Category Archives: Photography

Eyes on the Ground

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.

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Filed under Birds, Photography, Poetry, Typecasting, Uncategorized, Wildlife, winter

On the 5th Day of Christmas

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Christmas Greetings 2019

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December 23, 2019 · 4:29 pm

‘Tis the Season

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.

1966 Sterling aka Silent Super

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.

11 month old typist

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.

eagle having lunch

you have crumbs on your cheek!

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Filed under Birds, Photography, Typewriters, Wildlife, winter

Art, Science or Magic?

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:

 

 

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Filed under Books, Photography, Sketching, Technology, Uncategorized

The Falling Leaves

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.

a barred owl returns to the same branch every year

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.

buck with something funny on his head

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.

a big wasp nest

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.

red tailed hawk

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.

ducks being ducks, and geese being geese

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.

eagle swooping in

final approach

The pair landed beside the water, a rare sight, and I watched them have a drink.

think I’ll have a drink

Then they left and the ducks all soon reappeared as if nothing had happened.

all clear, back to feeding

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Preparing for the TMB

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Mt. Blanc from the Col de Balme

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.

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Italy somewhere

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.

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alpine tarn and Mt. Blanc

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.

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a refuge or auberge

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.

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on the trail

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.

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making friends with a cow

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.

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misty evening

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.

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a bridge in Switzerland

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.

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one step at a time; 20,000+ a day

Some watercolours from France and Germany:

And some from my pre-trip journal:

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Filed under Great Hikes, Photography, Sketching, Travel