Sunday, December 31, 2017

2017 almost a wrap

It's Saturday as I start write this. Saturday a week ago. It might get added to several times. Who knows? Another year closing down, seems appropriate to include a sunset photo, even though it's dawn as I'm writing this bit. I'll bet you didn't know reading a blog could be so temporally confusing.

It's been quite a year. I almost don't know where to begin, but if you've followed my blog, you know what's happened. If you haven't been, then you need to do a bit of reading to catch up to my regulars. (And I do thank my regulars and irregulars (and some of you are quite irregular) for showing up and reading.) Only 315 blogs so far this year, thats not so bad. Get the tipple of your choice and get started. I'll still be here.

I've talked a little every now and then about money, and how at first the question is "Can I afford...", and then after a while it becomes "Do I want to afford...". It turns out the same thing is true of time. When you're a child, time is a bit paradoxical. It seems to take Christmas and birthdays FOREVER to arrive. When the last few minutes of class take an eternity for the clock to tick, the whole week seems like a lifetime. Then summer vacation goes by in an instant.

Then it gets bad when you get into work life (or work death depending on the job), and it seems the work week drags along and you live for the weekends with your buddies. Unless you are one of those fortunate people who find a job doing what you love.

Now I have all the time in the world, and I can mostly decide what I want to do. Of course there is a hard end to it, but I don't know when that will be, and hopefully not soon. Could I take the car and drive somewhere on a day long photo ramble? Sure, as long as Linda doesn't need it. Stay home and cuddle cats? They like that. Work on the novel, edit photos, de-clutter the basement? All good, as long as I don't touch Linda's stash of goodies. Which of my buddies is free for some mutually desirable activity? Somehow when you are choosing what to do, it's a lot more fun, even if under other circumstances it might be considered a chore to get done before doing fun stuff.

Let me just say it's surprising how fast the days go by. Although I'm tentatively penciled in to a project starting next year, I'm beginning to wonder if I'm going to have the time to work again. This being retired is hard work.

I'm still finding the pace. Some days are really busy and it seems I barely have time to blow my nose. Other days are a bit slower paced and I wonder if I want to start digging seriously into some of my ongoing projects, or start a new one.

Then there's various fitness activities. Just the last couple weeks I've dialled back a bit with the intent to give myself a bit of a rest, and start up again in the new year. Gradually, of course. Plus it's been minus WTF cold lately, which makes it easy to stay inside. I'm still not decided for sure about races, though I'm being encouraged to sign up. I think I want to see how the training is going, and then sign up. Saving a few dollars by signing up early just generates stress for me, because then I feel I HAVE to train. I want to swim bike run hike snowshoe whatever because it's fun.

What has been fun this year is photography. Right now I've taken about 28,000 photos this year. Don't be impressed too much, my buddy Neil has taken more than 10 times that. I'm not completely consistent in my keywords, but according to them my most popular subject is Yukon, by far. Those include lots of things, but mainly aurora and landscapes. Flowers, Fish Creek, Macro, and Sunrise are the next most popular. I have periodically thought about my keywords, and the process surrounding them. I will no doubt think more on the topic.

Of those 28,000 or so photos, I've edited about 1650 (not counting those assigned 4 or 5 stars), assigned 4 stars to 175, and 5 stars to 18. Keep in mind I'm not entirely consistent in star ratings either. If you do the math, that means I work with about 6.5% of my raw photos. There are probably 3 times as many edited that I look at in the editing process to winnow down to the one of several similar shots that I'll edit. It's  been fun looking back over the years work. I would like to believe I've improved, but I suppose it depends on what the criteria is. I've been deleting lots of them, mainly because they qualify as clutter. Out of focus, out of exposure, one of several quite similar shots, just plain boring evidence I was out of my mind when I clicked the shutter.

Coming up soon on my list of things to do is to update my photo blog. Some of the photos will drop off, more will be added. I'll let you know when. Stay tuned.

I can see where 2017 continued to suck for lots of people, what with the economy and idiot politicians, both here and in the USA. But things are getting better economy wise. Not so sure about the politicians, though. My neighbours elected Kenney. Sigh.

We have some friends that retired a little while ago, and we had been asking them all sorts of retirement questions. They were right. It's all true. You do spend less money. You are more relaxed. Getting started on things on your own time (provided you actually start) is a wonderful thing. There are idiots on the road at any time of day, not just rush hour. The difference is there's more road rage during rush hour, and more unpredictability the rest of the time. I'm not sure which is worse. You see a whole different crowd and a different vibe at your workout centre. I still haven't figured out the good time to go to Costco.

When we started 2017 we were both looking at a busy start to the year. Linda finishing off a 35 year career at the city, burdened with more crazy work than ever. I was going into a short term part time contract, but knowing it would be crazy busy. We figured the first part of the year would go by quickly, and so it did. Suddenly we were both here, learning to deal with a slower pace of life. It's been nice.

Next year? Who knows? More photography, with better photos. Regular exercise, preferably with like-minded buddies. Maybe some paid contract work. Some de-cluttering, that's for sure. Other projects that seem like a good idea at the time. Just making it up as I go along.

Don't forget, I've had several people make their suggestions for Image of the Year, and you could join this select group. On the other hand, I've had no questions at all for the Ask Me Anything. I figure that people want to get Christmas out of the way, then settle into the process of asking a question that will test my ingenuity. I look forward to it!

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Hello there, minus WTF

It happens every now and then here. Cold. Snow. Wind. Sometimes all of those together. Like, this morning! Our little outside temperature thingie that is currently sitting on the sheltered mailbox says it's -28 C outside (-18 F). The weather channel says -40 C windchill and looking at the snow blowing across the windows I believe it.

Even Curtis, who is usually anxious to go out to hunt for the hot buttered mouse he is so sure is out there, took a few sniffs and looked thoughtful. Celina took a sniff and darted back to the warmth of the rest of the house.

I think it's a good day to stay inside. There are photos to be examined. Words to be edited. Dust bunnies to be exterminated. Clutter to be busted.

Friday, December 29, 2017

The road to nowheresville. Or not, maybe.

I'm pretty sure only one of my readers knows where this road goes, and that's only because he was standing about 10 m from me, camera pointing in a different direction.

Doesn't look very inviting does it? What's hiding in the snow where the lights stop? Yet there are a few tracks in the snow, so someone else thought it was worth driving, or maybe whatever's lurking down there ate them and is waiting for you. It was only after I took this photo that I realized the road behind me was surprisingly busy with big trucks, and that leaving my car in the middle of this road probably wasn't the smartest idea.

I got several nice photos near this spot, out of the several locations we visited looking for interesting steamy industrial sites. More about them later. This is going to dive into a philosophical journey, so get your favourite beverage and buckle up. Yes, I'm working on a coffee already.

Anyone ever ask you what you want to be when you grow up? Of course they did. But it's a loaded question. Let's pull it apart and look at it.

*What. Implies a singular definable outcome. Life is more complicated. Some of the what's I've been didn't exist when I was a child.

*Want. Implies the ability to form a desire for a change beyond the mere biological. That you can somehow see all the available choices along with their consequences, and wisely choose between them.

*To be. Implies a future state where that change will or could happen. That you haven't achieved your current wants, or that the current wants are somehow inadequate. That you'll still be alive.

*When. Implies that you can write a schedule for life, that what you want can't happen now. When implies knowing that a time has arrived, when all too often we only know that it's gone. (You guys can all hear in your heads the famous Pink Floyd song here, no need to quote it.)

*Grow up. Implies a more desirable state than what you are in now, that we all want to be grown up. Mature. Adult. In charge. Implies it's a recognizable state, and that one is, or isn't. Bah! I say BAH!

For the record, I've never known what I wanted to be when I grew up. Ever. I still don't. For a while I wanted to be a pilot like my dad, but my eyesight put the kibosh on that, and just as well. I trained to be an Air Traffic Controller at what was then called Malton International (You might now know it as Toronto Pearson.) but flunked the meteorology part and declined to take the remedial training. I'm pretty sure my parents thought I'd be living in a cardboard box under a bridge after that.

I've had a bunch of jobs over the years, and don't intend to bore you with a list. But there never was a plan to go to that school to get this degree and get a job with a particular firm and earn a particular job title to bring home the big dollars. I think I knew even then that life was more complex, and there were computer curve balls coming that nobody had thought of. Remember what I said about Sears yesterday?

There's another phrase, "I'm just making this up as I go along!" I forget where I heard it first, but if there is a catch phrase to my life, that's it. I think if you map out a path to a desired destination, 2 things are mostly likely to happen. One is that you'll find the path doesn't go there, or there isn't there anymore, or you get hip checked off the path into the weeds. Two is less likely, but if you're really determined you might be able to force the path to go there, or you bushwhack your way to your goal only to find it wasn't what you thought it would be. I admit the possibility of three, where the path goes where you want, and it's what you wanted and you're happy, but it seems awfully dull to me. One of the big problems with mapping out a path is that you start overlooking the other possibilities.

Let's go back to number 1, the weeds, or 2, the bushwhacking part. They're both the same, really. This is where it gets interesting and you find out who you are and what you're made of. Keep in mind the journey is more interesting than the destination. Explore along the way. Sniff the weeds, they can be pretty too. Help someone else that's hung up on the thorns. Enjoy the people you travel with while you do, and wish them well when they depart.

Yes, you need a goal to keep moving, otherwise you'll just sit on your butt watching everyone pass by, or wander around in circles. But goals are slippery things. A goal that's right at one point in your life might not be at a later point. It might be appropriate to let that goal go, in order to chase a different one. Or maybe not. It's hard to know. I say focus on the path and keep moving forward, rather than getting fixated on a particular goal or place. The world will change around that goal or place. Sears.

Some people like to go down the broad paved path with lots of other people, and it can't be a surprise when they end up in the same place as all those other people. (Which leads to a side thought about knowing someone by the people they hang around with. Stay tuned.) Maybe you want to explore the smaller paths that twist and turn, and you have to watch out for pits and tentacles, and you aren't really sure where you'll end up, but the views along the way are awesome. I'm one of those people on a twisty turny path with not many others around. On the job I've often been the only one that does what I do, and it's complicated to explain to people. Oh well. Explanations are over-rated.

There's an active role for you in all this. Each path has choices. You actually have to put one foot in front of the other, and keep moving and deciding. Every day. There's no escalator involved, unless you were very unfortunate in your choice of parents. Taking a rest to enjoy the view or to sniff the weeds/roses is fine, but don't sit there too long. Something will come along and eat you. Might be a bear, or a politician stealing your pension.

Year end is typically a time to look back and reflect. I see the choices I made along the way, and the choices that were made for me, and it's all worked out pretty well. There's a few things I wince at, of course, but they were learnings too.

Sometimes you just need some perspective. That shot up above, appearing to lead to nowhere? When I turned around there's this. An interesting building doing a useful function. Or it will, I'm not sure it's been commissioned yet.

Walk your path. It might not be the ones your parents, or teachers, or friends walk. They're not you. Maybe you seem to be doing a bit more bushwhacking than others, or it seems like a scramble at times. Enjoy it. All of it. It's easy to enjoy an easy downhill grade with a nice view and the sun shining, but there's also the joy of getting through a tough patch and knowing you're stronger for it.

Lastly, get the notion of deserve out of your head. Some people think they deserve an easy ride, that escalator to the top. Some people think they don't deserve what they've been handed, and maybe so. "Life is pain, highness. Anyone who says differently is selling something." Suck it up, and keep moving. It's that or roll over and give up.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Pension plundering, a rant.

In a recent post I ended up by saying,
"The stolen Leica (photographers start drooling almost by reflex) is an extremely expensive camera. North of 5 figures expensive. Stolen I understand. And it got scuffed. Really? Say what? It will make a great story for the buyer of that camera, making it even more rare. Hmmm, I wonder if the price when up because of the scuff, rather than down like you'd expect at the Sears scratch and dent.

Which could lead me to another pension rant. Stay tuned. (Don't you love my segues into rants?)"

We all know the Sears scratch and dent. The place where battered appliances go to find a temporary home. The price goes down because of the battering, though their actual function hasn't been impaired in the slightest. Just their looks.

But our society seems to rely on looks more than function. People want it pretty, but even more than that, they want it cheap. I have ranted on that in the past.

But we're talking about Sears. Back in 1969, (yes, I know that is a time before history began for many of my readers) Sears was was the biggest retailer in the world. They built and occupied the tallest building in the world for a time. People looked forward to getting their Christmas catalogue. Heck, I even subcontracted for Sears back in the day, helping another guy deliver big heavy appliances. (I should tell you about the time he and I put a freezer into a mobile home, like a snake swallowing a pig.) Let's just say the whole job was an education to a high school or so kid, and that's not counting when I started drinking beer.

Now they're bankrupt. Sears. Less than 50 years from biggest to bankrupt. That's what happens when you don't change with the times. What they're involved in now is called fleecing the pensioners so the big dogs and banks can get some of their money back. They call it rationalize assets, or refinancing, or other fancy-pants accounting terms. It really means someone is going to get a financial haircut, and it's usually the people that can't afford lawyers.

This is obscene. Ordinary people worked for years to earn their pensions under the rules as written at the time. Not just Sears, almost everywhere. The companies often played fast and loose with the pension funds, taking a holiday when times were good, and protesting about topping up when times were bad. Meanwhile, ordinary workers were offered no choice, and had it deducted from their pay every payday.

That big pot of money is too tempting for corporations and governments to resist. Corporations go bankrupt and escape their pension obligations, leaving ordinary people destitute. Some declare bankruptcy TO escape their pension obligations. Rewriting their pension obligations is just one of the things Sears is doing. For shame.

The Canadian Federal government is trying to rewrite the pension rules for their employees. The idea is to turn it from a defined benefit, to a targeted benefit scheme. Look it up, Bill C-27. If it works this time, next time it might be your pension. You can bet it's going to be dressed up to sound awesome, but the pensioners are going to get the short, sharp end of the stick. It's just another way to get out of the their current legal obligation.

Now, I hear the conservative neanderthals bellowing about unsustainable, and gold plated, and why should they get one when we (and by we they mean "I") don't get one. The answer is that their unions negotiated it. Maybe that means they were better negotiators, or the government was stupid to agree. Maybe you should have supported your union and maybe you'd have a DB pension. Whatever. But it was legally agreed to, and people plan their lives around the various provisions. The government should stick to it.

Going forward is a different deal. Maybe it really isn't sustainable with people living much longer. Fine. Make adjustments on a go forward basis. Build in a transition. Changing the rules retroactively is a societal breaking of faith, on the backs of those who can't change their circumstances now. They typically can't go out and get a job for a variety of reasons. They may be at the point in their lives where their biggest expenses are medical, and the choice is to continue treatment or let that disease eat you. Nobody should have to face that situation.

When the bankruptcy courts look at a defunct enterprise, the big dogs hold out agreements that put them at the front of the line. The first people in line are the ones that drove the company into that situation, the board, C level executives, and their senior management buddies. After all, they can plunder before the courts even see the mess. They all ensure they get a golden parachute. Then the banks, insurance companies, property owners, and the like are in there like the white on rice. Pension plan administrators are well back.

Bah! I say BAH! Ordinary people should be the front of the line. Pensioners, employees. Small business owners caught up in the whirlpool. Consider a pot of money and let's call it a million dollars, just for fun. Think about what happens if it goes to a pool of employees and pensioners. It makes a direct, dramatic, difference in their lives. Most of them will probably be spending it fairly promptly, supporting the economy. I could cautiously support the idea where they determine the present value of that pension, in order to make a clean settlement, or maybe they just buy an annuity.

Now think about what happens if it goes to a bank. A big one. It's just a tiny line item on the books. It means nothing to the bank, which itself is a soul-less entity who's only motive is to make more profit. The people who get paid performance bonuses see a slice of that money; maybe it will make a payment on their yacht or fancy car. Big whoop, as the saying goes.

Lets look at Apple. As of earlier this year they had about 260 Billion in cash. Billion. Canada's entire federal budget for 2017 is 304 Billion dollars. That means Apple could fund the entire Canadian government for about 11 months. What are they doing with that? A bit of investment here, and some buying opportunities there, but they are essentially sitting on it.

What can one buy for $260 Billion? A better way of phrasing it is, what can't you buy? Put to bed this myth that giving corporations tax breaks increases the number of people they hire. It doesn't. It just increases their profits.

There is a saying from my childhood. Put politely, it says "money is like manure, best spread thinly." Making sure employees and pensioners are paid first helps to do that.

After such a heated rant, here is a nice mountain scene from Waterton Park to cool you down.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

A snowshoe photo ramble

Even with snowshoes on I went through the ice once.

I've been feeling the need to start moving a little more than I have been. Food, Christmas, you know. I figured snowshoeing would burn lots of energy. The difficult part was deciding where. I ended up in Fish Creek at the bottom of Elbow Drive. I hadn't been there in a while, and there's some nice scenery. I explored a bit of a wooded area I've not been in before, then tramped along the river. There was about 20 to 30 cm of snow, with lots of rocks hidden under it. I probably could have got by with just boots, but using the snowshoes gave me much more traction and stability.

 This is bridge 7, seen from just above the garish storm water outfall duct.

That outfall duct is probably the most garish, ugly thing in all of Fish Creek. Even the actual wastewater treatment plant is more discreet.

I spent quite a bit of time trying to catch a bit of sun on the open water. Just downstream of here is where one foot went through the ice, much to my surprise. Only ankle deep, so no big deal, though that snowshoe and boot soon got much heavier.

Another bench with a nice view.

Gee, I wonder why nobody has used this for a picnic lately?

Cats vs nascent Christmas tree

So here we are at Christmas. Once again. Well, technically these first photos are Christmas Eve. This year we took a big risk and put the tree up in the main part of the house, exposed to cat depredations. The idea was we'd use the ornaments that were essentially nonbreakable. Wood, cloth, metal, plastic. At first we were a bit nervous. Curtis was watchful, yet we persisted.

Then we got it up and Celina was right there, exploring, trying to swing from the branches.

In the end it looks nice. There were some finishing touches added later. Like presents. I think there's a cat under there as well. They love being under it, peering out, wondering if now is the time to leap out and bring down their dinner.

We were off to a perfectly delightful dinner with friends, their children, and grandchildren. We've known the children since they were small children, and it's been interesting to see them grow. One of the grandchildren is no longer small by any standard. It was fun.

There are various Christmas related memes about pets and trees. "Thank heavens you're home, the tree fainted!" is just one of them. I'm sure you've seen more than I have. I was wondering if I should start a betting pool on what the cats had done to the tree in our absence, but just as well. They're over it now. Done. Boring. Unless an ornament slips off and makes an interesting rustling noise on the way down.

My buddy Sean was doing white on white during our photowalk the other day. You can see his results here. From that I was minded to take these two on Christmas. I'm not sure what circumstance of snow falling and quality of light that delivered that wavy line, but I'm not about to go wading through a bunch of snow to find out.

I'd thought I was standing on Fish Creek for this, but one never knows. Maybe there's a bit of a sandbar there. This one is dedicated to Sean.

There are more shots from that snowshoe photo ramble, but I'm not done editing yet. Snow is tricky.

It's Boxing Day as I'm writing this. Early, but not by the standards of the bargain hunters. They're probably out there in line already, freezing their tail off. Only once have we got up early to get a bargain, way back in 2002. You can read various slices of the story along with lots of other stuff, here, here, here, and here. Order is not important, though that last link actually tells the Boxing Day sale story, or part of it anyways. Linda didn't believe people actually lined up for stuff.

The Camera Store often gives out gift certs to the first people in line. It's tempting, but I currently have all the camera toys I need. I see one lens where there is almost $1500 off the price. Yes, that's the right number of zeros. I'm not going to ever buy that one.

If you're not a photography person you might not have heard about their adventure over the last couple of weeks. Someone broke in and stole a few items. A few very expensive items, to the tune of nearly $35K, and few enough you could carry it all in your hands without much difficulty.

In a story that a novelist could not make up because the editors and readers insist on plausibility, the thieves put some of the items on Kijiji. Yes, a camera and lenses worth lots of thousands of dollars, on Kijiji. The mind boggles. It validates my theory about conspiracies, that 3 people can keep a secret only if 2 of them are dead. The police nabbed the sellers, and got part of it back, and of course they rolled over on their buddy with the other camera.

The stolen Leica (photographers start drooling almost by reflex) is an extremely expensive camera. North of 5 figures expensive. Stolen I understand. And it got scuffed. Really? Say what? It will make a great story for the buyer of that camera, making it even more rare. Hmmm, I wonder if the price when up because of the scuff, rather than down like you'd expect at the Sears scratch and dent.

Which could lead me to another pension rant. Stay tuned. (Don't you love my segues into rants?)

Monday, December 25, 2017

Macro Monday 16, hexagonal, the claw, and BRBE!

It was only in the final stages of writing this that I realized Monday was Christmas. I mean I knew Christmas was coming, as it always does. And that Monday was coming, as it always does. But the two of them, plus the Macro Monday feature had somehow slipped my mind.

So there are pre Christmas shots of Celina and Curtis checking out the tree. Stay tuned.

This is a followup to last week's macro shots of Julie's lovely hair, and one shot of Linda's. For this week I snipped a few hairs (red and white) of the famous moustache. Both of these are the cut end, not the pointy abraded end worn away from checking out everything I eat. My moustache hairs measure out at 33 mm in diameter, and clearly appear to be hexagonal when I look at them 1:1 in Lightroom, but I'm not sure it will show up so clearly here.

Curtis was right in there helping, being such a helpful cat. (Especially where food is concerned.) He generously donated a claw cast off, a bit of fur, and a whisker. As it turns out, his fur is significantly thinner than anybody's hair, about one quarter the diameter, near as I can tell. Both the shots above and below are at the same magnification, 5x plus the extension tubes.

One of his orange hairs. I'm pleased the colour shows up. In Lightroom at 1:1, this is between 3 and 4 mm in diameter.

This is the root end of a whisker. You can just start to see the internal structure.

Part way along the shaft, not far from the root.

Let me tell you, cat hair is not easy to photograph! It took a while to figure out how to clamp it down so it wouldn't move, and even more to figure out where the funny reflection was coming from. It seems the matt black surface of the bike stand was throwing reflections from the bright strobe lights. It's never done that before, but then, I've never been shooting quite so close it it either.

I was telling BRBE about it, and she wanted in on the action. Again, this is the same magnification, 5x on the lens, with 68 mm of extension tubes. In Lightroom at 1:1, Michelle's hair is about 18 or 19 mm in diameter, a bit thicker than Julie's 15 or 16 mm, and much thicker than Curtis's 3 to 4 mm. I have one other buddy, who we suspect has much thicker hair. It will be interesting to see if I can lure her into the photo studio next time she is over.

We looked up some info. The average human hair is about 20 to 100 microns in diameter, depending on the age of the person, and where exactly along the hair is measured. Older and closer to the root is thicker they say, and my moustache agrees. There are 1000 microns in a mm. No wonder I couldn't measure anyone's hair with the tools at my disposal.

So to get ourselves onto the same units for comparison purposes, let's assume Julie's hair is 20 microns thick in real life, and on the screen is about 15,000 microns. Am I doing the math right to say I'm magnifying it 750 times by the time it gets on screen? I'm thinking I've slipped a decimal place or two somehow.

Anyways, back to Michelle. She loved the colour refracted and reflected from the translucent hair! Her natural colour is a slightly reddish brown, and there are some grey hairs. Just a few, very distinguished. These were shot in between heartbeats, with her resting her head on the bike stand, so the background is more hair. No holding the hair involved. Yes, on the camera screen I could see her head moving slightly with every heart beat. She's such a good sport holding still while I fiddled with focus, especially since she could smell her cup of French Press coffee right there.

She was happy to see an image of the grey hair, and especially the clean end.

This is her skin. If you look carefully you can see the hair actually growing out from the follicle. Look at the lower part of the photo, sort of centre right and you can see one example clearly. These hairs are almost invisibly fine.

This was wall much more fun than I thought it would be, and the response has been interesting. In many cases people are yucked out by finding hair in unexpected places. How unexpected a place to find hair is a blog? Yet most of the comments are "cool!" One person is geeked out, which I take as a high compliment.

Cat photos tomorrow, promise.

Saturday, December 23, 2017

More Yukon, Tombstone park in case you've forgotten

More from the September 2017 photo trip to the Yukon with Neil, Judy, Katie, and Dalia. I've been going back over photos, and while I'm not sure I'd class these as hidden gems, they were overlooked in the first round.

I've been doing a bit of research about renting a camper and driving all the way from Whitehorse to Tuk. At first the price is a bit of eek, but then I remember where it is. I'd love to take a month or two and roam around all over, taking a zillion photos of course. I'd love to be able to seek out a great vantage point, and have the time to wait for the light to be awesome.

Friday, December 22, 2017

You used to be able to see the mountains

This is progress?

That heap is what is technically known as a haul road. There are ginormous trucks hauling material back and forth, making the bees look like slackers. I liked the mountain view better, but sooner or later I'll be driving on that highway. Maybe the passenger can see the mountains. The driver had better keep their eyes on the road the way traffic has been here lately.

I have to admit I wonder what that little tree thinks of the whole production, and how it got spared.

It just snowed, as you may recall. This seems to press the stupid driver button for Calgarians. Or as some put it, the all season tire collision and coffee klatsch meet up. I'm glad I haven't had to be driving much lately.

My buddy Sean and I had a lovely morning tramping around South Glenmore park. The lighting was not the best, but the important part is being out, chatting with a buddy, and looking for the shots. He had run past there on the main path many times, but never been on the smaller paths.

A couple photos from the morning as the light was coming out.

I was quite taken by this little decorated tree. It warms my cold heart thinking that someone took the time and trouble to bring some ornaments and hang them on the tree.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Cats don't care about shopping

Nope. They lie there in a heap, ignoring the whole thing. I wish I could. Don't get me started. Shopping. Sheesh. Who invented that?

During one recent walk through Fish Creek I crawled under a bridge and was getting some shots of ice and rocks and reflections and stuff. I quite liked it and got a few compliments on it. You can see the original here, but I was playing with it as shapes, and converted it to black and white to see what that did. I'm not sure it works as well, but you can judge for yourself.

It's getting close to year end. Don't forget I'll be doing an Ask Me Anything early in the new year. Send a question, and I'll answer it, and probably more than you bargained for. See last year as an example.

Plus I'm working on Image of the Year. If there are any favourites that you'd like to remind me of, I'd be happy for your suggestions.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

It snowed. I swam

They said 10 to 20 cm. More like 10 inches arrived here.

Typical carnage ensued. I shovelled last night, and I shovelled again this morning. Then off for a lovely swim in a nearly empty pool, thinking stroke thoughts. My golf score is 81. I haven't done that for a while, and there is a person deeply interested in that number. A goal for them, I think.

The funny thing was me lounging in the hot tub when a bunch of the swim club kids arrived. They'd been given a break, and didn't want to stand around getting cold. They'd barely sat down with their coach showed up to hustle them back to the pool for something. The looks on their faces!

I was out walking around a little bit. The best shot of the day (No, I'm not going to do an image of the day, or of the week feature.) happened by accident, of course. It's the first time I've got half decent bokeh with this lens.

Errands tomorrow, and a buddy photowalk on Friday! Hope the snow holds out.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

A winter skyline

Like I say, fall is Calgary's best season. When I left to go to Yukon for a week in September it was summer. When I got back it was fall. It's been fall, more or less, till today. Today is winter. Snow.

