From season to season the park is constantly changing, but sometime it changes drastically overnight – as it did when we received a foot of snow in a couple of days.
Category Archives: Photography
Sold another typewriter this week, a 1966 Smith Corona Sterling. In fact, just a Silent Super with a different name on it. Smith Corona was still making the 5 series in 1966, long after they introduced series 6. I have a 1959 series 6 to prove it! This one is a present for a youngster. Lucky kid to have a cool grandmother! I’m thrilled to see this going to a young writer.
I got out my “Christmas” typewriter, a red Remington Rand (spray painted ). My grandson spotted it and immediately began to press on the keys. It’s never too early to start typing lessons.
Another sign of the season is the abundance of raptors about. This eagle dove towards the lake and then we saw it fly off into a tree. When we got close, we could see it eating what it had caught. Then it wiped its beak on a branch. There were no napkins available.
At bedtime Olympia went to talk to Oliver about what Ned had told her.
You know what Dad said, she whispered?
What, said Oliver?
He said that there is no magic, because it’s all just advanced technology. Do you think that’s possible?
Anything’s possible, said Oliver, but how would you know the difference?
I wish I could ask the Magic Typer, said Olympia.
What would you ask it, said Oliver?
If it was magic or technology, said Olympia.
How would you know if it gave you the right answer, said Oliver?
from The Magic Typer (author me).
I am always wondering where the line is between art (magic) and science. What makes a photograph art, as opposed to just chemistry? Sometimes I am pretty sure photography is not art at all, and is merely a technical achievement that imitates art. Then again there are times when some photograph I see moves me in an artistic way. Is this magic or just advanced technology pushing my buttons? There is no definitive answer, of course. Most photography is not art, that is certain. And most art is crap too, for that matter. So how do we judge it all? I gave up long ago, back in architecture school when I came to the realization that even the so called experts can never agree on what is good or bad. So I just allow my senses to inform me about what I like and don’t like.
What got me going on this subject was taking photos today with my Fuji Instax camera. I think it was Cartier Bresson who said anyone could make a masterpiece with a Rolleiflex camera. He may have been right. Photos I get from the instant camera often have more art in them than the best I can take with my super pixel DSLR. Maybe because it’s all down to the subject and composition, as opposed to colour rendition, focus and sharpness of details. In any case, I enjoy the results, even if they are less than spectacular technically. That is what I enjoy about watercolour painting too, because it is imprecise and fuzzy – at least in my hands!
Here are three takes on a big old oak tree in the meadow nearby.
A tree at sunset, and two pieces from a local pub done today:
Daylight time has gone. Today I ate lunch at 11.30 since my stomach is still on its former schedule. Before the light faded this afternoon I decided to head out around the lake for a quick walk before dark. Good thing too, because the sun was sinking low as I left. I grabbed the camera on my way out, and fixed the big zoom lens, just in case. I haven’t carried this camera for months, but I had a hunch today might be the day – the day the owl returns. Until recently the leaves have been hiding the life that is now visible since they are rapidly falling. What they reveal is very interesting.
Well, sometimes you get lucky. As soon as I entered the copse of trees where the owl can often be found in November, I spotted one, and the sun was lighting it up as if it had been placed there as the perfect setup just waiting for me to come along. I wiggled my way into the brush to get a bit closer and tried to find a line of sight that didn’t have branches in the way.
Satisfied with some decent pics I continued on my way, taking a diversion to check for horned owls in another part of the wood where they have been known to hang out, but they weren’t about, or couldn’t be seen if they were. Back on the main path, a doe jumped out in front of me and into the brush. Then I spotted her mate half hidden behind a tree. He cautiously came out and I got a shot of him crossing the path. With his pointy antlers I stayed well away in case he took a notion to shoo me off. I didn’t notice the odd antler that looks like it sprouted from between his eyes! Just a few yards further on I looked up to see a huge paper wasp nest that was now in plain sight.
Continuing on I crossed the new floating bridge and was pleased that the far end of the trail will never again be flooded over, since they raised a berm there about 4 feet high. Around the backside and turning east I glanced up to see a Red Tailed Hawk sitting in a bare tree, and right below it another large dangling wasp nest. I crept as close as I could to get a better shot of the hawk, expecting it to take off at any second, but it seemed to be watching things on the ground and it chose to ignore me. Often they depart as soon as I start approaching.
The south side of the lake has now flooded again as it does once the rain comes, and the slough was filled with ducks and geese. Way off in the distance near some tall firs I thought I saw an eagle fly past.
