Thursday, February 26, 2015

Parting Shots

We are going away for a bit of a winter holiday, not to a sunny spot but another wintry place. It's okay. I am looking forward to meeting with extended family and doing a bit of snowshoeing. Well ... I will snowshoe if my one bad foot, two bad knees, and one bad hip permit it. I managed last winter, so, hopefully, I will still be up to it.

In any case, this will be the last post for awhile, and I will leave you with some more pics from our local park. I took these on the same semi mild day as the edge of the ice pics in the previous post.

I am not too good and spotting either closeup or graphical shots as my vision tends to be oriented toward the distance. But I am trying to do a bit better, even though it doesn't come naturally. In these two shots, above and below I tried to isolate branches against the background.

In the photo above, I was able to brighten the background to white to get this minimalist shot. It shows that even in our present deep freeze, the buds are there waiting for spring.

There is some frost on the tentacles that seem to be drooping forlornly in the next photo.

I also shot the building below with the snowy trees in front. I processed it for effect in both colour and mono. When I look at the two together, I prefer the mono version by a bit, but I like them both fine on their own. I generally hesitate to show both colour and mono versions together in order to avoid needless comparisons, but I will do it in this case. Feel free to add your opinion as I am already changing my mind over which I prefer. I think it matters at what size we view photos, and when I work with them, I am obviously viewing larger. If you click you can see them somewhat larger, but I do keep my blog photos at both minimal size and quality, and I think the mono one, especially, works better larger.

So, that's it for a week or two or more. We are not sure how long we will be gone, and once home it may take awhile to get back into blogger mode.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

The Edge of the Ice

The cold keeps on keeping on in these parts. A few reports, below.
  • As of Sunday, it was our 16th day in February of -20C or lower. The average is closer to 4 days.
  • Tue at 6 am. -24C. SSE 10km/h. W/c -32. Turning windy (S 20-40), cloudy w/ 30% chance of a flurry. High -10. Snow starts 8pm. 2-3cm. Low -12.
  • We just set a record for cold in Ottawa. The previous record was -20.9C in 1989. 

However, Sunday went up to a balmy -4C, so with cabin fever running wild, I went out to snap a few. I headed to the park to get some photos of the ice, specifically the edge of it. Past the bridge, the river is a lake, so it freezes over very well: so well that all sorts of vehicles can be driven onto it for ice fishing.

But as it narrows and increases in velocity, there comes a point where it no longer freezes over. This point seems to me to extend a little further this year than most but probably not too much. You can see the edge in the first three photos.

However, there is more floe ice further downstream this year. In this photo, you can see a semi continuous cover about midway into the picture and also a pretty wide extent of ice extending from the bank in the foreground.

Here's a shot directly across the river where the amount of open water is quite narrow.

Shortly after this there are rapids and falls, and the ice disappears. Here, I repost several recent photos to show how different the river becomes in the heart of the town.

Beyond this there will be alternate ice and open water depending as the velocity slows or increases. I should go out and take some more pictures, but on my earlier walk I discovered that it was darn nippy out, so I will refrain.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

More Winter Fun

The kids had so much fun sledding the first time that we took them again. Watch Buppa fall — twice. Then watch him try get his big, stiff body onto a little saucer at the end.


Below are some stills, the last three were extracted from the videos, just for something to do. They were from a compact, so they're not great, but I've never done it before, so I wanted to try.

As I said in the video, we were the only people there with an old-fashioned wooden toboggan. The toboggan, though old-fashioned in style, isn't that old. it was bought perhaps five years ago for the kids. They use the plastic saucers more than the toboggan, though JJ did take a couple of turns with it, trying unsuccessfully to stand.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

One Fine Frosty Friday

Have I ever mentioned that it has been a very cold winter hereabouts? Well, it has! Since New Years, only one day has exceeded  0°C and ever so slightly at that, and as I look at the weather projections until the end of the month, there is no relief in sight.

But ... as you saw with the blue jays and other efforts, I do still force myself to head out with the camera every now and then. I make my stops brief and certainly don't fiddle and faddle much with camera settings. It's kind of a grab and dash sort of thing.

