Wednesday, March 3, 2021

February Image of the Month

 Zoom! No, not a video call, it's another month. The year is 1/6 gone already. There wasn't as much time as I'd like for photo rambles, so I ended up with only a few really nice photos. Thus you only get Image of the Month and a comparison shot. No runner up this month.

This one takes me back to my roots, when I first started using a real camera. I liked doing landscapes, mainly because they mostly held still. I've branched out. If you scroll through my recent image of the month page, you won't see many landscapes.

But this panorama of Dry Island Buffalo Jump was just about the only thing to shoot, and we didn't want to stand around in a cold wind looking for other subjects. We came, ate lunch, shot, and drove off.

This is 10625 x 4016 px or about 36" x 14" at high print quality. It was shot with the big 150 to 600 mm lens. Trying to hold it steady in a stiff cross wind was a bit of a challenge. 

Here's a summer view of the same place, shot from about the same location, only with a wider lens.

Saturday, February 27, 2021

The 90 bottle followup

It's been another quite a week. I mean month. I can't remember the last time I worked so many hours in a month. There's something about being retired that's sort of burbling along under the surface but I'm so tired I can't bring it to mind. I'm sure it will come to me.

Here's the first three kits I picked up last weekend during a photo ramble.

This morning was a chance to wake up slowly, and you can bet I enjoyed it. I was warm and snuggled into the blankets, thinking about various things in a languid way. It's good to let your brain run in neutral when you get the chance.

Coffee, of course. Eventually shovelling the driveway before the neighbour's snow service blew more snow onto it. Some photos, even. Some of them were some experiments with light and glass bottles that didn't come out quite right. I'll play with them more.

The last time I was doing wine was June 2019 or so. We skipped last year, knowing we'd be in New Zealand, and at ordering time it looked like I'd be coming back to a work contract. It was nice getting back into the routine of getting set up and starting another kit. It's the Nerello, the first one on the left. By the time these 3 are done and I have a carboy free, it will be time to go back to Red Deer and get the other three on order. There might be another photo ramble along the way.

This season's faded rose is still with us. There's been some extreme cold, and some strong wind, but it's still there. You have to admire it.

There's lots of snow in the yard, but there's still some roses poking up from the snow.

Of the Day
Driftwood. This was taken almost exactly a year ago today on Taieri Mouth beach. I've been dreaming a bit about New Zealand lately, wondering if I'll ever get back there. When it's cold out it's easy to dream of walking on a beach in shorts and t shirt, listening to the waves and wind.

Michelle and one of the dogs.


Wednesday, February 24, 2021

The 90 wine bottles photo ramble

No, I didn't drink 90 bottles before the photo ramble. I got what will become 90 bottles of wine, plus or minus a few, plus 6 weeks or so. Driving to Red Deer for the wine kits saved us $120. Well worth a few dollars of gas money and a bit of driving.

Between COVID and some recalcitrant work SQL (I blame the data), I've been pretty much a shut-in for much of this year. I wanted to take the scenic route and see if I could find any nice photos. It so happened a buddy had suggested a walk in Fish Creek, but was happy to change plans. Being of a similar age and mostly in the same business, we talked of many things during the drive.

I'd been to Dry Island Buffalo Jump Provincial Park (Kenney hasn't sold it, yet) in the summer a year ago with Neil Zeller, and had wanted to go again. What with winter and COVID, I wasn't sure of whether the park would be open, but I knew the view point would be open, and there's some lovely rolling foothills territory between there and home. The plan was to zoom up to Red Deer, get the wine,  head out to the park,  eat lunch, see what the photo situation was and make the appropriate decisions.

I'd sort of thought that even if the road to the river was closed we might choose to walk down. Several other empty cars were parked at the top, and I'm guessing the people in them had done just that. It turned out to be pretty cold, with a raw wind. We didn't hang around all that long up top. Both of us still want to go back in better weather, and explore the river valley. If you are thinking of going, choose a day when it hasn't rained in a while. The kind of clay there makes the road impassable when wet.

We stopped several times along the way to explore potential photos. Some of the scenery fits in well with some of the themes that Sean is working with. I'm not liking any of the big hay bale shots I took along the way.

Even though the light was really flat, and we were thinking that all the photos would be converted to B&W, I was surprised the colour showed up as well as it did in this panorama of part of the river valley.

Some more shots of the day. You can see why we thought B&W, but that looks even more dull. I liked the lines of trees.

We had seen this shed, and another nearby on the way in and made a point of stopping on the way out. There's another version of this I'm working on where it looks like the trees are disappearing into the mist.

We had to stop near Torrington to let emergency crews finish cleaning up what looked like a head on collision. The road was covered with blowing snow there and it was really slippery. Shortly after we got started again we watched a little red car driving way too fast lose it on another patch of snow and disappear into the ditch in a cloud of snow. While stopped I admired the wind farm. I hadn't known there was one there.

The big sky. There's lots of places in Alberta where you can look out from the road and see nothing but fields and sky.

Of the Day

Sunday, February 21, 2021

First dog photos, I think

Yesterday was a first, I'm pretty sure. In all the many photos I've taken, dogs are only an incidental feature. I'm not going to scroll back and check, but I don't think a dog has ever been the actual subject of the photo. Many cats, including big wild cats. Foxes, various deer-like creatures, a bear, a snake, lots of dragon flies (and a great many photos that are almost of dragon flies) and many other animals, even though I don't think of myself as a wild life photographer. But no dogs. I'm not really a dog person.

I've seen lots of dogs and dog owners out for a walk, and my main hope was that they wouldn't react badly to my running past them. Even when I was walking, the humans say hi, the dogs tend to be a little more enthusiastic as they greet anyone around them, but then everyone would go about their business.

It's different when you're walking with a dog. Or rather a pair of cute dogs. I was invited to meet Ruby and Midas, a pair of 5 month old Rotties. They are even cuter in person than in the photos, but then, this wasn't a photo session. This was a stroll with friends. It took the camera, mainly because it's been jealous about the attention paid to the work computer. It gets more of an outing later today.

I needed the airing out. For a guy that's supposed to be retired, this particular data migration is taking a lot longer than anyone expected. I won't get into a complicated table structure, a non-existent primary key, and really poor foreign key, nulls where there should be data and SQL operations that have to account for nulls, all in MS Access. Oh, and don't forget, this is all in a Citrix window. Yeah, I know, only a couple of my readers feel my pain. I chant to myself, I get paid by the minute. 

Back to the dogs, which is why you are here. 

Lots of other people walking dogs slowed or stopped to chat. The dogs are pretty well behaved, but they're young and still learning. I don't know if it was because I was with dogs, or it was just the right time of day, but there were a lot of dogs and people. The two parking lots were almost full, and the paths were busy. Maybe I'm not the only person with cabin fever.

Other than edit the photos, the rest of the day I did nothing. I needed a day of nothing. 

Of the day



A semi-domestic coyote in South Glenmore park. It was just trotting along, not far from the main path, not bothered by all the people around. 

Monday, February 15, 2021

Macro Monday 44, Frosty

Yes, it's still really cold here. They say it's supposed to break any time, but that's the whole point of the Rick Mercer 1 C sketch. To give us hope.

There are advantages to the cold, if you're willing to dress for it. I've been a real weenie about that just lately, sometimes you don't have to go out in the cold, to get photos of cold. These are in the the seeing beauty where you find it department. 

All shot at about 4x mag, hand held in natural light. The first one has a bit of extra processing to bring up some of the colour. The hardest part wasn't finding the focus. There's a trick to a fast shutter speed and a gentle back and forth motion, and being willing to reject a great many out of focus shots. These 4 are the best of about 160 shots.

The hardest part was going through the dark areas to remove spots. They really distracted from the dark background, and there was no way I'd be able to convince anyone they were snowflakes. I suppose if I were a real pro I'd have dropped them into Photoshop and created a black background, but I'm not there yet.

The ongoing message about being notified so you don't miss any blogs. I'll be repeating this bit of text for a while. Scrolling through Facebook is making me unhappy, so I want to do less of it, and see how that feels. It's all too easy to start scrolling after putting a up a notice I've blogged. I will drop in on a photo group I like, but anything after that is uncertain.

So if you want to be sure you don't miss a blog, send an email to keith at nucleus dot com and ask to be put on my blog notification list. You'll get an email with a link whenever I blog. Plus there may be some extra goodies for those on the list. If you find the blog through another means, that's fine too, I'm happy to have you read however that works.

Of the Day


Frost from an earlier series, different lens.

Sunday, February 14, 2021

Barrier thoughts

Do you think this is happening to you?

Is there something between you and what you want? Does it prevent you from getting there, or even seeing your goal clearly? 

That's not unusual. In fact it's pretty darned common. But it isn't what you think.

It might look and act like a barrier, and that's what it will be if you let it. But what it will do is encourage you to look harder at your goals, and from different angles, maybe using different tools, maybe even using the barrier itself as a vantage point. It will help you prove to yourself how much you actually want that goal. 

There's a saying, "if you are told something, you merely have been told, but if you learn it for yourself then you know it." That barrier is what helps you know something about your goal and about yourself.

The barrier probably isn't a brick wall, but even those can be dealt with. Typically you wouldn't try to smash through unless you had tools for that. You'd go over, or go around, or go under, or persuade someone to take the wall away, or you create a door. There's any number of solutions. You'll find them if you want to badly enough.

More likely the barrier isn't as sturdy or obvious as brick. Maybe the barrier is disguised as something else, perhaps even a goal in and of itself. What most people think of as a job falls into that category. You persuade someone to pay you money in exchange for you doing what they tell you to do. Then you fall into the consumer trap of wanting things, and a job looks like the way to pay for those things.

Except what you are really paying is your life's blood. Your time, your creativity, the spark that makes you, you. The wealthy and powerful have set up this current system to use you like a battery, to drain you dry for their benefit. It will go on as long as you let it. You need to harness that for what you want, not what they want. Like a buddy of mine told his kids, "the bank and credit card companies are not your friends."

You have to peer through or around that barrier to see a path towards something better. Then you have to scramble through the thorns and find your way along the twisty and turny path. Ignore the big obvious direction signs leading to the highway that will take you behind the barrier again. There's likely to be some bushwhacking through the weeds. There might well be come creatures in the ditch or under the bridge that want to do unspeakable things with your bones, or maybe they are helpers in disguise. Press on. This is how you show how badly you want that goal. 

Often you'll find new goals along the way, and adventures more fulfilling than the original goal. There might be times you're the only one on that part of the path and you'll feel lonely, but keep in mind that others have been there, since there is a path. Or maybe you aren't sure there's a path at all. That means means is that so few people have been this way they didn't leave a trace, and this is an opportunity to let your creativity leave a trace for others.

Take it. Make it.

The ongoing message about being notified so you don't miss any blogs. I'll be repeating this bit of text for a while. Scrolling through Facebook is making me unhappy, so I want to do less of it, and see how that feels. It's all too easy to start scrolling after putting a up a notice I've blogged. I will drop in on a photo group I like, but anything after that is uncertain.

So if you want to be sure you don't miss a blog, send an email to keith at nucleus dot com and ask to be put on my blog notification list. You'll get an email with a link whenever I blog. Plus there may be some extra goodies for those on the list. If you find the blog through another means, that's fine too, I'm happy to have you read however that works.

Of the Day

Saturday, February 13, 2021

TV, movies, wealth, bored

We don't normally watch much TV, but lately it's increased. Mostly it's a wasteland designed to turn human brains into tapioca for aliens who think those are a delicacy. I remain convinced the harvest will happen any time now. But there are interesting shows to watch.

The latest of them for us is The OA. This isn't for everyone, that's for sure, but I love watching shows and reading books where I don't know where it's going or how it's going to come out. There's a balance between plodding stupidity and outright lunacy, where there's an interesting story to be told, complete with unexpected but not entirely implausible plot twists. The Coen brothers are masters at this.

I don't mind a show taking a bit of time for us to get to know the characters, but not too much. That way during the nearly inevitable chase scene, we care about the outcome. No matter how the chase is constructed or the stunts involved (and no cars don't blow up or roll over like that and I'm sick of seeing it) it's only interesting if the characters are not cardboard.

I don't care about the visual effects if the story isn't there. (Looking at you, Avatar!) Anything set in high school, or featuring high school kids as the main characters, which is almost all of the superheros at best, gets a very high dubious rating from me. I'm just not interested in teenage drama.

Some violence and grit is ok. After all, a world of nothing but rainbows and unicorn poop is boring, and yet Game of Thrones was too much. Even though I'm a big fan of some of the actors, and loved the trailers, I lost interest part way through the first season. Linda liked it, but there were times I had to play music into my ears in another part of the house to drown out the screams.

Some sex or nudity is fine, where it makes sense with the story. But putting it in, or hiding some of it to play games with the rating system is dumb. I ask my female readers, after a night of wild and crazy sex, do you get up in the morning and wrap the sheet around you to go to the bathroom? 

And language! The ratings people are out to lunch. They are fine with children seeing shows with events that are actual real crimes, plus firearm violence, depicted in enough detail to plan them yourself, and yet a show with several instances of words every child hears before they're a teenager and probably before grade school starts gets slapped with a restricted rating.

I admit it's a tough balance. Everybody in the industry says they want fresh, interesting, and different, and they only mean that as long as it's the same as everything else so they're pretty sure it will make money. That's the important part. Don't get me started on remakes, reboots, retcons, whatever. Do something new. (Looking at you Star Trek and Star Wars!)

We've seen a number of shows that didn't get past the second season. They are now perceived as good shows, and they were good shows back in the day, and yet they were cancelled. The other pitfall is a show becoming so successful it doesn't get cancelled, or end, and it gradually turns into a parody of itself at best. Or maybe there's a particular episode where it jumps the shark. The early years of The Big Bang Theory have the characters being funny and interesting, and yet in the later years I often thought they were being cruel and it was getting dumb. 

The OA hit that balance for me. Sure, there's a few plot holes and reliance on movie tropes, and maybe it would have gotten old. But I really liked the gradually revealed story. It was inventive, and strangely weird in places, but didn't slide into lunacy, though some scenes came close. There was supposed to be 5 seasons of it, and I mourn that as of this writing, there won't be any more of it. 

We essentially binged both seasons of it over a couple of weeks, watching a couple episodes at a time. It was hard not to carry on watching that next episode. It's the sort of show where you need to keep track of lots of details. Several times we paused the show to discuss it. I can see where some people would want to watch it twice. The first time to see how it comes out, and the second time to catch all the details that you didn't know would be important later.

It's fun looking at IMDB to see what other shows people have been involved in. I'll try a show if an actor I think is interesting is involved, though there are limits. I'm a big fan of Johnny Lee Miller (Sherlock Holmes from Elementary), and I liked the first few seasons of Dexter, but I was not going to chew through to get to where Miller shows up on Dexter. One of the actors from The OA shows up for an episode of Elementary, so we watched that episode last night for fun, just to spot him. The writer of The OA has been involved with several other projects, and I'l probably go check them out.

Back in grade school we were reading a book about the Depression, which hadn't been all that long ago, all things considered. That decade directly shaped the lives of my parents and grandparents. I asked why if money was so short people went to the movies. She explained people went to the movies to be in a warm place, around other people, and to escape a difficult real world for a while.

We have a difficult world now, and that was before COVID. People go to the movies, though mostly it's at home now, and what do they see? A world that's WORSE than the real world in many ways. It's so bad it warps their thinking, and they start basing their opinions on that world. That's one of the reasons many people think violent crime is up, when it's not. 

They see all these carefully crafted scenes of people being horrible to each other, and they start thinking that's normal, and they begin to look at other people all squinty-eyed, waiting for shit to happen. Except they're looking back, all squinty-eyed. That's a sad way to be living.

It isn't totally the movie industry's fault. Or rock and roll, or video games, or rap music, or Twitter, or anything else that you think is evidence the world has gone to pot. Or hell in a handcart. Insert your favourite idiom. Like I say, the world is more complicated than a tweet.

One of my theories is that people have forgotten they need each other, and the social manners that lubricated that need. Not so long ago, most people were in a network of relationships. You lived with or near your extended family. You worked the farm with them, or might be in business together. There was a close relationship between your day to day work and the food on your table. You probably married someone you'd known or known of since childhood. Marriages were often alliances to build relationships between families, and to maintain or expand property rights. (Let us not get into the discussion of the bride being part of the property.)

Until recently, almost everybody worked. They had to. Retirement as we know it now is a recent thing. It was only the extremely wealthy that lived that wealthy lifestyle, travelling with the seasons, servants/staff, all the toys of the day. Life appeared to be a long vacation for them. Mostly likely they inherited the money, but a few came into it through fortunate business arrangements, or being extremely good at something in high demand. The movie stars of the 'golden age' are an example. Everybody aspired to that lifestyle.

Except, other people didn't see all the people behind the scenes that make that life possible. Back in the day it was servants, mostly overworked and underpaid. Later, it was staff, but really it's the same thing, people insulating the wealthy from the world, letting them live the vacation lifestyle, doing what they want.

Except, most people can't deal with a life of vacation. They get bored, leading to extremes in the entertainment they demand. That's not new; it's been going on since the Roman bread and circuses. They don't let anyone get close to them because they're afraid their lack of substance will be discovered. But it's other people that are the interesting part. 

See enough movies and it gets easier to see how the next one will turn out. People are always a surprise, and that's the fun part. If you let it be.

Yes, it's still cold here, but it's warming up. Only -23 outside just now.

The ongoing message about being notified so you don't miss any blogs. I'll be repeating this bit of text for a while. Scrolling through Facebook is making me unhappy, so I want to do less of it, and see how that feels. It's all too easy to start scrolling after putting a up a notice I've blogged. I will drop in on a photo group I like, but anything after that is uncertain.

So if you want to be sure you don't miss a blog, send an email to keith at nucleus dot com and ask to be put on my blog notification list. You'll get an email with a link whenever I blog. Plus there may be some extra goodies for those on the list. If you find the blog through another means, that's fine too, I'm happy to have you read however that works.

And you know what? I'm not missing Facebook much. If you message me I get an email, so I'll go look. I've dropped in on my favourite photo group page, but very little else. News consumption is way down. Happiness is beginning to trend up again.

Of the Day