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Experience Langdon Hall

Langdon Hall Hotel & Spa was a name I was familiar with, but I never knew much more about it than that. This all changed when I was recently invited by Renée Suen to the chef’s tasting menu at this luxury hotel and spa. We were given a private tour and were able to photograph the property to our liking. Here is what I came out with.

Experience Langdon Hall

Experience Langdon Hall

The night was filled with great company, exemplary service by the hotel’s staff, and of course, exquisite cuisine from Langdon Hall’s Executive Chef Jason Bangerter and guest Executive Chef Murray McDonald from Fogo Island Inn in Newfoundland.

Chef Jason Bangerter (center) with Chef Murray McDonald from Fogo Island Inn (right).

Chef Jason Bangerter (center) with Chef Murray McDonald from Fogo Island Inn (right).

My afternoon there started with a private tour of the grounds by Chef Bangerter. He led us through the large garden where we bumped into Chef McDonald, picking herbs for that night’s menu.

Chef Bangerter and Chef McDonald picking herbs in the Langdon Hall garden for the night's menu.

Chef Bangerter and Chef McDonald picking herbs in the Langdon Hall garden for the night’s menu.

As we made our way through the garden, Chef Bangerter would pick out some herbs, hand it to us to eat on the spot, explaining to us why he loved it and how he would use it in his dishes.

Second kitchen dedicated to special events.

Second kitchen in the new wing dedicated to special events.

The tour eventually made its way into the hotel, where Chef Bangerter showed us the new wing that is now home to the spa, exercise room, and more suites.

Bar and lounge area of Langdon Hall.

Bar and lounge area of Langdon Hall.

Inside Langdon Hall.

Inside Langdon Hall.

Inside the dining room, a large table for 10 people was set up right next to the large windows that offered views of the pond and patio. The menu and explanations of the paired wines, were handed to us letting us get a glimpse of what was to come that evening.

Our dining table inside Langdon Hall.

Our dining table inside Langdon Hall.

The inspiration behind each course—that were all impeccably plated—was explained in detail, allowing us to understand the thinking behind the meal that we were about to consume. The sommelier of the evening, also seated at the table, offered his views on the wine for each course. I found each pairing to be right on the spot, with each wine enhancing the dish it was paired to.

Pease Pudding and Cod: Split pea, jogs dinner, savory yoghurt. Paired with 2006 Le Ragnaie, Brunello di Montalcino DOCG Tuscany.

Pease Pudding and Cod: Split pea, jogs dinner, savory yoghurt. Paired with 2006 Le Ragnaie, Brunello di Montalcino DOCG Tuscany.

Murray's Spruce Moose: Spruce gremolata, seed cracker, caribou moss and berries from the bog. Paired with 2013 Suertes del Marqués La Solana DO, Valle de la Oratova, Tenerife, Canary Islands.

Murray’s Spruce Moose: Spruce gremolata, seed cracker, caribou moss and berries from the bog. Paired with 2013 Suertes del Marqués La Solana DO, Valle de la Oratova, Tenerife, Canary Islands.

Fogo Island Snow Crab: Cured foie gras, Niagara grapes. Paired with 2014 J.M. Soher Pinot Gris, Grand Cru, Winzenberg.

Fogo Island Snow Crab: Cured foie gras, Niagara grapes. Paired with 2014 J.M. Soher Pinot Gris, Grand Cru, Winzenberg.

East Coast Caviar: Marigold Madeleine, Oyster Leaf, Creme Fraiche. Paired with 2013 Burrowing Owl Chardonnay, BC, VQA, Okanagan Valley.

East Coast Caviar: Marigold Madeleine, Oyster Leaf, Creme Fraiche. Paired with 2013 Burrowing Owl Chardonnay, BC, VQA, Okanagan Valley.

Floating Fogo Island: Bakeapple, anise hyssop. Paired with 2013 Big head, Niagara-on-the-lake, select late harvest riesling.

Floating Fogo Island: Bakeapple, anise hyssop. Paired with 2013 Big head, Niagara-on-the-lake, select late harvest riesling.

Exterior of Langdon Hall.

Exterior of Langdon Hall.

I excused myself between courses as the light was quickly fading outside. To capture the blue-hour light, my friend and I ran out to the front of the property with our tripods in tow, and did some long exposures. It wasn’t until a few moments into our photo-escape that a staff came out from the front doors and let us know the next course had been served!

The pond in the back during twilight.

The pond in the back during twilight.

Back patio area of Langdon Hall during twilight.

