Annual Bayfield Fall Foto Fest: Your imagination in focus

9 Oct

IMG_2722By Diva Shari Parsons

BAYFIELD – Nature photography is one of my passions, particularly using macro shots. This past weekend I was able to learn some new skills in the area of macro photography and digital video at the Bayfield Fall Foto Fest.

The Foto Fest, organized by the Photography Club of Bayfield (PCoB) and Photo TourTrekkers offered a variety of workshops over the weekend. I chose to attend two workshops on Saturday. Pre-registration was required and I did mine online.

Participants were invited to wander around the temporary photo gallery in the town hall and view the photos entered in the photo IMG_2678contest. There were photographs to suit almost every subject taste from nature, people, domestic and exotic scenes, reality, digitally enhanced artistic impressions, stark black and white to vivid colour.

I had a quick chat with Jack Pal, president of the PCoB. We both agreed that photography is very subjective. One viewer may see or feel something different compared to another viewer looking at the same photo. While it was evident that talent was present in the creating of all the photos, I can’t say that I liked all of them. There were definitely a few that spoke to me more so than others. I like photos that make me smile or say “oooooh” automatically without thinking about it.

My first workshop was macro photography, which is close-up photography, usually of very small objects, in which the size of the IMG_2692subject in the photo is larger than actual size. The instructor was Nancy McRae from Sarnia, who is not only an avid photographer but also a potter, gardener, world traveller and nursing educator.

Nancy gave us a short but interesting and informative blurb about herself and some tips on macro photography. She shared some of her “tricks of the trade” such has carrying around a small spray bottle of water to spritz on flowers and spider webs for IMG_2759a dewy look or applying a drop of thick glycerin in place of a runny water droplet. Dark coloured backgrounds, especially black, make colours and shapes pop. Small
mirrors can be used for lovely reflections. Interesting “modern art” can be created by
shooting multi-coloured paper through a glass plate of vegetable oil and water. She also gave us some great tips on how to avoid spending money on expensive photography equipment. Tricks like using large embroidery hoops with white, silver or gold fabric to make light reflectors or using a Pringles chip tube with one end cut out to fit over a flash and the other end covered in wax paper as a flash diffuser.

Nancy had several work stations arranged around the room and she bade us to jump right in andIMG_2735 have fun experimenting. There were several “water droplet” stations where you could try to catch an image of the droplet splashing as it hit the water. Some of the water was coloured and one was made using cream. A couple of stations had small mirrors that we used to get shots of reflections of butterflies, flowers and jewellery. There were a couple of stations set up with black backgrounds and one with a royal blue background inside a small, white fabric “tent” lit from the outside. I found the most amusing station was the one with the coloured paper, oil and water. The resulting shots made me think of planets in another galaxy.

This workshop was a little challenging for me as my camera does not take different types of lenses. I could only use the macro IMG_2698function on my camera, which does not work as well as an actual macro lens.

Nevertheless I thoroughly enjoyed myself.

My afternoon workshop was digital video taught by Tony Shantz, a freelance cinematographer from Sarnia. We started with a discussion about some of the differences and similarities between photos and video. Tony told us that video is made up of a rapid series of still images, 24-30 per second, which gives us the illusion of movement.

IMG_2738Tony showed us a still image of a blacksmith working in his shop. He then gave us the task of thinking about how we would tell the story using various video images. An important step in preparing to shoot a video is to build a “shot list” which is the sequence of scenes being shot to tell that story. He also told us to think about the composition of the shots such as wide angle or close-up and how to use tilt or pan to show movement.

Tony then taught us how to set up our digital cameras so that they could be used to record video images. We were told that it is important to remember WISA – White balance, ISO, Shutter speed, and Aperture.

The workshop ended with a discussion about some of the online and computer programs available for editing and sharing videos.

IMG_2724Although I was not able to attend, the Foto Fest also offered a keynote speaker, a wine and cheese reception and a movie by local filmmaker and environmentalist Jennifer Pate.

The cost of attending the workshops was $50 for one day and $70 for two days and included two workshops each day, keynote presentation and wine and cheese reception.

Next year’s Foto Fest will take place Oct. 1 and 2, 2016.

