Edward Island

Story #21: Battling the Crowds at Covehead

This is an image all about the story. I can plan for a full moon. I can plan for sunset. I can scout a location. But I can not predict a tour bus full of people. Having the full moon rise while the sun is still setting only happens once per month and in late September, the tour buses should be long gone. Not today. After arriving and setting up a tripod, I looked behind me and saw a bus load of American tourists walking up the beach behind me. I wish I had a photo of me standing there behind a tripod with a large crowd of iphone shooters on both sides.

©Stephen DesRoches - Covehead Lighthouse, PEI during a full moon.

©Stephen DesRoches – Covehead Lighthouse, PEI during a full moon.

Story #22: Charlottetown’s Busiest Cruise Ship Season

With 69 calls to port and 139,476 crew members and passengers, 2013 was our busiest season for cruise ships. On this particular morning, 3 ships were arriving between 7:30 and 8:30am. It was a good morning to have a backup plan if for some reason, you mess up the first arrival. It’s hard to believe that from the cool morning fog coming off the water, I couldn’t even see the first two ships. I could hear them but there was a white blanket between us. It cleared up quickly.

©Stephen DesRoches - Cruise Ship entering Charlottetown Harbour, PEI

©Stephen DesRoches – Cruise Ship entering Charlottetown Harbour, PEI

Story #23: Island Rolling Hills

Strathgartney provincial park has a parking lot that looks over the rolling hills in central PEI. It’s a great view of the west river on any clear day but add some fog, fall colours and some morning light, and the level of excitement rises.

©Stephen DesRoches - A view from a highway. Strathgartney, PEI

©Stephen DesRoches – A view from a highway. Strathgartney, PEI

Story #24: Fall Heritage Roads

2013 had a dark shadow of a new but very controversial highway at the expense of some of the few remaining old growth wood lots. It’s a mess but has created a new access point to a single lane dirt road I had not previously traveled. I still don’t have a fall heritage road that I’m completely happy with but I now have a new and closer to home road to explore.

©Stephen DesRoches - Heritage Roads

©Stephen DesRoches – Heritage Roads

About the Author

Stephen DesRoches is a designer, artist and photographer living in PEI and the co-creator of the Photographer's Guide to Prince Edward Island. Stop by and say hi on Facebook.


  1. Steve
    December 29, 2013

    Hi Stephen

    Nice images with a lovely, soft feel for colour. One request – since Oopoomoo is focused on training, can EXIF data be posted for each image along with any other relevant info like filters used. Would be useful for learning from your examples.

    Thanks and keep the posts coming.

    • Stephen DesRoches
      December 29, 2013

      A great suggestion but truth be told, I’m pretty sloppy with settings and listing what filters were used requires a good memory. I kept all of the Exif embedded in the image files if you care to look at them and there are some browser extensions that will make this easier than downloading each image. Although, admittedly, Exif values do become somewhat meaningless once filters, image stacking and processing comes in to play.

      A better exercise might be a discussion around some of the images to see if techniques could be identified before looking.

      With the exception of the insect and aerial images, everything was created with a tripod. I’m only concerned with what is visible within the frame first followed by aperture at the lowest ISO possible. From there it’s a trial and error to find a suitable shutter speed depending on if I want motion or not. Filters and blending is only added if the light is complicated or I’m too low to the ground to keep everything desired in focus.

      I don’t mean to dismiss any educational value of Exif and would be happy to discuss any of the images in more detail.

  2. Lori Maloney
    December 29, 2013

    Thoroughly enjoyed your post, Stephen! I am an ‘experience’ person; therefore, the accompanying stories to your stunning photography made it all the more interesting for me! Great work!

  3. David Evans
    December 29, 2013

    Thanks for the trip. It was special and a real treat.

  4. Markos Berndt
    December 29, 2013

    Very nice. These images are so precise and and beautiful. I did not realize that oopoomoo had a team of photographers. Heres to 2014 and more beautiful images.

    • Stephen DesRoches
      December 29, 2013

      oopoomoo is still primarily Sam and Darwin but there are a few others that help out. Dave and John are contributing eBook authors, Catherine helps out on workshops, and I help out with eBook creation and website maintenance.

  5. Claude Benoit
    December 30, 2013

    You’ve expressed the maritime quintessence in your photos and moved PEI up my list of places to visit.

    • Stephen DesRoches
      December 30, 2013

      Yeah, it’s not too bad of a place. It took me many years to pull my head out of the sand and realize that.

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