Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Fish Creek reflections in search of a tree

After finding the tree I wandered back towards bridge 3 trying to take paths I've not seen before. I found a few reflection shots in the river, which was a bit of a surprise given the flat light.

No bridge shots though I saw bridges 3, 4, and 5. Some of you appear to have missed out on the weekend bridge shots, one of which is a leading contender for image of the month at the moment.

Today was retirement stuff, thinking about money, and taxes. This will be an ongoing feature, to keep our money working for us and not the government.

It was also another step in upgrading the house lighting. I've stuck in a couple of LED bulbs in the basement to see what I think. Now we've started to convert the halogen pot lights to LED. Today was replacing a florescent fixture in the basement. It was cheaper to buy a whole new fixture than replace a ballast. Retirement fun!

Some of the upcoming features that you will want to watch for, and possibly provide input.

Image of the year is coming up. I already know which photo a dear friend would pick as image of the year, but I'm curious about which image from the year is most vivid to you? Feel free to let me know which one you think should be image of the year. You've got some time. That might come up as late as mid January, depending how much I dither over the final choice.

Also in January I do an Ask Me Anything feature. You ask the question, I'll do an answer, and fair warning, it might be more than you expect.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Revisiting a Fish Creek tree

You may remember a little while ago me and a buddy met up for a photo ramble through Fish Creek. Along the way we discovered this great twisted tree. None of the shots I took then turned out to my satisfaction, so I made a mental note to return.

But first a sunrise! I had hopes for it getting really spectacular overhead, but the wind blew the clouds to the east, and this is about as good as it got. The photo is about a quarter of the sky.

Looking south there was this.

Back to the tree. Today was the day, even though the light wasn't that nice. Sort of flat. But even now, one of the shots I wanted still didn't come out quite the way I want. Yet another visit in the wings.

Still, it was nice to get out for some fresh air and stroll the park. I was surprised how nice the creek is, and took some photos of that (duh), some which seemed to suit the flat light. It's a dangerous time to be walking on the creek though, there could be all sorts of soft spots from the warm weather. The surface is ever so slightly melted so it's extremely slippery.

It's almost like spring. The air is warm and windy, but it's still cool in the park, and all the shade means the ice is slow to melt. Even if it does melt it has nowhere to go since the ground is still frozen, so the smaller paths slowly ice up.

If I go again tomorrow afternoon, I think I'd wear the traction aids once I got off the paved paths. I had to pick my way very carefully without them today.

Here's some more tree stuff. I liked the almost knot work pattern in this bit of tree wreckage.

Grass and trees. For some reason in that part of the park the trees have really thick and corrugated bark.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Macro Monday 14, gold and red

Calgary has been having amazing weather lately, so it's been a little tough to hunker down in the basement doing macro shots. But last night I was sort of stirring around after it got dark, and decided the time had come for macro. 

 In real life, those rectangular bits of design in the middle of the knot work are about 1 mm x 2 mm. In this first one, on screen in Lightroom without any cropping, it's just under 5 cm x 10 cm, or 2" x 4" for those stuck in an old fashioned measurement system. I'm not sure what mag this is, probably about 3.

In this one a bit closer, on screen it's about 9 cm x 17 cm, or 3.5" x 7". What's interesting to me is all the scratches. You don't see them in real life, unless you look really closely. Then again, it's 14 ct gold so it's not that hard, and I've worn it every day for about 30 years. When we first married I had a job working with my hands, putting them in tight places and pulling on wrenches and stuff, so I didn't want to be wearing a ring. This is about 5x.

I was surprised how hard it was to have the gold colour come up on screen. I had to play with the lighting a bit, and get everything just so.

That last one, when I blow up Lightroom to 1:1, that bar is about 16 cm x 31 cm, and the scratches are almost like artwork. Maybe I should tweak the angle that I mount it at, put on the extension tubes, and have another go at it, maybe making it into an abstract that takes up the full screen. Hmmm.

I always think of eyeglasses as a delicate thing because I've broken so many of them over the years. But this looks sturdy, doesn't it?