New leadership, subtle changes enhance Oakwood’s off season offerings

5 Oct


Dave's PubBy Diva Jennifer Mossop

GRAND BEND – I recognized him instantly, and my jaw dropped as I took in the scene before me. Mark Craft, the owner of the renowned Church Restaurant in Stratford was clearly giving directions to the dining staff at the Oakwood Inn Resort in Grand Bend.   My curiosity well peaked, and the former journalist roused, I made it my business to find out the story.

overheadshotofpatioAfter about three decades at the helm of one of Stratford’s flagship fine dining establishments housed in a stunning old Baptist Church, Craft has sold the business. And, now he is at the helm of the food and beverage operations of this 130-room resort on the sandy shores of Lake Huron.

Under his care are three main services – the conference and event business, the Oak Dining Room, and Dave’s Pub and Grill. Sitting in the Pub there is no visible indication of a change. The airy room is pleasing and welcoming with plenty of wood, stone and massive windows overlooking the picturesque golf course. The server is cheerful and efficient. But there is more change. Craft is not the only new face. The kitchen is now under the culinary baton of Chef Chris Howard.

Opening the 4-page menu, it’s evident the new leadership understands change doesn’t have to be dramatic. The offerings have a Dave's Pub and Grill Oakwood Resortfamiliar feel but there are enhancements and a few new offerings in the generous list, which make it easy to find something for everyone. The new California Burger, colourfully adorned with a swirl of rich guacamole, is moist and flavourful. The return of Fish Tacos is a welcome favourite.

Food and drink come together each weekend in the Chef’s Table Menu, where ever-changing kitchen creations are well paired with new wine list options. For example, the most recent weekend offered Mediterranean Pasta with sundried tomatoes, green olives, artichokes, arugula, red onions, rosemary olive oil, served in multigrain olive bread, paired appropriately with Ruffino Chianti. Duck Breast with orange maple glaze was married with a Jackson Triggs Merlot, and the Grilled Mahi Mahi brought a Ruffino Pinot Grigio.

While the new fall and winter menus provide plenty of choices to test over the coming cooler months, it should be noted that Oakwood will be hosting its annual traditional Thanksgiving buffet ($37.95 per person, $17.50 children five to 12, free four and under – plus taxes and gratuity) in the Oak Dining Room on Saturday, Oct. 10 from 5 p.m. to p.m. It’s a great option for those who’d rather not spend the long weekend in the kitchen but perhaps, instead, on the golf course or at the Lakeside Spa. Maybe even a dip in the indoor pool, which is now open for seasonal memberships and one off visits.

And then maybe, just maybe, the pace will settle down just a bit for the new food and beverage guru. Craft admits that things are going so well he has yet to make the one block walk to the private beach to take in one of Lake Huron’s legendary sunsets. But perhaps he’ll get there before the winter winds transform the aquamarine waves into an Alaskan landscape, and the torches outside Dave’s Pub and Grill once again beckon winter wanderers to cozy up by the fireplace for a satisfying sip and sup.

First-ever Bayfield Volkfest: Love, peace and fun, fun, fun

30 Sep


By Diva Shari Parsons

BAYFIELD – This past Sunday my hubby and I enjoyed travelling through a time warp when we visited the first-ever Bayfield Volkfest in Clan Gregor Square.

As it was the first Volkfest, we weren’t sure what to expect but we were both very pleasantly surprised by the number and variety of vehicles present. We love camping and exploring so our favourite vehicles were the camper vans or buses. A few of them were in a “well matured” state while others had been lovingly restored. Some of the campers featured fun little vignettes complete with funky rainbow tie-dye interiors.

secondleftThere were also VW Beetles, including Herbie the Lovebug Jr. My favourite “bug” was a red convertible – perfect for summer cruising with the top down. There were a few more exotic species present as well such as the VW Thing, some dunebuggies, and an interloping Porsche. My favourite “exotic” was a lime green 1972 VW Karmann Ghia, which had been lovingly restored from the wheels up.

firstrightvwSome of the vehicle owners and a few visitors were dressed as groovy as the vehicles. There was a scent of incense (legal) wafting on the breeze and folk music playing in the background. A few vendors were situated around the park offering health food, locally roasted coffee beans, groovy jewelry, brightly coloured clothes, VW memorabilia, and apparently the grooving hippy’s choice of instrument – the ukulele.