Back patio area of Langdon Hall during twilight.

Back patio area with a lighted tree makes for a great place in the evening to just sit and relax.

Back patio area with a lighted tree makes for a great place in the evening to just sit and relax.

Moving from the front to the back of the property, we continued our little photo escapade since this was the only time we could capture the property under this light. Another staff member came out again and let us know that our meal had been served but covered, so that it would be ready for us when we came back.

Langdon Hall dark chocolate.

Langdon Hall dark chocolate.

The dessert included Langdon Hall’s signature chocolate that were made by Chef Bangerter. Explaining to us that they had mixed four different types of dark chocolate to come up with the one that they thought best reflected their vision. The dark chocolate was smooth, not the least bit bitter, and finished with very little aftertaste. It was interesting to find out that one of his earlier revisions of his chocolate had even less of an aftertaste than this one.

This experience was not only tasty but inspiring and left me with a lasting impression of Langdon Hall. Every staff member I encountered was very welcoming and friendly. The wait staff knew even the smallest of details of each of the dishes that were presented to us, allowing us to ask them questions about it as well.

All this at just an hour away from the west end of Toronto, I look forward to the day that I can come back and experience it all over again.


Langdon Hall Hotel & Spa is located in Cambridge, Ontario, at 1 Langdon Drive. As of this writing, many of their Summer BBQ series event have sold out, but limited tickets are still available for their overnight packages on September 2nd, 2016.

Island Lake Conservation Area

For those of you who know me, you’ll know that I’m always up to exploring new places, especially if they offer some great landscape photo opportunities. So when I found a photo from a conservation park that I really liked, I immediately did some research and went there on the weekend. This post is all about what I found at the Island Lake Conservation Area in Orangeville, Ontario.

iPhone 6s Plus photo of snow blowing off the trees.

iPhone 6s Plus photo of snow blowing off the trees.

Island Lake Conservation Area

I found this place from a photo that someone had uploaded onto Instagram. He had taken his drone out for a spin one fine day and uploaded an overview photo of the entire lake. The lake was frozen over and you could see all the cracks and bubbles on the lake from above. I loved this view at first sight and I immediately had to know where it was taken.

Finding out that it was in Orangeville wasn’t so hard as the location was tagged in Instagram. It was about an hour’s drive away from me so the only opportunity I would have would be on the weekend.

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I made it out there on an overcast Saturday but that didn’t stop me from hiking a few kms around the lake. The one thing that I didn’t realize was that it must have snowed just a few days prior because the ice was all covered with fresh snow. This was unfortunate since it was this very ice that I came to see. Nonetheless, here are a few photos to illustrate the prettiness of the park.

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This long bridge that connects the north hiking trail to the south hiking trail is quite the photogenic spot. Had the surroundings been a little less “white” it would have made for more interesting photos.

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You can see the vastness of the park by how long the bridge runs. This is only half the distance too since the bridge continues beyond that island you see in the distance.

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I came there in the morning so there were very few people enjoying the trails. Most were actually busy on the south end of the lake where the ice fishing huts were set up.

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The lone ice fishing hut near the south end of the park.

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It was this part of the trail where all these blue huts were lined on the ice. You can rent these huts for a fee, or bring your own hut and make your own hole in the ice. While hiking around the lake, I heard a number of people manually drilling their holes in the ice.

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While some people like to ice fish in the hut, others prefer a more open spot.  I don’t know who this belongs to as nobody was near this fishing rod at the time.

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The lake is quite large, but in the distance, you can see the outskirts of the city of Orangeville, so it’s not as deserted a place as you think it may be. There’s even a large area on the ice cleared away for ice skating.

DSC_0549The trails are surrounded by pine trees that would have been pretty had they been covered with a little snow!

There’s a $5.75 entry fee to the park—whether this is per person or per vehicle, I’m not too sure. It’s a nature conservation area so the fee goes towards the maintenance of the park and the use of its facilities.

It’s actually quite the nice area so I’ll be sure to visit it again. Only this time, I’ll be more cognizant of what the weather was like throughout the week.

For more information on Island Lake Conservation Area, you can head over to their website.


Have you ever been to this park before? Do you know of ay other parks that are picture-worthy? Let me know in the comments below.

Caledon Fall Colours

A fall season wouldn’t be the same without a visit to Caledon, Ontario, no matter how short a visit it may be. One weekend I had the fortune of driving up there on a whim on my way back from errands. It was an unexpected drive, but the weather was definitely cooperating. I couldn’t really say the same thing about traffic up there though!

Nikon D800, 1/500 sec., f/8.0, ISO 100, 16mm

Nikon D800, 1/500 sec., f/8.0, ISO 100, 16mm

These photos are all taken within a walking distance from the Cheltenham Badlands. Since they had blocked off the sideroads immediately in front of the Badlands, we were all forced to park down the street on the next block, making everybody walk a few minutes to the natural wonder of Cheltenham. On our way there, however, I looked towards a sideroad to find a glorious spectacle of colour that was far more interesting that the actual Badlands that I was going to take a look at. The Equestrian home seen above was surrounded by great colours with lush greenery in the foreground. I didn’t see any horses nearby that were willing to approach my camera unfortunately.

Nikon D800, 1/400 sec., f/8.0, ISO 100, 14mm

Nikon D800, 1/400 sec., f/8.0, ISO 100, 14mm

I did, however, find this pea-shaped tree which caught my attention for awhile. It was an oddly-shaped tree standing all by itself. The fence in front of it played nicely as you see it make its way into the far distance. I can only assume the pea-shape was formed because of the power lines running right next to it. This area was so attractive that a family of six was sitting behind me on the grass, enjoying a nice picnic.

Nikon D800, 1/250 sec., f/8.0, ISO 100, 24mm

Nikon D800, 1/250 sec., f/8.0, ISO 100, 24mm

Like I sometimes do with my tours of the city and surrounding areas, I did a brief Periscope broadcast of the area. I showed the bright colours of the Ontario fall season to the world. You can see the actual broadcast below on my katch.me feed.

Nikon D800, 1/400 sec., f/8.0, ISO 100, 17mm

Nikon D800, 1/400 sec., f/8.0, ISO 100, 17mm

And finally as I always like to do, I looked up to see the colours against the clear blue sky. In this case, there were some green still present in the tree, making it for a kaleidoscope of colours. It really was a great way to end off the drive that took me around through Belfountain, where it was too crowded that I couldn’t even stop to admire the surroundings.

This fall season I wasn’t expecting to see such vibrant colours all around. I was pleasantly surprised during most of my visits to various locations around the GTA though. I have to admit, wherever I’ve gone, it’s been a pretty good season for colours. The weekends were sunny, which also made for some good photo-taking opportunities.


Periscope Broadcast

View the Periscope broadcast of the Cheltenham Badlands and its surrounding fall colours!

Mount St. Louis Moonstone in Autumn Colours

For any landscape photographer, the autumn season is a magical time of the year. With the leaves changing colours altering the landscape dramatically, it’s literally a photographer’s playground.

This year while I went to a few different places to see the leaves, it was one of the more unexpected places that I saw the most striking of colours. Contrasting greatly with the greenery of the slopes, the surrounding trees with their orange, yellow, and red leaves made this location a secret gem that I don’t think many people would ever have expected it to be.

Nikon D800, 1/100 sec., f/10, ISO 100, 82mm

Nikon D800, 1/100 sec., f/10, ISO 100, 82mm

Mount St. Louis Moonstone is a ski resort located north of Barrie. Visible from Highway 400, you could easily drive past it if weren’t for the changing colours of the leaves beckoning photographers to come and take their photos. And that’s just what they did this past weekend as I was heading north on the 400. A small detour made this photo tour well worth the time.

It was undoubtedly a great spectacle to see because of two reasons:

  1. The greenery of the slopes contrasted greatly with the surrounding leaves that this further accentuated the vibrancy of the colours.
  2. I came here shortly before sunset, which gave me great lighting on the leaves, making for some special moments.
Nikon D800, 1/60 sec., f/10, ISO 100, 130mm

Nikon D800, 1/60 sec., f/10, ISO 100, 130mm

Because this is a ski resort, the ski lifts added another element to the landscape that worked really well. Normally we may not associate ski lifts with the autumn season but they really go hand-in-hand here, don’t you think? It’s no secret I actually really like this combination, as I’ve done this in the past whenever I’ve come across ski lifts; just take a look at my photos from Sunshine Ski Resort in Banff, and while I know I took one from another ski resort in Ontario, the actual photo escapes me at the moment.

Nikon D800, 1/100 sec., f/13, ISO 100, 200mm

Nikon D800, 1/100 sec., f/13, ISO 100, 200mm

Standing from the base of the mountain, I equipped myself with a 24-70mm f/2.8 and a 70-200mm f/2.8 to get these photos. Since the ski lifts and trees were fairly far away from me, the latter telephoto lens came in handy quite a bit. Focusing on the very top ski lift terminal, I was able to bring in the coloured leaves to the foreground in the photo below.

Nikon D800, 1/125 sec., f/11, ISO 100, 180mm

Nikon D800, 1/125 sec., f/11, ISO 100, 180mm

Had I more time on my hands, I would have loved to walk up the slope to the top of the hill and see the view from there. I’m sure it would have been a great view. Instead, I walked from one side of the hill to the other and got a different perspective on the hills and the magnificent colours that surrounded the slopes of Mount St. Louis Moonstone.

Nikon D800, 1/160 sec., f/10, ISO 100, 56mm

Nikon D800, 1/160 sec., f/10, ISO 100, 56mm

While an overview picture really shows the area and the colours, the tighter photos where I focused on select elements of the landscape brings in more details. For example, the photo below has the trees with their bright orange and yellow on either side of the photo really brings out the lush green slope in the middle.

Nikon D800, 1/100 sec., f/9.0, ISO 100, 190mm

Nikon D800, 1/100 sec., f/9.0, ISO 100, 190mm

The ski lifts as they go up the slope gets hidden amongst the shadows of the trees. This deepens the bluish tint, which contrasts even more with the orange and yellow leaves surrounding it.

Nikon D800, 1/125 sec., f/8.0, ISO 100, 200mm

Nikon D800, 1/125 sec., f/8.0, ISO 100, 200mm

And finally, after seeing the curvature of the wooden fence below, I knew I had to get that into the frame somehow. Maybe it’s just me, but there’s just something about wooden fences that screams autumn scenery to me.

Nikon D800, 1/125 sec., f/8.0, ISO 100, 70mm

Nikon D800, 1/125 sec., f/8.0, ISO 100, 70mm

I loved this detour I made over the weekend. It actually made my trip up north worth while since my intended destination didn’t yield as colourful a picture as the ones I took here at Mount St. Louis Moonstone. Just an hour and a half away from Toronto, this ski resort may very well be a stop that I have to make every fall season. It’s just a shame I wasn’t into skiing or snowboarding!

 

Every year the colours are different in their vibrancy and colour range. The results are heavily dependant on whether the temperature drops quickly or drastically. This year, the autumn season started off fairly warm, which—depending on whom you ask—could be a good or bad thing. With the gradual temperature drop, the colour of the leaves weren’t as vibrant or bright as they could have been had the temperature dropped suddenly. When this happens, the leaves typically fall to the ground well before they reach their peak colours, making it harder to spot the orange-red colours of the leaves still intact on the trees.

Nonetheless it was the perfect weekend for a road trip, so that’s exactly what I did this past weekend. I took a drive up north to see if the colours were closer to their peak than here in the city. To help you with the colour changes, I use the ever-so-handy Ontario Colour Leaves Report. They update this every couple of days so it’s a great way to see what the regions are like in terms of their colours.

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Composition dilemma

When post-processing a photo, deciding on the proper composition is key in creating the feel of an image. You can evoke different feelings for the viewer based on where the horizon is placed within an image, or where the subject is placed within the frame.

Nikon D800, 1/800 sec., f/8.0, ISO 100, 70mm

Nikon D800, 1/800 sec., f/8.0, ISO 100, 70mm

This photo is pretty interesting as I could have gone a number of different ways in terms of placing the horizon and placement of the subject.

I decided to place the horizon on the top third of the image because it then allows us to get more intimate with the water by seeing more details of the water. Further, the water in the foreground acts as a guide for our eyes to move towards the paddler. Had I placed the horizon on the bottom third of this picture, like in the image below, I wouldn’t have achieved the same effect.

Placing the paddler directly in the centre of the frame can also change the mood as well. I have her centred which balances things throughout the entire photo. If I placed her one-third from the left edge of the frame, we would get more negative space on the right, allowing our eyes to head directly to the subject.

Nikon D800, 1/800 sec., f/8.0, ISO 100, 70mm

Nikon D800, 1/800 sec., f/8.0, ISO 100, 70mm

Can you feel the difference between the two images above? With the horizon in the bottom third of the photo, we get an open view of the sky, making the entire landscape look more grand and spacious.

There’s not really a right or wrong way about this; it’s just a matter of what you’re trying to achieve in the photo.

The takeaway here is to always be conscious about the cropping of your photo. You may not think about it, but what you include or take away when cropping a photo will make a big difference in how people interpret the image.