One day last week, Friday to be exact, it was both cold and bright, so I thought I would see if I could catch mist coming off the river. I caught a little, but I was too late in the day for prime time, if indeed there had been a prime time on that morning.

Here are some of my photos from that shoot, all taken within a few blocks of each other.

There was some mist rising from the above shot, and you might also catch a little through the little railway overpass, below.

This was once a mill town, and you can see why in the next two photos, which also feature some mist.

And this was one of the mills — the Boulton Brown Mill if I am remembering correctly. I am showing both a colour version and a partial monochrome version of this shot. It is now a condo building. I have never been inside, but I presume that it has been well refurbished in there.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Al's Blue Jays

Our friends have been feeding the birds this winter and mentioned that blue joys were coming to the feeder. They're such pretty birds, so I thought I would try to get a few photos.

There were two problems. For one thing, I don't have a really long telephoto, so I would likely scare them off by having to linger too close. For another thing, it was been so dang cold that I wouldn't want to hang about outdoors anyway: not for any length of time for sure.

My solution was to set up my camera on a tripod, focus it on the appropriate bird feeder, set up my remote clicker, retreat indoors and hope for the best.

It worked -- sort of. I was able to click from the warmth of the house.

There were two problems. (What two more?!)

With the camera focussed on the feeder, the birds soon became out of focus if they weren't precisely on the feeder. This was especially a problem because those durn jays were in and out so fast that they were mostly coming and going. Sheesh! What skittery creatures!

Anyway, I got a few. Not the best, but I'm glad that I tried.




I now have a 13x19" printer, so this is what I printed for Al, whose feeder this is. It is also in recompense for him doing a little handiwork for us -- something at which I am clueless. This is a copy of it. Please take careful note that my math was a little off and I didn't get the middle photo centered quite right, vertically. Sigh. It won't hang in any gallery, but I hope Al likes it a bit.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

How Do You Read?

I haven't done so very much reading so far this year. I tried a non-fiction but kept getting bogged down; it was a heavy christian-atheist book. Some parts were good, but others were very tedious.

Then I found that Peter Robinson had a relatively new Inspector Banks volume out. These books focus on police procedure more than suspense and heroics, and that has both its upsides and downsides. I was pleased to get it but surprised myself by finishing it so quickly. It being in epub format, I can't easily tell whether it was shorter than average or what.

Since then, I am reading Barbara Kingsolver's Flight Behavior (and man alive, do I ever want to stick a 'u' in behavior). She's most famous for her Poisonwood Bible,  which I read many moons ago, and I have appreciated a number of her works since then. Except, I misrepresent myself when I say that I am reading it, for I am listening to it.

Sue prefers to listen to books, especially while she is crocheting throws for the kids, so we have a subscription to

Listening is a different experience. It slows me down because I can't skim over descriptive passages or speed read when the going gets exciting. When I slow down, I get deeper into the story. This is good, and being read to is pleasant if you have the right book and right reader. I really enjoyed getting deep and protractedly into two Louise Penny mysteries a few months ago as well as two JK Rowling mysteries written under the Robert Galbraith penname.

The drawback to reading through listening is the same as its strength: it slows you down, and every part gets the same weight. This is not always good; some parts really deserve to be skimmed.

This is especially true in Kingsolver's Flight Behavior. The book teaches a lot about ecology and even a bit about life and mindsets in Appalachian Tennessee. I appreciate that, but it does tend to get very tedious in this slow moving novel replete with all sorts of pedagogical and pedantic dialogue. Although it is wearying me a bit, I will finish it, maybe even today, which is so cold that I refuse to stick my head out the door. What a cold two months it has been with no relief in sight: coldest patch for 20 years or so they say.

Anyway, getting back to listening vs. reading, I like both methods. It sure is nice to get deep into the book and having a good book last for awhile when I listen, but it is also nice to read at my own pace. If you haven't tried the listening method, you might consider it as an alternative.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Black and White

On Flickr, I was recently challenged to post bw photos for 5 straight days. This would not have been a difficult challenge for me because I somewhat often convert my photos to bw just for the heck of it.

However, I formally refused the challenge because it also involved passing the challenge on to someone new on each of the 5 days. However, in my head at least, I accepted informally and posted my 5 photos.