Once I rounded the last side of the circle I spied a pair of Bald Eagles wheeling and spinning over a small flooded meadow. They dropped down as if to grab a fish not once but several times and scattered a flock of ducks and birds.
The pair landed beside the water, a rare sight, and I watched them have a drink.
Then they left and the ducks all soon reappeared as if nothing had happened.
Back in May when my son asked me to go with him to hike the TMB I immediately agreed. I had no idea how difficult it would be, but I had a pretty good idea this might be the best shot I’d ever get at doing such a trip. Once I said yes it was too late to back out, something I knew would be a great disappointment to the both of us.
As soon as I read about it I knew that I would have to train hard. Luckily there are some trails right outside my door – one that goes around the lake, and another that goes up over a small hill. One go round is about 5.5 kms, and involves about 100 meters of climbing. The other hikes I had at my disposal were a slightly higher hill of about 200 meters, and another lake walk with a few minor hills, totaling about 5.8 kms.
First I needed boots. With extra wide feet, there aren’t many boots I find comfortable, but I discovered New Balance made boots in 4E, so I bought a pair of those, model 978. Although they were a little light for the very rocky bits, they worked well and I didn’t have any serious complaints, or any blisters, despite the fact that I defied convention by wearing thin socks.
As for a pack, I checked out all the well known brands and found them very expensive. By chance I found a shop with some old stock of internal frame Kelty packs on sale at half the cost of most other packs. I bought a Redwing 50, and it performed beautifully. I liked the fact that this pack had lots of zippers and pockets to keep gear handy when needed. My son’s bag was merely one large sack that he had to dig into every time he needed something from within. The Kelty has one single curved back stay that carries the load down to the excellent waist belt, which cinches very tightly due to compound leverage.
Once I got my essential gear in order, with new boots and a new pack, I set out on regular walks with weight in the pack. To start I had 10 pounds, then I increased it to 20 once I gathered my gear and determined I’d have about 18 – 20 lbs. With my pack and boots I began training as often as I could. The first problem was the heat, which this past summer hit 28C fairly often. This is very hot for these parts, and although it’s not so bad for normal living, 28 is a mite warm for strenuous exercise. Nevertheless, it had to be done, so I was out in the heat hiking away the miles, and sweating profusely. This also proved a problem for me feet mostly, which were very hot. That is why in the end I settled on thin socks.
I also began a journal of my daily training hikes, using a Strathmore notebook with heavy cotton paper pages suitable for watercolours. For practice I did a few, but mostly I recorded my mileage and observations of how I felt. There were many entries about how tired my legs were, and how wet my shirt was. Some days I had to keep myself soaked down with a wet kerchief to keep from overheating. I became quite attached to my boonie hat too, a US army surplus item that fulfilled every requirement for a warm weather sun hat admirably. Tested in Vietnam, so no surprise it works well in heat. The brim is just the right size, and it can be flipped down or up to suit the sun. I should perhaps have been more patriotic and worn a Canadian Tilley hat, but I feel they make me look like an old fogey, and besides which they aren’t any better than the boonie, and somewhat heavier and harder to stow when not in use.
After the whole thing was over I tabulated my training and found that I had walked for 86 hours and 274 kms. That’s 1.6 times the length of the TMB, not exactly a lot, but in my case certainly better than nothing, as I am now convinced that without that I would have been done in after the first day or two. On the other hand, my son who is 36 and super strong, did zero preparation and of course was way out in front of me when he wasn’t behind, ready to catch me when I tripped. What 30 years can do to you, it’s terrible! No complaints however, as I got through it on my own steam and no worse for wear.
As for my best intentions of watercolour sketches, all I have to show are some pre-trip sketches, one solitary sketch from the hike, and a few done before and after. Fortunately I did keep a daily journal, so I have that and a lot of photographs as a record. Now that it’s over I wish I had it to do again! No matter how much you can recall from writing or pictures, nothing can compare to the joy of walking through a beautiful landscape, no matter how difficult it feels at the time.
Some watercolours from France and Germany:
And some from my pre-trip journal:
“The guilty undertaker sighs
The lonesome organ grinder cries”
“I Want You”, by Bob Dylan
As I noted here a month or two past, I spent an inordinate amount of time in deciding what sort of sketching media to take with me to Europe and the TMB hike. Once on the trail I soon discovered that there was no time for sketching. You hit the trail just after 8 o’clock, hike for an hour or three and then eat lunch in pleasant exhaustion while recovering for the afternoon. Maybe you eat a 2nd lunch at 2 p.m. No matter, it’s highly unlikely you are lunching and have energy or inspiration to pull out the sketchbook and paint box. At the end of the day when you get to the next refuge, you dump your stuff and if lucky, you get to sleep for an hour before dinner. Then you talk to folks, and write in the journal.