A small stage was available for live music performances. While we were there a cute little girl in pigtails was singing her heart out while accompanied by someone drumming on an amplified wooden box and another musician playing the guitar. In the audience, several little children grooved to the beat including one little girl who twirled a rainbow coloured garland in time to the music.

Festival organizers Ryan Somers, Jen Reaburn and their eight-week-old daughter, River.

Festival organizers Ryan Somers, Jen Reaburn and their eight-week-old daughter, River.

I chatted with festival organizers Ryan Somers and his partner Jen Reaburn, owners of Elephant Juice, Juice and Smoothie Company of Bayfield. Inspired by Bayfield’s Vette Fest and obsessed with VW campers (funnily enough Ryan does not own a VW but he hopes to soon), volkfest4Ryan thought that it would be a great idea to put together a Volkfest. Incredibly, the festival was literally thrown together in about six weeks! Ryan started it off by creating a Facebook event and emailing a few friends to see if there was any interest. Social media was the driving force behind the success of this festival. Apparently classic VW owners are a friendly bunch who like to get together so news of the event spread quickly.

A few area businesses jumped on board. Smackwater Jack’s Taphouse in Grand Bend organized a brunch and group drive. The Ashwood Inn of Bayfield provided the stage and music set-up. Shopbike Coffee Roasters of Bayfield helped to spread the word.

This was a free, fun and relaxing event that was suitable for all ages. My hubby and I left dreaming about what adventures we could get up to if we owned a VW camper.

Next year’s event is already planned for Sept. 25, 2016.

Party in Bayfield has decidedly local flavour

26 Sep

foodcharter1By Diva Heather Boa
BAYFIELD – Five one-ounce plastic containers of wine huddled on a paper plate. Each held a taste of wine made from grapes grown right here in Huron County, at Maelstrom Winery.

foodcharter3I started with the Frontenac Blanc, worked through the Chardonnay and then moved on to the reds. There was Pinot Noir and Tempest. And, finally, Marquette, a big and bold red that happily chased down a pastry from Cait’s Kitchen filled with thin slices of pepperoni from Metzger’s Meat Products and a creamy jalapeno cheese from Blyth Cheese Farm. Beside me, a local criminal lawyer sampled a Prison Break Pilsner brewed in Guelph. On my other side, a friend sipped on a glass of Pinot Noir, her favourite from the Flight of Wine.

Clusters of people filled the cabaret-style setting, while in the background, The Blacklist Social, a local band, comfortably sprinkled original songs between a strong playbill of folk and rock music.

The Food Charter Launch Party at the Bayfield Town Hall on Sept. 26, organized by the Huron Food Action Network, had a decidedly local flavour.

foodcharter15According to its literature, the network has a mission of cultivating a sustainable, local food system to nourish all people of Huron County and beyond.

“Huron county is not only beautiful in its appearance but in its abundance,” said Nathan Swartz, who is the network’s food system co-ordinator. He said its rich soil produces an abundance of food.

As part of the launch party, the network handed out awards to what it calls Food Heroes.

“Superheroes do things we wish we could do. Perhaps more importantly, things we should be doing,” Swartz said. “We can’t depend on government and massive corporations to protect our food so it’s up to us and local food heroes.”

Award winners were: Red Cat Farm, north of Goderich on Hwy. 21; Bayfield Berry Farm, just east of Bayfield on Orchard Line; Part II Bistro of Blyth; and Maelstrom Winery, just east of Clinton on Sanctuary Line.

While I wholeheartedly support the network’s efforts, for me it was also a great evening out with friends in celebration of local food, drink and music.

Its next event should be a sold out affair. Watch for it.


Maybe I lost a bet or something, but I did also promise to publicly proclaim Caitlin Vail of Cait’s Kitchen as Croissant Queen of Goderich. There you go.

If you like wine, country drives and supporting local business, check out Maelstrom Winery

25 Sep



By Diva Shari Parsons

CLINTON – Sunny days call for jumping in the car and exploring our area.