Some of them will be the same as the following set, but I won't post all of these over there. For this post, I have decided to post only from my recent photos.

Above and below are photos from our recent sledding adventure. Above, we are walking toward the hill with Danica way out front and Jonathan bringing up the rear. This is how we roll.

Below is JJ at the end of one of his runs.

The rest of the photos were taken on his birthday although they are not all of his birthday. I have shown you the first one in colour already of Sue with JJ wrapped in the blanket that she is crocheting for him. It's one of my faves of this post.

The next one is from our lunch at Tim Hortons after taking them out of school in honour of the day.

I took the photos, above and below, while waiting for the school bus to drop the kids off. Above: it seems that every year, I take at least one photo of our neighbour blowing her snow. Below: another fave photo of the bus at the end of our street on a snowy day.

Finally, Sue and JJ at the birthday supper (above) and Danica looking in her great grandmother's silver hand mirror (below).

All of the photos were converted in onOne's BW Effects, which is the program that I now always use for my conversions. Some of them have a split tone filter applied, usually the one they call Black Tea.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Of Fire and Ice

We have friends, acquaintances really, who live by the lake. The lake is really just part of our Mississippi River but where it is quite wide before it reaches our town.

It's not easy to capture direct sunsets around here due to trees and angles, but it turns out that they look directly west into the setting sun.

We have a general invitation to drop by and take pictures but it has always slipped my mind. But Sue visited the other day and commented on the ice huts out on the lake, so, finally on Saturday, I remembered to make a point of visiting.

Fortuitously, we stumbled onto a rather wonderful sunset. The main probably was the bitter cold which caused me to kind of hurry my shots, but I still got a few that I liked.

This is our approach to the lake. I had already been down there but looked back to take this photo when we were heading back to the car to warm up before trying a few more shots. Our tracks are visible.

This looks like the same shot, but I shifted right just a bit and caught the rays on the snow a bit better, I think. I also didn't crop this one from the top as in the previous photo. A foot or so made quite a difference, and I like this one better because I can follow the path of the rays on the snow better.

After warming up in the car because the bitter cold had turned my fingers into icicles, I headed back with the tripod and a longer lens. I needed the tripod by this point because the sun was really getting low. In fact, it had really set.

With the zoom, I was able to capture a few folk and huts on the ice — one hut being an actual trailer. It looks like they were either drilling new holes or examining old ones as I was taking the picture.

Finally, a two-shot panorama of one lonely ice hut off by itself. What a sky though — looks photoshopped, but it isn't; this is pretty much the way that it came out of the camera, given that there are usually a few processing tweaks when you shoot RAW images.

But we and my frozen digits were soon back into the car. Did I mention that it was cold?

Sunday, February 08, 2015

Danica's Special Gift

When our girls were young, Sue began a tradition of giving the non-birthday girl one little gift on the birthday girl's special day. We have continued this with the grands. Except this year, the gift wasn't all that little. It didn't cost us anything, but it was a keeper — literally (and when I say literally, I mean literally, not figuratively as in the modern misuse lol).

It's my mother's sterling silver dresser set that Sue has kept for all of these years and which I, being male, didn't even know that we had.

Of course, Danica wasn't at all pleased.

After cake, the girls went to Danica's room to lay out the set on a doily which also came from great grandma.

And Danica learned how to use the mirror while she brushed.

I am very happy that Sue thought to pass this heirloom, which was important to my mother, to the great granddaughter that she missed by four years.

Saturday, February 07, 2015

JJ's Birthday

For the record, here are a few pics from JJ's birthday. Since Sue will do a more comprehensive post, I will just post a few in passing.

Somehow, we have got ourselves into the habit of taking them out of school for lunch on special days. While we usually hit A&W or McDonalds, we just took them to Tims this year because he had requested chicken fingers and fries for his birthday dinner. Because that's what he always orders at burger joints, we thought that a bagel and donut at Tims would be better this time.

I don't think I need to comment on each photo but the fourth one is of an early morning present — 2 Skylander figures. He was not permitted to take them to school but requested that we bring them for lunch.

We took the kids back to school, but once the day was over, we headed to his place for birthday supper and presents.

I think he had a good day.