Monday, May 31, 2021

Robin in the Bath

As you have perhaps seen in yesterdays post, we have two bird baths in the back yard. The smaller one is on a pedestal at the far end of the yard. There is a larger one nearer to ground level a little closer to the deck.

For their own curious reasons, the robins tend to prefer the smaller, shallower, and farther bath.

I sat poised with camera on the deck, and in a little while, a robin came and splashed around, quite vigorously at times.

My long zoom was fully extended in most cases, but the photos came out relatively clear. I was shooting at 1/400 second, but it still should have been faster to catch the flapping the wings more clearly.

After two separate sessions with multiple dunks and flaps each time, the wee birdie was finally satisfied with its ablutions and flew to the fence to fuss and preen.

I took over 100 photos, mostly holding down the shutter button and firing off multiple shots, hoping to get a few peak action ones. Many were of the bird just standing there between dunks. The ones in the bath, especially, were in shadow, which took some editing to brighten sufficiently. Finally, I applied a glow filter, which I usually tend to use in moderation if at all, but I applied it a little more heavily this time, and I think it helped to really lift the images.

Sunday, May 30, 2021

An Annual Event (so to speak)

We finally purchased our annual bedding plants on Friday. Then there was an overnight frost advisory, so I went out in the dark and brought them into the garage. Twas a good thing we hadn't planted yet. I guess we narrowly missed the frost, however, as it was just a few degrees above freezing when I awoke early on Saturday.

Regardless of further warnings, we (as in Sue) did the planting yesterday.

Most of our annuals go into containers. With horrid soil and high bedrock, it's easier, and we can shift the containers about as the spirit moves.

From back in the day when we had a bigger and mostly perennial garden, I have taken care of the perennials while Sue has overseen the annuals. I don't have many perennials to take care of now, but I may add a hosta and/or a heuchera or two this year.

Sue was never a member of a high school track team, but Allyson (daughter 2, now in Vancouver) was about 30 years ago. Sue kept the jacket for a knock-about for days like yesterday, which was cold in the morning. It adds a layer, but it is alright to get dirty.

She prepares the containers on a table that we found curbside one day. You have seen it previously in more than one outdoor COVID gathering.

A few of the constrainers out front. They will show well in due course.

And out back too.

While we have pulled most of the forget-me-nots, We have left them in the back corner. After they go to seed, I will spread some around for next year.

We aren't plagued with squirrels, but we do spot the occasional chipmunk; this one looks cute back there on the rock by the flowers. It does scurry about, but it sat for a few tics (not ticks) this time.

I wish we could say that we can now sit idly and watch the garden grow, but the trouble with containers is that there must be almost daily watering in the hot summer.

Saturday, May 29, 2021

The Lie/Lay Muddle

I swear that I am not usually THAT guy . . . the one who plays grammar fiend on social media. I really don't, but when I saw the following (or something close because I can't find it again), I had to dip my oar in.

Isn't it wonderful to lay in the sun and read all day long?

I swear that I would have let it go on most occasions, but it was posted by a library, and to whom much is given much is required.

So I replied:

Dear Library. It's lie.

Please don't think less of me. I was gentle.

I don't hunt social media judgmentally because, truthfully, I am not even close to being an expert, but on rare occasions, like this one, I feel obligated to be THAT guy.


I intended to stop with the above, but, as a public service, I will try to explain the difference between the verbs to lie and to lay, just in case you were daydreaming during that lesson in school.

Think of to lie as an action taken by a subject. I (the subject) lie down, at least in the present tense. I would be correct to say, "I am tired and I'm going to lie down," because I am taking the action. 

It would not be correct to say, "I am going to lay down."

If we put a book on the table, we lay the book on the table because the book is an object receiving the action. We don't lie the book on the table; we lay it on the table. But from the book's point of view, it is lying on the table, not laying on the table. I am lying down; I am not laying down.

It's pretty simple really, but there are two tricky bits which are what gets us all befuddled and confused and causes us to throw our hands up in despair over this crazy language of ours.

(1) We can lay ourselves down as long as we are treating ourselves as objects, as in the book example above. "I [subject] am so tired that I must lay my body [object] down." Got it, or is your head hurting?

(2) Even stranger and more confusing: if we are describing the action of lying down in the past, then in that case we lay down. You see, lay is also the preferred past tense  usage of the verb to lie. It just seems better to our ears to say lay in that instance rather than did lie or lied which, although technically correct, feel wrong. Most of us use lay instead of did lie in that case because it seems better to our ears for some reason,

So . . . we use to lie as an action that a subject does, but we use to lay when an action done to an object. 

Usually, by the time people get to the exceptions, they then get confused all over again about the basic usage of to lie versus to lay, but I am sure that it is crystal clear to you now. Right?

Now, stop telling your dog to lay down; tell Rover to lie down. Alternatively, you can tell Rover to lay yourself down. 

Here is Grammarly's take, but I wrote mine first, or at least I wrote mine before I read hers. .

Friday, May 28, 2021

Flower Moon

When I awoke at 4, there was a bright, full moon peering at me through the bedroom window. It was almost exactly the time of the full moon. Many call this May full moon the Flower Moon.

I rolled over but not for long. It was an opportunity after all.

Alexa told me that it was 9°C, which is 48° in that other system, so I put on a sweater, and then I donned my winter coat and hat. On the plus side, it was bug-free.

I didn't really know where to head but eventually found myself on High Street with the moon more or less centered over the street.

I decided to take two photos to composite later in post. One photo would be for the street, but exposing for the street would blow out the moon. Then I zoomed in focused on the moon and exposed so it wasn't blown out. Of course, that made the rest of the photo almost black.

After combining them in post, this is the result.

As with all of my photos, it is imperfect. For example: the street lights are out of focus. I was standing in the middle of the street in the dark after all, so it is what it is. Also, I probably got the moon bigger than it was but not much I don't think, and I don't care anyway..

I am happy that I made the effort, but I don't think I would do the zoom approach again. I would simply take two exposures at the same zoom, and then blend them if one exposure wouldn't suffice.

Thursday, May 27, 2021

The Next Spot Along

After a morning of sleeping until almost 6, I was up not too much past 3 on the next day. I was almost tempted to get up an hour and a half earlier but, obviously, managed to fall back to sleep although it didn't feel like it. Then, Lacey put an end to any further attempt. Trouble is she is so darn cute in the morning, licking, biting (gently) and butting.

I was so early that I had time for a fairly leisurely coffee before going to the second stop that I have mentioned. It is not much farther than the first stop and, therefore, not really any different.

But every morning sky is different.

On this day, took a photo looking away to my right where there is a farm or two and a road. It was pretty dark.

Then I looked the other way where I really liked the clouds.

As usual, it was still blue hour before the sun actually rose. I say that, but you can see the effects of the rising below the horizon before we actually see the sun. This goes on for an hour or more. The colour changes from time to time and from one direction to another. It is very magenta in the next photo.

On this outing I actually waited for the sun itself. Here it comes.

About a minute later, we can see a bit more of the orb.

It rises so quickly when you are really paying attention and watching. Only about 2.5 minutes after the above photo, it was fully up.

You can see the problem of photographing the full sun when the ambient light is still dark. It blows out. Otherwise, I would have to underexpose by so much that the rest of the photo would be even darker.

I have one more spot to try in the same area. I don't suppose it will look any different. I don't know what I will do after that.

Wednesday, May 26, 2021

Quick Takes

I always see the funny side of this thing about washrooms.

It is like we cannot go to the washroom in Ontario from Thanksgiving (mid October) to Victoria Day (late May). I suspect this is true for most of Canada but maybe not for balmy British Columbia.

I can tell you that is an awful long time to hold it. But heck! we're Canadian. Eh?


Meanwhile, I would like to tell you that vaccine bookings are now available for 12 year-olds and over in Ontario. Our 2 grands have appointments on June 19.

Speaking of which, our daily rate fell to almost 1000 new cases yesterday. Down from over 4000 at the peak of the third wave, this is significant. However, it might be partly due to less testing and/or reporting on a holiday weekend. I am encouraged, but we shall see.


Since school became online again a month or so ago, and the kids are on their own, especially on Mondays and Tuesday, I have been taking over goodies on Tuesdays. 

I started on Tuesday because that's when I did grocery pickup, and I was out anyway. I kept it up on Tuesday once I started shopping again..

Yesterday, I didn't shop but took over treats anyway.

I decided to go to Tim Hortons, and for the first time asked the kids what they wanted rather than just surprising them. To understand our FB messages, below, you need to know that timbits are what they call donut holes at TH. I guess you also need to know that Shauna works in Perth, a half hour away. (I am in blue.)

Unfortunately, I didn't really get to see the kids. When they got to the door, the sky let loose, and my sunroof was open, so I scurried back to the car. It stopped as quickly as it began, and the streets were dry almost all of the way home, so it was an extremely brief and localized downpour.


On the long weekend just past, I got a snap of two kayakers paddling under the overpass. My camera was set up wrong, so I almost missed the shot entirely. As hurried as I was, it turned out fairly well. It happens sometimes. The kayakers were probably placed better here in the light than when I first tried to photograph them closer to the overpass. Maybe it is better to be lucky than good.

Tuesday, May 25, 2021

Serendipitous Garden Companions

I really thought that I would be past any more forget-me-not (aka myosotis) macros this year. The plants are leggy now and up to 18" high, and the flowers themselves are mostly past their primes. There are drifts in both front and back yards, and they still make a nice showing although not for much longer.

But I was out weeding. We have weed barrier plus mulch in the garden, but for some arcane reason, some sort of ground cover has planted itself since last year. I don't know what it is or why it has shown up all of a sudden. It looks okay, but it's a weed, and that cannot be a good thing, so I have been trying to pull it up.

It comes up easily because it has just seeded itself in the mulch. But it's a battle to pull it all because it is so ubiquitous.

While getting low and pulling this very low-to-ground weed, I came across a violet juxtaposed with a runtish forget-me-not. 

I went inside to get my macro lens.

The purple violet was about 3" off the ground, so the myositis flowers were very small and low.

The above photo is a combination of 3 shots at wide aperture, each shot focusing on a different part of the flower, which I blended them manually into 1 image in Photoshop.

As I wrote above, by and large the myosotis are leggy, but the drifts make a nice showing. They look more impressive in reality than in the photos which I am now going to post: the first two from the front yard, and the latter two from the back yard.

They will have to be pulled soon, particularly those on display out front. I will let some in the back go to seed, which I will then scatter about for next year. They are biennials, growing into plants in the first year and flowering in the second.

Monday, May 24, 2021

Third Time is not always a Charm

Today (the day that I write and not the day that you read) I got up at 4 to . . . well you know. I decided to stay up and head out with the camera. I was going back to the same nearby spot as the two previous shoots, so I took the time to make and drink a coffee and still got there for sunrise.

When I went downstairs, I fed Lacey a bit of tuna. The trouble with that is that she seems to think that was last night and not today and that she now deserves her standard morning feeding. Here it is 7 o'clock and she's very anxious for another dish. I am not so anxious to go downstairs again. I think I'll enjoy my second mug as I put this post together.

You may recall that I intended to return to the same spot one more time to use my longest lens this time around. Theoretically, by zooming even more, I could zoom closer and perhaps isolate individual trees.

But this was a very bad morning for mosquitoes. I did remember my hat, which I sprayed with repellent, and I was wearing long shirt and pants, so I was pretty well covered. But my hands weren't. When I sprayed the hat, I didn't think to spray my hands, and the mosquitoes quickly targetted them. Oh my goodness, they are numerous and rapacious this year! It was not easy to compose and focus and such.

The sunrise was mediocre, but the clouds held some interest.

I wish the foreground was brighter (and it is in a full screen view), but I do try to capture what is actually there for the most part. While I could brighten the foreground considerably which might make the photo more appealing, it just doesn't seem right. Part of the appeal of taking photos is to record how it actually looked and felt. There are some photos that I might go to town on, but not usually landscape photos.

I did take one photo of just the sky. I could potentially use it some day to replace a bad sky in a photo, but I am not particularly likely to do that ether.

I will perhaps move onto a similar spot just a little north of this one. I am not sure it will make much of a difference in subject matter.

Sunday, May 23, 2021

The Light at the end of the COVID Tunnel

Ontario finally has a long term COVID plan rather than reacting on an ad hoc basis. It's longer than necessary IMHO, but if all goes well, it means that society should be pretty open by the end of August. 

It is set to begin two weeks after we have hit a 60% vaccination rate of eligible adults, and they have set that as June 12 although we hit the 60% target on the weekend. Not only are we at 60% of adults, but 50% of all Ontarians have received first dose, and kids 12 and over will soon begin to be able to book appointments.

I think the caution is a result of loosening up too quickly after phase 2, and the 3rd wave has been a wave indeed. The signs are promising though. Aside from the vaccination rollout going well, the new daily case numbers have fallen from >4000 to <2000 for several days.

Canada got a slow start, but we now have a greater rate of vaccinations than the USA. Of course, many American have two doses while most Canadians have only one injection. Still, recent progress has been good, and the majority of Canadians are not vaccine resistant to the same extent as some Americans, so it should continue to go well.

I am not going to list everything involved in the three phases, although I will include a more comprehensive chart at the end, but here are a few highlights.

Phase One will see outdoor gatherings of up to 10 people and outdoor dining of 4 pre table. Essential retail outlets will be allowed more occupancy, and non-essential retail establishments will begin to open.

In phase two, outdoor gatherings may increase to 25, and 6 people will be able to gather at outdoor dining tables.  Retail will open more and personal care service can resume, masks only.

The final phase will permit large outdoor gatherings and the re-opening of indoor dining and so on.

The main trigger for the various levels will be vaccine percentage. As I've already posted, the trigger for the first phase kicks in two weeks after we hit the 60% vaccination level, which we have done. The second phase can commence once 70% of adults have their first dose and 20% are fully vaccinated. The third phase requires 70% - 80% first vaccines and 25% being fully vaccinated.

I am hopeful that dates will be moved up a little if all goes well with getting the vaccine out and getting the caseload down, but if not, we should begin to feel less restricted by early July and much less restricted come August.

It has been a long haul, and it isn't over, but I think we see the light at the end of the tunnel rather than a freight train.

Saturday, May 22, 2021

Compensatory Blooms

I returned to the spot where I encountered the deer a few days previously. This time, I was ready with the right camera and lens, but the deer had other ideas. Drat their ornery hides.

While waiting inside the car with the windows rolled up in an effort to hide from the biters, I would occasionally exit and take a quick pic of blooming things. Nothing too special, just something to do while I waited in vain for the critters to amble by.

In the rearview mirror I could see a lilac bush doing its spring thing. That was worth a pic too.

On the way out, I stopped for another pic of the lilacs. The gap leads to an abandoned and crumbling structure that I once visited. I should visit again but not in high bug season.

One closeup to end the outing.

Although I missed the deer, the blooms were of some compensation.

Friday, May 21, 2021

Second Looks

When I take a bunch of photos, I usually process the ones that strike me most upon first perusal. First impressions count a lot, but sometimes a second look prompts me to go a little further.

Upon looking back at those sunrise photos from the first shoot yesterday — First Sunrise in a Long Time — I wondered about cropping more vertically. I had been far away after all, so the photos were very wide. This ↓ is what cropping accomplished (on a different photo from the previous ones posted).

Although my first inclination is to present the photo in the format originally taken, I also sometimes embrace cropping. After all, we can't always be in the exact right place with the exact right lens. It a photo within  photo if you like, and sometimes the best version of the photo is inside the other. I'm not sure how I rank this one ↑ against the previous, wider versions, but I do like the format.

On the same morning I took a photo ↓ looking off the left of the above photo. The sky wasn't as a brilliant there, but I still liked the bits of sunrise light between the cloud layers. I cropped it in a similar format as above.

When we were walking the trail at another time, I was taken with the blooms on a tree in a backyard that we passed. Again, I had to crop, and I also had to remove some extraneous branches which detracted from the subject. I only on occasion go this far in processing a photo, but I liked the bloom so much in this case that I wanted to highlight it.

I have one more photo of the goslings, this time lying down and perhaps preparing for an afternoon siesta. The foreground was ugly, so I cropped it away.

Finally, here is a b&w version of the overpass photo from yesterday.

Sometimes, I may like these second-thought photos even better. I like the two sunrise crops, and I may prefer this monochrome overpass photo to the original colour version. If not, I like it as least as much.

Thursday, May 20, 2021

First Sunrise in a Long Time

Aside from one quite early morning last week to photograph trilliums, I have been reluctant to go out early. For one thing, it has all too frequently been dang cold. And don't forget about wind, rain and clouds.

But on Tuesday, I done did it, I tells ya.

I arose from slumber by 4 after almost 6 hours of sleep and was on the road before 4:30 having already quaffed one mug of coffee.

I didn't have far to go for the destination I had in mind: a small access pulloff that a farmer might use to get into his field. There were trees in the distance, and I thought I might be looking toward sunrise. I was right for once. Believe you me, it doesn't happened very often.

But oh! the biters. And guess who had forgotten his hat!

I set up the camera on the tripod, squeezed a shot or three, and dove back into the car to escape the nasties for a while. I rinsed and repeated this sequence for about a half hour. After clicking the shutter 25 times over that span, I headed back toward home. By not long after 5:15, I was drinking my second mug of java.

I am only going to post 2 photos from the time span during which a pinking arc of light emerged over the riding sun. Both photos were taken at a shutter speed of 0.6 seconds.

It felt good to get out again after a long winter and cool early spring. This is the type of photography that I like best. It's not a stunning location, but I was privileged to see the sun rise and hear the birds greet the dawn. Just this once, I will overlook the mosquitoes.

The Next Morning

I didn't plan this addition, but I went to the same spot and the sky was very different. with the low bank of clouds, there wasn't even a sunrise per se. But the low clouds look a bit like mountains, so I won't complain. I was using a longer lens and may use an even longer one next time around.

On both mornings, I was only a few feet from the road. I took in in me'ead to step into the middle of the road for a brief moment and looked back to the overpass over the highway. There were no cars, but one still doesn't wish to extend one's stay too long. If I had thought, I would have squeezed the aperture a bit more to get more of a starburst effect from the lights. Maybe next time.