I had seen an article on the new Maestrom Winery located southeast of Clinton, the first commercial winery in Huron County, and since my hubby had worked in the wine and spirits industry for many years and was interested in checking it out, off we went.

IMG_2421Although the address for the winery is in Seaforth, we discovered that we had to input Clinton on our GPS in order to find it. The winery is on Sanctuary Line just off Hwy. 8. There were smallish home-made road signs on each side of the highway and another one at a large, tan brick farmhouse.

We went down the driveway and parked under some trees across from the garage. One of the garage doors was open and we could see that inside was a small office and a table with wine bottles upon it.

IMG_2415We were greeted by a tall, pleasant young man named Brian, son of vintners Jim and Catherine Landsborough. I asked Brian about the inspiration for the winery’s name and he told me that it came from Edgar Allan Poe’s short story “Descent Into the Maelstrom”. The following is an explanation from the winery’s website:

“The Name – A Maelstrom is a powerful tidal current or whirlpool. In literature a Maelstrom is almost always used metaphorically to depict adversity and the hidden opportunities presented by that hardship. We chose the name to reflect our belief that challenges give rise to opportunity and, as is the case in Edgar Allen Poe’s descent into the Maelstrom, sometimes opportunity comes in the form of a wine barrel.”

IMG_2419The Landsborough’s descent into the maelstrom began in 2009 with the planting of the first vines of a single variety of grape. Now in 2015, there are eight acres planted with eight different varieties of grapes and it has been their first year of wine production. Maestrom Winery produces two white wines, Frontenac Blanc and Chardonnay, and two red wines, Tempest and Pinot Noir.

Brian offered us a wine tasting which I deferred to my husband as he is the “expert” and I am sensitive to yeasts. My hubby’s favourite was Tempest but he said that all the wines were comparable in quality and taste with any of the similar VQA wines that he has dealt with.

Maestrom Winery is also branching out into hard cider. They would like to use local apples but last year’s crops were damaged by frost in this area so this first cider pressing is made using apples from Collingwood. Unfortunately we were unable to sample the cider as it was not quite ready.

IMG_2413Both the wine and the cider are bottled at the winery. The wines range in price from $21 – $25 a bottle and while you can buy less expensive wine in a store, one must remember that this is a new, small output facility. You can purchase using cash, debit or credit.

After a pleasant and informative chat and wine tasting, we asked if we could see the vineyards. The vines are located just down the road on cattle pasture land. We enjoyed a stroll down the road admiring the ripening fruit in the quiet sunshine – quiet except for the blasting of the bird cannons – large and loud “pop-guns” on stands amongst the rows that go off at regular intervals to discourage the birds from sampling the tasty grapes.

Brian Landsborough  of Maelstrom Winery was our gracious host for the visit.

Brian Landsborough of Maelstrom Winery was our gracious host for the visit.





Enjoy the harvest of your local farmers’ market

25 Sep



By Diva Caroline Thuss

GODERICH – I have always enjoyed heading to the farmers’ market to enjoy the bounty that is available every week. This past weekend I ventured to the Goderich Farmers’ Market with a few recipes in mind from some Canadian chefs to make and enjoy.

farmersmarket5The first stop for me is always the Red Cat Farm Bakery to get some beautiful breads and some yummy treats that keep my younger companions happy while I continue
my way around The Square in Goderich. As you can see, the size of their baked goods are enough to satisfy even the hungriest market-goer.

farmersmarket4Next stop is the Maitland Market and Supply to visit with Erika. There is such a beautiful array of colours as you look at the local veggies and fruit that are available. The windy weather did not hold us back from purchasing a bag full of produce that my son chose. I had to limit him as we only have so much room to store all these beautiful veggies and fruit. I was happy to see that she had some raspberries available. These were put together with rhubarb from my backyard to make a beautiful pie.

As we continued along the square we picked up some lovely pork sausage (that ended up on the barbecue and in my chili), some beautiful sweet potatoes (for my favourite Fall comfort dish: sweet potato soup) and more veggies that made it into a variety of delicious meals. As you can see, I was
very successful and my total cost was just under $60. I spent most of the day Sunday preparing meals with this haul from the market.