All along, I had no idea I'd been displaying some other guy's name on my glasses. Good thing I never lost them. Those white flecks aren't scratches, they're salt. These are the glasses I wear on my bike.

I'd been shooting another ball point pen, but it didn't show up well, so I got this one. Seeing the red come up on screen made me happy! Love that red, and red is often difficult for cameras. That ball is under a mm in diameter, on screen in Lightroom, at 1:1, it's about 11 cm in diameter. That was at 5x mag, with 68 mm of extension tube.

Sunday, December 10, 2017


This was a contemplative day, both before and after a butter tart hunt and a dear friend came to visit to pick out some photos for her own purposes.

I got a great deal on a RAID drive last week, and I'm hoping it will get delivered this week. Then I can shuffle images around and make it easier to do some of the planned organizational work. Just thinking about this is a bit daunting, but I want to weed out some of the images, review star assignments and keywording, and build a better system for keeping track of photos for various purposes. I've been sort of making it up as I go along, and the shortcomings of such an approach are becoming obvious.

As always I'm working on the next Image of the Month, but I'm beginning to think about the 2017 Image of the Year. Yes, the best photo I've done all year. To make the selection even harder, It's not just the 12 monthly images in the running. There are several runner up images that are better than some of the monthly winners. I'm going to give all the 4 and 5 star images from this year a critical look to try to think about what made them good photos (at least in my mind) and what needs to happen to make better photos.

I already know which photo that dear friend would pick as image of the year, but I'm curious about which image from the year is most vivid to you? Feel free to let me know which one you think should be image of the year. You've got some time. That might come up as late as mid January, depending how much I dither over the final choice.

Also in January I do an Ask Me Anything feature. You ask the question, I'll do an answer, and fair warning, it might be more than you expect.

I've got plans for some more macro photos to show up on Monday. I just need to actually shoot them. Guess what I'm doing tomorrow...

Just for you flower junkies. The hibiscus in the back has bloomed once again! I was going to try to catch the bloom fully open but missed it. You have to settle for this instead.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

A day walk with a bridge reveal

I was out for a wonderful photo ramble today. The zoo bridge was opening, Linda had a course at the zoo, so I figured park there, and ramble while she coursed. It worked out fairly well, including a bunch of shots, a lamb naanwich at Blue Star Diner, and 12 K of walking to burn it off again.

This is not the bridge that opened, though it is revealed in a different light than Neil's famous shot that includes the holiday train. I have my suspicions about exactly how he did it, but mum's the word.

 He had talked about rail safety, and this is why. It is surprisingly easy for a train to sneak up on you. I'm on the other side of a fence here.

I happen to know there are several other trees to keep this one company, and they all get a good view from up there.

A moose!

Thursday night this is what we saw when exploring the zoo bridge.

Today is a different story.

It's a lovely bridge! Lots of room for cars, bikes, pedestrians, and a horse drawn buggy. This is Calgary, after all.

Even the underneath is nice.

Friday, December 8, 2017

A night walk

One of the nice things about retirement is that you can schedule your time as you like. At least, that's the theory.

I'm generally a morning person. Left to myself I'm usually in bed before 10, sometimes before 9, and I'm usually up before 6. Being in bed at 7 is rare, and past 8 is almost unheard of. In the summer that means I'm not going to get much night shooting done.

Places that are boring in real life and even worse in photos can turn into interesting and dare I say, even magical places at night. So that's one nice thing about this time of year, I can go out in full dark and explore the light and shadows of the city. And right now, night starts about 6:30 (there's an app for that). I can get some lovely shots and be home for bedtime.

The Camera Store organizes a beers and cameras event every other Thursday. Last night was it, to get you onto the cycle. People show up with their cameras at a pub, eat and drink and talk camera stuff, then stroll as they please to another pub to drink and talk more.

It's fun going by yourself, and even more fun with buddies. Last night I'd planned to meet up with my buddy Sean, and it turned out one of the women there had been in a Zeller class with me. She had brought a neighbour, and the four of us strolled amiably towards the new Zoo bridge set to open this weekend, then to the other pub.

A technical camera aside for those that care, feel free to skip a couple paragraphs. The sensor in your camera records the light that falls on it. You can control how this turns out through your camera settings. One of these is ISO. Don't worry about what that stands for, it's just a measure of sensitivity that used to relate to what film you bought.  Film, that's, oh heck you can look that up yourself.

For most cameras it starts at 100 and goes up, 200, 400, 800 and so on. The better the camera the higher the numbers go. (It's more complex than a tweet!) If the sensor doesn't see much light, you get a dark photo. You could hold the shutter open longer to let more light in. That's fine for a scene where neither the camera or subject are moving, or where the moving things (like tail lights) are creating an effect you want. Yes, your heartbeat is enough to move the camera.

Or, you can increase the ISO, which makes the sensor more sensitive to light so the shutter doesn't need to stay open as long. This might be the right thing, if you don't have a tripod or your subject is moving.

So why not crank up the ISO and leave it there? Noise. It's like a false positive. The sensor sees a dark sky, but it's all twitchy and jumpy like a person that's had too much coffee and it's seeing stuff that isn't really there. So the dark sky we see is replaced by this grey with coloured speckles in it, and it looks gross. During the day the photo would be over exposed. The usual trick is to keep the ISO as low as possible and adjust other settings.

(Technical aside over. You can start reading again.)

So my buddy Sean and I get together periodically for a beer and a meal, and chat about the state of the world. We've known each other since 2002 or so, and both do similar kinds of work. I hadn't known he was interested in photography until I started. So we decided to join the beers and camera thing this time. My main camera thing was to explore where higher ISO settings bring in unacceptable noise on my new camera, which isn't as simple a thing as you'd think it would be.

The first pub was unexpectedly crowded, so we drank and walked. There are a number of nice scenes in Inglewood, and we had a nice time strolling and chatting, or waiting while one of us was engrossed in a scene.

Part of the challenge of shooting at night is balancing what our eyes see compared to what the camera sees. I don't want to tweak the photo so it looks like daylight. I want to leave in the shadows, and the subtle light reflections.

Once upon a time this place was the fashionable place to go, then it was really seedy for a long time, now it's a really good restaurant.

A splash of colour in a shop window.

I'm not sure about this one. I wanted more of a halo around the person but it didn't quite come out right. Maybe if I'd held off the shutter a fraction of a second longer.

This is actually a dangerous photo. As some of my buddies know, those numbers relate to a specific colour. Now they can hold up a skein to their computer screen, and wonder where the colour calibration is off.

Two of my photo walk buddies, eager to get to the next place. Love the hail battered window ledge as a leading line.

I'm really not sure about this one. This is what I was thinking of when saying a shot might be boring during the day. At night, I'm thinking the shadows and lines make it more interesting. Then again, you might think I'm smoking dope. Don't be afraid to tell me.

Yes, it would be easy to push the exposure and light up this building, but it would boring. I like the shadows, and the pattern of lights. Beats me why they have two lights together on the left side and not one.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

The world is more complicated than a tweet

As some of you know, I bailed on Twitter a while ago. I no longer wanted any part of a platform that permits and enables not just hate speech, racism, and bigotry, but actual threats of nuclear war by someone in a position to start one.

I now skip over "news" reports that consist of someone telling me what someone tweeted, and then showing me a screen shot of the tweet, sometimes an entire conversation of tweets masquerading as news with both the text and the screen shots repeating the information. I want more from my news than that. This superficial analysis is essentially a he said, she said issue, and the problem usually is that one of the sides is a complete idiot spouting utter nonsense. Sometimes both sides, and it's not a surprise if it's three sides, counting the 'journalist' as a side.

You see much the same things in the comments section of any news outlet that permits them. Complete nonsense, and it's easy to tell that the author is yelling, completely full of self righteous bile punctuated by spelling mistakes. I don't read the comments section either and my blood pressure is the better for it.

Whatever happened to actual articulate speeches or position papers that outlined a plan, the reasons for it, maybe some preliminary cost estimates and timeline, that people could respond to? A proposal to do something positive, rather than undoing something. There might be hearings to attend or provide submissions to, perhaps there would be actual debates about the issue out in public and everything. The reasons would actually make sense or appear to, and not be some simplistic jingo appeal to patriotism, or a bleat to lower taxes, or dog whistles to a favoured group.

One upon a time, the world was a simple place. You worked your ass off hoping not to starve to death and did what your lord (secular or religious) told you to do. Most people were told what to think and usually lacked any peaceful exposure to people who thought otherwise. Then you died of some horrible disease while still a kid by today's standards, or were killed in an aristocratic spat.

Now the world is a much more complicated place, and we're here (most of us anyways) for much longer. We know that much of what people have believed in the past is not true. You'd think we would be able to discuss things like grownups, taking the time to unravel the complexities and doing the right thing, or perhaps the least wrong thing.

But no. There are people that seriously believe the earth is flat, that Americans have not walked on the moon, that vaccinations are a bad thing, that aliens walk among us (usually grey lizards wearing human skin, if I understand it correctly), that airplanes flying into the World Trade Centre buildings were not the reason they fell, that the world is going to end real soon now (from a wide variety of imaginary causes), that chem trails are a real thing, that homeopathy is effective, that Elvis (or many other celebrities) are still alive (he would be coming up on his 83rd birthday as I write this), that Kennedy was shot by (take your pick), climate change is a hoax, that Obama was born in Kenya or elsewhere but certainly not the USA, that there is a magic carburetor that gets 300 miles per gallon(are there any cars in North America currently sold with carburetors rather than fuel injection?), that any number of common substances cure cancer, and I could go on but it's too depressing. Often they are loud and proud of themselves. I quite frankly think that if you actually believe any of these to be true, you aren't smart enough to be voting for our elected representatives. Or better yet, your vote is counted against the person you voted for, except that's complicated too.

As I've said other times, the common thread to unraveling any conspiracy theory is how many people had to be involved to make it work, and remembering that 3 people can keep a secret only if two of them are dead. After that, anyone with a functional brain and what I consider a high school education can find the holes in such conspiracies.

Such people appear to want to return to the days when someone told them what to think, and it was simple. Problems had simple solutions, which usually involved killing some other unpopular person or group. Now we have various (usually conservative) groups spouting simple (simple-minded is the word) slogans that will cure all the problems facing us. Have you heard any of these? Build the wall. Lock her up. Build a pipeline. Cut taxes. Repeal the carbon tax. Fire fat cat civil servants. Gold plated pensions. Anybody could do that job. Radical Islamic terrorism. Environmental terrorism. Drill baby drill.

Pick a problem. As big as global climate change, or as small as changing the bus routes in your neighbourhood. There might be a variety of proposals to consider, each with points for and against. I don't mind someone holding a particular position I disagree with, and I don't mind them being passionate about it. I don't even mind if they are stuck on one particular point, usually because it affects them personally or they think it does. (Looking at YOU, Mercedes Man.) Just be honest about it, and don't try to wrap it up in some bigger issue that is meant to bully other people. Accept that other people will disagree and that the price of you being allowed to speak is them being allowed to speak too. No, you're not more important because you're a rich white man. And don't start shouting. My usual rule is that whoever starts shouting first has demonstrated they've lost their grasp of the issues, and the debate.

It's like we've forgotten how to hold a civilized discussion, where people take turns making their points, recognize there is a sense of order and method to the discussion, that people can hold opposing viewpoints yet not be an enemy, and accept that a decision might not go your way.

It's clear to me that attention spans have been dropping, as evidenced by sound bite journalism and rapid cut movies. But there seems to be less willingness to tolerate a different opinion, and essentially no willingness to explore why someone might hold such an opinion. It's a cliche to find out someone unfriended another for saying something they disagree with, which is one step to turning the internet into a giant echo chamber. It can't be a surprise that politicians take advantage of this.