However, I did do some sketching before and after the hike, when I had plenty of time to sit and observe. My first stop was Dusseldorf, a beautiful city on the Rhine River. Among the attractions is the alt-stadt, where the streets are full of people, not cars. How ridiculous! Also there are some lovely beer gardens that dispense alt-beer, a dark and flavourful brew which, unlike most German beer, is top fermented. Unfortunately most German brew-masters who emigrated to North America brought with them lager beer, which in my opinion isn’t half as tasty. But you can still get alt-beer in Dusseldorf, a drink I enjoyed while sitting at a bar in the alt-stadt with sketchbook at hand.
While lolling on my stool I discerned a faint sound coming from down the street. Soon I realized I was hearing a hand cranked miniature pipe organ, from which pipes came a sweet folksy tune. Shortly, before my eyes appeared a real live organ grinder. He parked his organ beside me and took a seat at a table; then proceeded to smoke a full pipe, after which he shut his eyes and had a snooze. Refreshed, he got up after a half hour and returned the way he came, grinding out a new tune.
Stealthily, I managed to capture him on camera and in my sketchbook. Maybe this is so commonplace in Europe that organ grinders are taken for granted, but to me it was a magic moment. As for the question of whether or not he was lonesome; if you spent all day pushing an organ around, who could you talk to?
Typewriter day came and went here without fanfare, or so much as a peep. However, I did sell 2 typewriters to a budding typerata. She arrived minutes after she got my response to her email about a machine I had listed on Craigslist. She loves typewriters and has a few, all with names and their own ink colours. We spent a good hour talking typewriters, and I showed her a few interesting ones. Then she spotted one of my Olivetti L22’s that was on the floor. I picked it up last week, broken, and had spent a few hours getting it to work. So she bought that one too, complete with speil about Nizzoli, MOMA, etc. Despite the general lack of community here, we had a mini celebration for typewriter day, which was good.
Meanwhile I have been shooting film again and developing it in Caffenol. I dried the washing soda in the oven this time, and also added some table salt to the mix. This works great, and even after 3 weeks it worked well enough to develop 3 rolls. The only problem is that I’ve been using very stale film. The BW film was Ilford Delta 100, and that was almost like new judging from the results. However, the 14 year old Kodak Max 400 came out very grainy and low res, despite the camera. One roll of Kodak Max was shot with my Nikon F and the much vaunted Nikkor 85/1.8 and yet the results are pretty much indistinguishable from a Brownie. The best results were from the Ilford, a film that was 11 years old, shot with a Spotmatic and a SMC 50/1.4, which gave brilliant results. Check out this old Cressida!
Colour film curls up horribly, and attracts dust like a magnet attracts iron filings, but the B&W film dried almost flat, and was relatively dust free. After this I just tossed away all the old colour film, because it’s too disappointing to get a good shot that is all dusty and grainy and looks barely focused. I’m not keen on 35mm film for this very reason, preferring 120, but since I have a lot of old cameras I like to exercise them once in a while. My Nikon F Photomic is a classic, but quite heavy and clumsy. I’d like to try shooting with it through the top, something I haven’t done. You don’t need a waist level finder to do this, although that would be nice.
The 2nd Olivetti of the week was this L35, really just an L32 with a new cladding. The carriage lock was jammed, but I took it off and straightened out the metal tab that goes up and down, filed and polished the edges where this meets the lower rail of the carriage, and now it works fine. The whole thing comes apart as easily as can be, which is brilliant. I think it would take one minute if you know what you’re doing. The beauty of this is the shell can be painted any colour you like, as there are no other painted bits to fiddle with. This machine has every feature you need in a typewriter; full auto set tabs with a nifty brake that works, rabbit ears, and a paper table, plus a platen clutch. It has an interesting design – Italian Modern – and would fit right in with snazzy futuristic furniture. However, I prefer the feeling of the L22 over the 32, although it is a more complex machine and difficult to adjust.
Here is another thing you don’t find in the store anymore – marble pen stands. This one is a Parker, and it came with one Parker pen – a ballpoint. I polished up the plastic barrel and it shines like new. They made these with high grade plastic. I also have a matching fountain pen, a Parker 51, but the ink tends to run out under gravity, so I leave the pen in there dry.
These go with the pen collection. Some are new, others are old bottles found (rarely) in thrift shops. Probably have a lifetime supply.
Here are a few more scans: