Saturday, March 25, 2017

What I wanted to do Friday

Yup. Curl into a ball and snooze. I'd been thinking about a swim, but no. We ran a few errands, and I found out I'd forgotten my wallet when we went to vote. Once home I napped. Big time.

Voting, you ask? As it turned out when the Conservatives were defeated in the last election, the Great Troll Harper decided he didn't want to play anymore. He essentially left our riding without representation while he job hunted. Not that he did anything for us anyway.

A by-election was duly called, and we ended up with 7, count'em 7 candidates. The usual main party suspects ran. (Conservative, Liberal, NDP, and Green) In addition we had Libertarian, Christian Heritage, and something called National Advancement, which I'd never heard of before.

My take on them:
Conservative. Bob Benzen, a Harperite. Enough said.
Liberal. Scott Forsyth. The Liberal name is a millstone around any candidate's neck in Alberta. Physician. Photographer.
NDP. Khalis Ahmed Federally the NDP are considered a left-wing party, but they've been moving toward the centre lately. He is a geologist with a background in project and financial management.
Green. Taryn Knorren. Federally the Greens are centrists leaning towards the left. She is an education postgrad, and a policy wonk.
Libertarian. Darcy Gerow They want to cut the carbon tax, and reduce the federal tax rate to 15%. Their way of balancing the budget is to eliminate the Canada Revenue Agency. They will loosen the shackles of gun ownership. His personal statement is that everything the government touches "turns to s#!t". And yet, he wants to be government.
National Advancement. Stephen J. Garvey. Their party platform is a barge of dog-whistling intolerance imported from Trumpistan and translated into a variant of Canadian.
Christian Heritage. Jeff Willerton. They want Canada to be governed by biblical law. With them in charge of interpreting it, of course. At least they're honest about being intolerant.

Let me just say this was not a terribly difficult decision keeping me up at night. I would be delighted if any of Liberal, NDP, or Green won, because that would mean Benzen lost. Canada is all the better for the remaining taints of Harper being scrubbed away. However, my neighbours are a conservative lot, and the habit of voting Conservative here is strong. Our provincial conservative MLA was one of the few that survived the long overdue NDP flood washing out the Augean stables of 4 decades of Conservative rule.

While I'm on the political soapbox, I've been amusing myself watching the shit-show in the USA. Is there anyone that still thinks electing Trump was a good idea? As for their efforts to write a replacement for the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), they've been saying "NO!" to anything health related for 7 years now, and they couldn't break the habit. Part of the party wouldn't vote for it because it left in benefits for many people. Another part of the party wouldn't vote for it because it took benefits away from many people. Some were uneasy about the process that produced it, and some were probably pissed at Trump in general, and some were smart enough to realize it was all round bad policy.

All politicians lie. It's inescapable if they want to get elected in the first place, and stay in office after the next election. The trick is to tell plausible lies, ones with more than a hint of truth. The best ones are actually almost true, if you look at things a certain way, and allow certain assumptions.

But Trump tells palpably stupid lies. Many of them. Everybody knows they're lies, and lets him skate by. Well, not SNL. They had his number from the start. I nearly peed myself laughing at the Spicer skit. That's what you do with such people. You laugh at them. They can't take it.

I shouldn't be too complacent. As expected, Kenny won the leadership of the provincial PC party, which has nothing progressive about it. He was ruthless in driving out anyone with a pulse, I mean, with a heart, or a brain, out of the leadership race, and out of the party generally. And don't get me started on the federal PCs. They are hoping the Harper dog whistling will work once more, so they can get in on the gravy train, and reward their buddies, while they get off on the jollies of hurting the ordinary people they crow about so much.

That's enough serious stuff. I'm working through photography books, making notes, and thinking about my next photo-walk. There's still a couple of places left in Neil's Yukon trip in September. It's going to be great!

Next week is the long awaited day to drop into Resolve and get some prints done. I've never done anything like this before, and hope they can lead me through the various paper choices, and that I've got the files set up correctly.

There are hints of spring coming, but experienced Calgarians know there is going to be at least one more good dump of snow. In the mean time, people are tempted to get into their gardens and do something. Doesn't this look ready for some greenery?

Friday, March 24, 2017

Semi-abstract wood

These were a challenge. The light was changing quickly from clouds and gusty wind blowing the trees around. For a while I was twiddling the shutter speed dial back and forth as fast as I could and the light was changing faster.

Part of the plan was to walk around (wearing traction aids as it was extremely icy) and think about the scene, trying to find interesting images. There's no shortage of interesting lines and angles from fallen trees, one just has to compose them, while not walking into the half frozen swamp, or worrying about the deadfall making it the last few dozen feet to the forest floor, or impaling vital bits of anatomy on spiky tree bits. Lots of fun.

That last one has a bunch of images as I experimented with trying to frame the shot just right. This was one of the times I wished I'd had my tripod. I was getting this image of a mouth emerging from dragon scales, but couldn't quite find the framing. The footing was tricky and the light kept changing. I might have to go back and revisit this.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Last one of buildings

Here we are again, last one of buildings. For now. Unless I find more cool ones. I'd wanted to get a shot of City Hall right from the point of the triangle, but someone put a sculpture right there. Exactly there. Sigh.

I was a little disappointed in one shot. I could see a reflection of the cars on the street, and buildings in the other windows, but somehow it didn't work out. But these with the various lines and angles please me. Yes, I meant to have the triangle of dark in the picture. It's the +15, note the angle of it, with the vertical concrete wall, and the panes of glass. 

There is a building in there, really. Old City Hall is being renovated. There was something about huge  chunks of sandstone falling on pedestrians that City Council didn't like.

And just like that, another weekends starts! I'm going to go pour a glass of wine and contemplate my options. I expect to be busy.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Off-beat buildings

Doesn't this one sort of looks like it belongs in a Mordor-lite? Maybe if Sauron were a competent leader, one with an office staff to properly organize ring searches, manage army logistics, run a ministry of (mis)-information, ensure that orcs had a proper chain of command, and so on. Of course, the real building is perfectly inoffensive, it just looks this way because the glass isn't flat. Which is sort of weird, when you think about it.

In real life, this is one butt ugly building. It's called a fine example of the Brutalism school of architecture. No kidding, you can look it up. I'm not even sure why I took a photo of it. But once I got home and looked at it, I sort of liked the composition. Cropping helped. Then I went nuts with colour, wondering what would happen if a graffiti artist with taste attacked the building.

There's a fence around it now. The Calgary Board of Education sold the building a while ago, but I don't know what's going to happen. I hope they tear it down (budget extra for demolition, guys) and put up a nice building in it's place. Tie in the +15 to the Bow and to Bow Valley College, and life is good.

Swim this morning was excellent! 8:45 for 500 m feeling really good, some stroke drill, and water running after. A nice lady I was sharing the lane with asked me to video her. She's been learning to swim and wants to put together a proper video showing her progress. Of course I did so.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

I was rapt

The Bow can be a fascinating building. The interesting shape generates fabulous reflections in other buildings, and the reverse. Yesterday during my equinox photowalk I got some nice reflections of the Calgary Tower, and some shots of the brilliant sunshine that turned out really well, along with a bunch of shots of the Bow you haven't seen. There's been some nice things said about the LRT shot, thank you very much!

There were two problems with the Bow photos. One is that it's a tough building to compose a classically nice photograph. The other is the light show put on by the steam coming from the top of the building. It was sending these lovely cloudy reflections down the side of the building, echoed on the various faces. I clicked off almost 2 dozen shots of the clouds chasing each other down the building. It was almost like watching one of those old time barbershop spirals.

A few other people were standing there as well, heads tilted way back, watching. I was completely absorbed by it, thinking about light angles and reflections. I knew I was running out of space on the camera memory card so I put the camera down and focussed on looking at it.

I suppose if I'd been on the ball I'd have tried to video it, but I haven't done that with my camera, and I've no idea how it would have turned out on my phone. Plus, camera video eats memory space big time. As it is, I picked the one photo that I thought had the nicest cloud display, and tried to get the building shape looking nice.

Perspective is a funny thing. We know that most buildings are built straight up and down, but they appear to get smaller towards the top because of perspective. Our brains just deal with it, but cameras aren't that smart. Depending on the lens and a few other things you can get buildings leaning way over. There are settings to "correct" this but often the results look odd to our eyes. Having both sides going straight up in the photo tends to make the top of the building look much larger than the bottom.

Perspective is useful in other areas as well. Problem solving for instance. In one role I was viewed as an extraordinarily good problem solver, but the main reason for that is I had a lot of distance on the problem, wasn't involved in it's origin, and had no stake in the outcome. At work last week it took about 5 minutes to figure out an issue that was driving one person bonkers. It had never occurred to them that a database designer would not spell field names correctly, or even consistently.

There's lots of ways I'm enjoying the perspective that comes from getting older. Many fads are over before I even know they are a thing. Ignoring fads is so restful.  It gets easier and easier to determine if the floating elephant rule is appropriate or not. That's one of my most useful rules for living. Follow the link there and see if it will work for you.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Almost equinox shoot downtown

The equinox was yesterday, I think. For those that don't know, in Calgary the avenues run east west. Downtown it's pretty close to exactly east west. Meaning that a couple times a year driving downtown can be brutal. The pedestrians have to be really careful.

I'd wanted to do a downtown wander around the new Brookfield place building, and do some equinox shooting, and get some reflection shots. I'm so picky. Here we go. Calgary residents will recognize all of this, but feel free to ask if you have any questions.

Best image of the day! I even planned it, once I got the settings failed in. The difficulty with this light is that it's nearly impossible to see the info the camera is trying to show me.

This is pretty well what a driver is going to see if they try to turn east onto any of the avenues. Yes, I could have brightened the shadows so you could see what's there. Or shot it in HDR. But why do that? I was hoping to get both rails on fire, but wasn't about to kneel down in the crosswalk. There's an LRT in the sunlight. A few pedestrians every year get surprised at how fast they move.

Even going west can be tough. I nearly got run over here. Just because I was fairly sure the driver had seen me doesn't mean he or she actually had. Or had but didn't care. That happens too.

After this shot I begin to see the appeal of street photography. There's a guy in reflective safety gear standing next to the bus stop a block down. If I'd had the nerve, I'd have asked to take his photo. The hat and gear and light made a nice image. But I didn't.

No, I don't know why a couple of the windows don't have any glass.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

An abstract frame of mind

One of the sure signs of spring here is that we start getting nice fluffy clouds, instead of the flat grey overcast of snow bearing clouds. None of that rain fell on us.

There's an old saying, "What you see is what you get." I'm struggling to learn that this is almost true in photography. It's what you see in your mind's eye, provided you know the technical aspects of operating your camera to capture the potential for that result, that you've done your homework so you are in the right place at the right time for the right light, and a bit of luck in tweaking the light so it's extra special is always nice, plus knowing the software to realize your vision, is what you're going to get.

Sometimes I've been disappointed. Lots of that, actually. But a few times I've gone wow! What appeared on screen was better than what I'd hoped for.

Take these two, shot yesterday after the sunrise and landscape. I was looking around and suddenly realized these could be good. They aren't quite what I'd visualized, since the wind kept complicating things. But if it were easy then everyone would do it and it wouldn't be fun anymore.

I'm not going to tell you what you're looking at. Whatever you think you're looking at is fine by me. But I'm curious if these evoke a response within you.

That first image took more processing time than a dozen "normal" images would have. It's the first time I've deliberately done something so abstract, and I was trying to get a particular result. It still isn't quite right, I'd hoped for it being a little more sparklier.

Today I was out deliberately looking for more photos that could be the basis of an abstract piece of art, and I think I've succeeded with one beyond my dreams. I'm going to sleep on it, but I think it's one of my 10 best images, ever.

I talked a little about Bruce Barnbaum's book yesterday, and finished it today. I loved it! Some books you read and you are all meh. Others don't tell you anything you don't already know. Some tell you stuff you know, but do so in a way that compels your attention or relates it to other stuff in ways you hadn't realized. Some talk to your soul, hitting that sweet spot of saying what you need to hear, in a way that makes sense. I'll be going back over it again before it goes back to the library. What he says about composition knocks my socks off.

One of his points is that when he's shooting his medium format camera he takes quite a bit of time thinking about what he's about to shoot, composing it in his mind, before ever he clicks the shutter. (With rare exceptions when racing to capture the light before it goes.) He notes in the digital world it's all too easy to click first and then look what you've captured, and then do it again and again. Only when you get the images onto a computer do you critically assess them.

He doesn't say it quite like this, but it becomes easy to accept what you've got, as what there is to get. You might have to read that again. I've been really bad about this, clicking away madly, thinking I'll find out what's good on screen. What I'm trying to learn is to actually look at the scene and think about what would make it a compelling image, if there's a better way to compose the shot.

Or in another way of thinking about it, what *I* want to do with that shot. There's a bunch of things to think about, and I'm trying to take the time to do that. Since I'm still learning I'll also try other ways, just in case I don't have it right.

I know I can usually get a technically good picture of the scene. It's in focus, and people can see that it's a car, or a mountain landscape, or a bridge, or whatever. Then they yawn. The world doesn't need any more of those, and I don't need to take the time to do it anymore.

Sometimes I get people perking up and saying that they really like a shot, which is nice. And sometimes they are actually enthusiastic about it, which is even nicer. But if you don't know what you're doing to get the shot, then the next nice one will come along only by accident. I'd rather figure out what it takes to get a good, or even dare I say, a great shot, and do that.


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