There are a variety of Farmers’ Markets all over Huron County for you to enjoy. Most run until October. Check out your local market while the harvest is plentiful and enjoy the bounty that Huron County produces.




Clinton and Central Huron Farmers’ Market 2pm-6pm, Grand Bend Farmers’ Market 8am-1pm, Wingham Farmers’ Market 3:30pm-7pm


Exeter Farmers’ Market 3pm-7pm


Bayfield Farmers’ Market 3pm-7pm, Brussels Farmers’ Market 2pm-6pm


Dungannon Farmers’ Market 9am-11:30am, Howick Farmers’ Market 9am-noon, Goderich Farmers’ Market 8am-1pm, Old 86 Farmers’ Market 9am-6pm



Chef Michael Smith’s Sweet Potato Soup


2 Tbsp olive oil

2 onions, peeled and chopped

2 carrots, peeled and chopped

2 celery stalks, chopped

1 large sweet potato, or 2 small, peeled and cut into small chunks

2-3 cups chicken broth

1 Tbsp cinnamon

Sprinkled sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste


  1. Place a saucepan or soup pot over medium heat and add the oil. When it begins to get hot, add the onions, carrots and celery and sauté until softened and fully aromatized.
  2. Add the sweet potatoes and enough broth to completely cover all the vegetables. Season with cinnamon, salt and pepper and bring to a simmer.
  3. Cook until potatoes are very soft and then puree with a hand blender, food processor or countertop blender until smooth. You may also serve the soup ‘as is. Taste and add more seasoning if need be.




Guitarists jam in Rock and Roll Band Camp

21 Sep
Adam Cyr, at right, jams with students James Alcock, David Mackechnie and Aaron Neeb in Rock and Roll Band Camp.

Adam Cyr, at right, jams with students James Alcock, David Mackechnie and Aaron Neeb in Rock and Roll Band Camp.

By Diva Heather Boa

EXETER – Four musicians hunch over their guitars, listening to Tragically Hip’s Nautical Disaster, a classic garage-rock song about mass death at sea during World War II.

As lead singer Gordon Downie makes his way through the first 50 seconds, their fingers hover over the taut nylon strings, their heads bob and tilt to catch the cue. There it is: Downie says the magic words “…coast of France” and they jump into the song with two electric, one bass and one acoustic guitar. Feet pound, bodies lurch, heads rock.

I think this is a magical moment, when four guys forget the world and just rock out, strains of their music wafting down the staircase and out onto Exeter’s main street on an otherwise quiet evening. I no longer make any of them self-conscious, scribbling notes and taking photos from the sidelines at this Rock and Roll Band Camp, part of Creative Huron’s Test Drive Your Creative Side. In this moment, I probably don’t exist and they’ve even forgotten they’re in the Odd Fellows and Rebekah lodge, sharing space with a dartboard, massive pool table and old black and white photos hung on the walls. They are lost in their guitars, and loving it.

The band camp is led by Adam Cyr, who plays in local bands and teaches guitar, bass and drums and his business Joyful Sounds, which is based in South Huron. Tonight is the third session for his students, who are learning new techniques and cords, and jamming. As they play songs like Last Kiss by Wayne Cochran and Can’t Always Get What You Want by the Rolling Stones, Adam throws out tips and talks about things like “down, down, switch,” “1, 4, 5 blues,” “staying on the dots,” “doing some blues licks” and other things about which I know nothing. But his fellow guitarists nod in agreement and adjust their playing based on his instructions.

Creative Huron’s Test Drive Your Creative Side is a comprehensive series of classes with a maximum eight hours of instruction, designed to introduce beginners to the arts. Classes led by local artists range from Latin dance to voice, watercolours to sound systems, needle felt to lantern making. Thanks to a grant from the Ontario Trillium Foundation, classes are just $20 each.

There are still plenty of classes available to let you test drive your creative side. Give it a go.

This series of classes is produced by Huron Arts & Heritage Network and the County of Huron Cultural Services Department along with partner arts organizations: Art aRound Town,Blyth East Side Dance, Blyth Festival, Elizabeth’s Art Gallery, Goderich Celtic Roots Festival, Goderich Little Theatre, Imagine Huron and Worth Their Salt.


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