I dropped Linda downtown, did some cameraing, then had a minor appointment. (Hint, I'm not deaf.) The roads were already greasy and I could see where a few people had given themselves or the drivers around them a thrill. It's only got worse since.

Two views from Enmax Park. Downtown in the snow.

The backside of my buddy Jeff's sculpture. I almost like the metal supporting rods more than the actual front of it.

Two views of the new zoo bridge. I snuck these in since the first blog about the zoo bridge didn't get that many readers.

Another snowy view of downtown. The geese were not interested in it, or in me. A few looked at me as I walked past them, but they didn't even waddle away. Safety in numbers or something. I like how the buildings were just fading in and out of visibility.

In the inevitable news department, I no longer have a living grandparent. My mom's mom passed away earlier today. I had begun to mentally compose a blog about being 60 and still having a grandparent alive, wondering how many other people could say that. A good blog idea down the drain.

Still, she outlived her life expectancy at birth by more than 30 years, and came THAT close to making 100. My mom is already well past her life expectancy at birth, (though she is only 29, somehow). According to stats Canada I'm going to kick off any time in the next decade or so. Bah! I say BAH! I'm going to be around and inflicting this blog on you for many decades yet to come.

Monday, December 18, 2017

Macro Monday 15, almost all of us have it

I'm just now listening to a famous song by The Cowsills. I know some of my readers are going whaaaaa? Others are already down memory lane. Here's a link so you can catch up with the story. Yes, this clip is from 2007, but the song comes from my youth.

There's a funny story that goes with this and ties into where I'm going. On a Facebook group some of my friends were talking about radio stations, and they were talking about one called Hair Nation. I'd never heard of it, of course, so I asked if they played The Cowsills. Of all the people, only my buddy Susi got it, and her comment was "oh Keith." (Hint, they don't.) Several of the people had to look it up, and I hope they got a good chuckle out of it.

My buddy Julie is always on the move. I met her through triathlon, and we blogged together for a while. I'd see her at races sometimes (zoom!) but we haven't had a nice in person chat for some time, excepting last night. In fact, our last serious chat was in 2010. (Actually that's a nice philosophical post, so if you are a new reader you might want to check it out.)

She has reason to care deeply about her hair, and when I offered to take some macro photos of it she got all excited. (It was that or all the good coffee.) We start with this, a normal, if somewhat unconventional portrait. She has really fine honey blonde hair, with a faint hint of red.

After coffee I got her leaning on my bike rack, which made her feel right at home. That was to make it easier to hold her hands still. After a few experiments figuring out exactly how to hold her hair we start zooming in.

This about 4x with extension tubes.

If I only saw this photo with no context I'd think it was a steel wire. Linda thought it might be the of a plant.

This is about 5x with extension tubes, so about 7x mag, maybe a bit more. On my Lightroom screen at 1:1 the individual hairs are about 10 mm in diameter, but in real life the individual hairs are too fine to measure with the tools at my disposal. Side to side we are looking at about 3mm of hair length.

This is the only shot that is cropped in. Rather than 6000 x 4000 px, this got cropped to 4163 x 2342 px because the rest of the hairs are badly out of focus. All of these are exported at 2048 px wide and 96 px/inch resolution so that social media doesn't mess them up. On my Lightroom screen at 1:1 these hairs are about 18 mm in diameter.

This one is actually Linda. It was a bit of a shared production. Linda had to sit with her head turned, and Julie had to hold the hair while I operated the camera.

This is the first time I've ever taken a macro shot of hair, and it's really the first time I've ever seen a magnified shot of hair. I was surprised at how translucent it is. There is just enough magnification to catch a hint of the texture. If there's a next time for doing this, I'd like to try doing a coil of hair. The trick will be to get it flat. Hmmm.

For those who want to know why Julie cares so much about her hair, (and to normal eyesight it is awesome hair!) drop me a note, and I'll put you in touch. She can explain better than me.