There are exceptions, though. Two politicians come to mind. Calgary Mayor Nenshi made it clear he wanted to talk in complete paragraphs, and actually made sense when allowed to do so. But I know people that thought it was weird, and got lost in what he was saying, then started saying derogatory things about him. I couldn't decide for sure if this was resentment at what appeared to be someone smarter than them showing off, or simple racism.

The other is Adlai Stevenson. I have no actual memories of him, being born too late, but I remember some of my older relatives talking about him. Over the years I've read about him and his campaigns for President. I remember reading a quote attributed to Adlai Stevenson upon being told that he had the vote of every thinking person, "That's not enough, madam, we need a majority!" That was back in the 50's, and he was prescient enough to see the rot setting in. He died in 1965, and some of his quotes are even more relevant today.

While I was researching that to make sure I got the wording right, I found some other quotes. Enjoy.

"The sound of tireless voices is the price we pay for the right to hear the music of our own opinions. But there is also, it seems to me, a moment at which democracy must prove its capacity to act. Every man has a right to be heard; but no man has the right to strangle democracy with a single set of vocal cords."
Speech in New York City (28 August 1952)

"I have been thinking that I would make a proposition to my Republican friends... that if they will stop telling lies about the Democrats, we will stop telling the truth about them."
Campaign statement in Fresno, California (10 September 1952);

"My definition of a free society is a society where it is safe to be unpopular."
Speech in Detroit, Michigan (7 October 1952)

Read those three over again and think about what's happening today. The only way we can stop it is to push back. Don't vote for politicians spouting nonsense, in fact, laugh at them. Get involved in the issues, and support people that recognize the complexity of the issues. Anyone that says the issue isn't complex, and all we need to is 'x', is trying to pull the wool over your eyes.

There are consequences to any action, or even inaction. Sometimes the consequences are good, such as fewer children dying of measles. Sometimes bad, such as inadequate drug testing leading to Thalidomide being prematurely released. Sometimes we have to balance the consequences, deciding if it's worth adding to government spending to build some piece of infrastructure. Sometimes we just don't know for sure.

But the first step to noodling through it is to realize that it is complicated. The reasons given often are not the real drivers. There are connections to other issues that might not be visible on first examination. There are different ways to look at it, and placing different priorities will lead to different results. I once had a boss who picked the result he wanted, then reasoned backwards to find a trail of "logic" that got him what he wanted. You want to watch for that, and call them on it.

The advice of "follow the money" is still applicable. Find out who benefits, and you'll begin to understand why things unfold the way they do. Keep in mind it often isn't the politicians that are driving things. They're just the stooges, I mean, the front man. Look for the person pulling their strings, a less competent wizard of Oz behind the curtain, I mean the corporation.

The one tactic that frosts my noodle is when a an entity dresses up a rape and plunder policy as something beneficial to the victim, and slips it to them like a fraudulent dose of cod liver oil. We see that happening a lot in the USA just lately. I can't believe people are stupid enough to vote for Republicans that are fixed on removing improvements to health care.

We see it here with cries to cut taxes. What they don't tell you is that to do that they intend to fire front line workers in health care and government services. Union people. Nurses and teachers, mainly. People that just happen to be your neighbours providing a vital service. It's a multi-pronged approach. There's an element of gender wars, since most of those people are women, so it removes their independence from men. There's an attack on unions, who provide a counterbalance to the powers exerted by wealthy corporations. The people that get the most benefit from a tax cut are already personally wealthy and corporations. When corporations benefits, what the really means is the people running it can earn more personal income because the corporation plunders more profit. There's a side of money siphoned off to "consultants" who help them decide who to fire.

Don't fall for it. Think it through. This is more important than following the imaginary lives of people on TV. The TV shows (sports, reality shows, soap operas, whatever) are the modern version of bread and circuses, designed to distract you from what's important. Inform yourself, and don't believe the first guy you find on the internet selling you more of the same. Keep looking. Speak up. Write letters, and send email. Vote.


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