Saturday, March 31, 2018

Currently, sort of

I've been desperate for some colour in my photography lately. Some white on white is nice, and frost on stuff can be a good look, and icicles can dress up all sorts of stuff, and there is all sorts of things that can be done with reflections from melting snow, and evergreen trees are a classy and dignified green, and some people like action shots in snow, but (say it with me, with feeling) I'M READY FOR SPRING! I'm ready to see the green of growing things, and whatever blooms come up first.

In the meantime, there's still a ton of snow here. More landed last night. More is forecast. Sigh. Enough of that.

The Amaryllis is blooming, so I've been accumulating photos of that. One day soon you'll get the life cycle of bud to decaying, for the 5 blossom explosion underway here. Stay tuned. Curtis is often supervising while I do this, but his attention was caught by a bird or something in the back yard. He likes snoozing on this cushion and blanket. His fur has picked up a touch of green from the plants.

My inner shark has showed up with me rocking the swim mojo lately. I've been having fun in the water, and getting some nice times again after struggling for much of the last year. I'm still working up to my former times and distances, but I'm trying to be cautious. One of my buddies recently completed the Nevis to St Kitts swim. It's about a 4 K open water swim, and that might be fun to do next year, if the training continues. The inner shark highly approves of this.

Don't ask about the run or the bike.

I've sold another photo! It's fun to go to Resolve and pick out paper. I just saw the print today, and it's better than the version I see on screen. Wow! The print has a real sense of depth for the central part of the flower, and the colours are rich and creamy. It's been signed and I saw a photo of it framed and on the wall. Which photo, you ask? This one, which you've seen before several times.

One of my photos has been published in Impact Magazine! It's an autumn scene in Fish Creek and westward. You can find it on page 55 in the print version. You can see the digital version of the magazine here.

I've been trying to get out for a combination photo ramble and wine kit run, but the driving weather has sucked lately. My thinking is to leave early to find a sunrise mountain shot (pink is the money shot but I'm not going to complain about red or orange), get into Red Deer for breakfast, pick up the kits, and head home. There are 3 kits doing their thing in the basement, with one of them ready for bottling soon.

There's been some interesting bits of writing happening, once I had the wit to start plugging things into an actual timeline. I fixed a few minor timing whoopsies and had a nice idea about a scene. It's still just an idea though. I rewrote one scene to make a whole lot more sense. There's a lovely scene that was so much fun to write (Ronnie beating up Charlie) but I'm not sure where it fits into the rest of the work. This is part of writing some of the behind the scenes stuff that happened, but from the point of view of the antagonist and his world, where they see themselves as the good guys. There's maybe too much going on, but it's a complicated world with lots of players.

Some reading has been on the agenda lately. The latest is Tom Holt, The Management Style of the Supreme Beings is the latest. (God sells earth to some uber-capitalist twins, and decides to retire.) If you like his style of humour, you'll love this. I happily giggled to myself during the entire read. There's another photo book that has an interesting diagram relating ISO, shutter speed, and f stop in a different way than I've seen  before. It took me a while to understand how a lens could be fast or slow, and this explains it differently. I hope the rest is as interesting.

Yes, there's been some slackerpants attitude. I admit it. What do you expect? I have buddies sending me photos of beaches, and blooming flowers, and talking of gardening while wearing a tank top. I assume pants too, but that was left unclear.

There might even be news on the work contract front soon, but I can't talk about that yet.

Another of Curtis, just because.

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Look ma, no inversion!

This was actually taken last week during a photo ramble. The inversion had mostly gone away. It was really murky here for a while, quite aside from all the snow. This is from way south of Calgary.

On the same ramble, I found this bench, near the ones featured earlier. It's lovely when there's no murk to obscure the view. I wandered along the path trying to find a view of downtown, but that didn't work out.

A few days later I'd visited Fish Creek Bridge 1, and found this view of the river. You'd think I'd make things easier for my readers by putting all the photos from a ramble into one blog, or at least in chronological order. Not so much. You'd get bored with the simplistic representational unity of it, when my thoughts bounce all over the place. That's why you guys keep reading, you never know what you're going to get.

I hung out on the bridge for a while, listening to the creek trickle over the rocks, and trying to ignore the nearby car noises, and the somewhat more distant sounds of road construction.

Looking to the right, you see the icy path leading to the hill of death. I was in raptures about the light through the trees, but the camera didn't quite capture it the way I saw it, so I had to tweak it a bit. You might have seen this photo on Instagram.

In other news, the swim mojo is returning big time! I've been swimming further, having done 1.5K in a respectable time for me the other day. Plus the speed in shorter distances is coming back. Really pleased about it.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

It goes around and around

What secret base on the moon? You know, the one put there, on the 'dark' side, by aliens, or the Illuminati, or somebody. Sometime. For some reason. Don't Google it, you don't really want to know, and you'll never get that time back.

Once when I was child, I was being driven home from something or other. I was staring up at a full moon, for what seemed like quite some time. Suddenly it was an eye, looking at me. Then I started thinking about the sort of creature that would have an eye like that, and I had nightmares for a while.

I'm not sure how many full moons I've seen since then, but they keep happening like clockwork. (No eye again, just the man in the moon.) We look up at it, watching the changing phases and the various eclipses. The photographers of us try to get nice photos of it, which is a more difficult thing than you'd think.

Maybe there really is an alien base, with them looking down at us. Probably in horrified fascination, like we can't look away from a train wreck. (All together now, and and IT WAS A CIRCUS TRAIN!!!) It's not on the dark side, because then they couldn't watch us. Oh, maybe the giant alien spaceships come in to land on the dark side at the secret landing port, where we can't see them, then they take the secret underground mag lev train to their secret forward observatory.

I can imagine a new shift coming on, and being briefed by the outgoing shift. Especially in the last couple years, I can see that being a really long meeting, with many interjections of the alien equivalent of 'you've got to be kidding!'

John Varley has written several works set on the moon in a not so distant future. They're pretty interesting societies, with medicine so advanced that changing gender is a trivial operation, and a central computer hooked into our very brains. Among other things, it keeps control of the various cancers that are constantly growing, and tries to keep the humans entertained. Meanwhile, it's going suicidally insane.

Here, the closest we have to that is Facebook, and people are only just starting to learn about the downsides of turning over private data to such an entity. And that's aside from the internet itself. Even before it was invented, science fiction writers wrote about artificial intelligence and what happens when our computers wake up. The first serious movie I remember on this topic is Colossus: The Forbin Project, from 1970.

The most well known AI is probably Skynet, but that's a particularly stupid AI. If such a creature wanted to get rid of humans it would engineer a plague that just killed humans, perhaps leaving enough to keep as pets, just in case. It's that or massively distract them with bread and circuses like professional sports and reality shows. Hmmm.

We already carry in our pockets computers that would amaze the scientists from my teenage years. Many of us spend lots of time looking at them. We've already been implanting fairly complex electronics within our bodies, such as pacemakers. I can't see it being too long before they start experimenting with implanting a cell phone in our bodies, feeding the display directly into our eyes. As I see it, the big problem is figuring out how operate the darn thing. When there are millions of them, all hooked together via the internet via wifi, how is that not a giant brain?

There's a science fiction series by Los McMaster Bujold where one of the characters has a memory chip implanted in his brain. He remembers everything, which is useful in his job as head of Imperial Security. That is, until the chip starts breaking down, flooding his human memory with razor sharp artificial memories. For a while I thought that such a chip would be a great addition, till that particular book came out.

Since then I've come to believe that it's not what you remember that's important, particularly. It's the processing you do with what you learn. Voters seem particularly bad at the processing, when it comes to ideologies they either agree with, or disagree with. Thus you have the smug evangelicals giving Trump a pass on moral issues, and voting for the Republicans in spite of their demonstrated allegiance to the rich and powerful at the expense of everyone else.

What passes for thought processes in many other people baffles me. They can't reason from A to C, let alone Z, and they for sure don't notice when the politicians go from A to pi without passing through the diameter or circumference of the issue. They get sidetracked by logical fallacies that are so old they have Latin names, because that was the language educated people spoke when they were recognized as fallacies. Once upon a time I could name most of them and provide current examples, but I haven't kept up on it in a formal way.

So here we are, in an age where all too many people don't vote, and it frightens me that that might be fore the best. Then there is a huge number of people that don't really know why they are voting a particular way, or have fallacious reasons for doing so. The politicians run wild, knowing they aren't likely to be caught at their various activities to enrich themselves and their close buddies. In the mean time our planet is going through a great die off and few in power seem willing or able to do anything.

I suspect that many people can survive almost any climate change, but the same might not be true for the critters and plants we share the planet with. We might well end up living under a dome or underground, with complex machines to maintain a livable environment for us. We might as well be living on the moon.

If the aliens watching us can save us from that, I for one, welcome our new overlords.

Monday, March 26, 2018

Macro Monday 25, the business end

This is an old, old tool. Millions of years old. This is a 5x shot of the business end of it.

 The tooth is from a megalodon, and is about 6 cm long. It isn't especially sharp, which is sort of too bad. I was hoping to see how a razor edge on a tooth would show up. I also have a smaller shark's tooth that has a sharp point, but the problem is hanging onto it for the photo. It isn't very big.

Saturday, March 24, 2018

The perfect photo?

A few things have gone into this blog post. In no particular order: The pushback against photoshopping the bodies and faces of models into an image that doesn't even begin to reflect reality. A question in The Online Photographer about still life photography, found or constructed. The process of learning to use a real camera on manual to take photos, then going out to the field and actually doing so. Learning to edit images in Lightroom. The blurring of the lines between professional and amateur. Expectations around content submitted for publication.

Not sure where there is going to go, get the tipple of your choice for the time of day it is. It got long, complete with example photos for your delight.

How good is good? One clearly would not seriously compare the scribbles of a kindergarten child to the work of a graduate of ACAD. How about a high school student to the ACAD grad? Hmmm, maybe a talented high schooler might produce better work than an untalented ACAD grad. We expect professionals to produce better work than amateurs, but it's not necessarily so. The pro is much more likely to produce the desired results faster, and more reliably. There's a story about a young photographer applying for a job and showing his work to the grizzled old pro. "This is nice, how long did it take you," he asks. "Days! I tweaked every little thing till it's perfect." "Hmmmm," says the pro, "I can't afford for you to take days on an image, but I'm dying to see what you can do in 10 minutes."

Who is to judge? By what criteria? At one extreme is the 'likes' on Facebook, Instagram, and other such sites. As near as I can tell, the most popular photos are colourful sunrises/sunsets, then cats, then  baby animals, then an amorphous category of really excellent photos. At the other extreme are the professional critics who say Voice of Fire is an artwork worth paying $1.8 million for, and is now worth $40 million, and I say Bah.

One interesting thing I've learned along the way is that my record for predicting what people will like isn't that good. I'd taken a bunch of photos of some friends at a triathlon. They were over, drinking some wine and we looked at them. I had one photo that I thought was really unflattering. I wondered if I should show it to her, and considered deleting it. In the end I decided to show them all the photos, and delete any that they asked me to. That 'unflattering' shot was the one she liked the most. She wanted a print of it. A lesson for me.

I've been looking at a lot of photography books over the last year and a bit, trying to learn more about what makes a good photo. This has diverged into a bit of the history of art. To be honest, I'm as baffled as ever. Note that I'm clearly distinguishing between my personal taste in art, and what makes a good or even great piece of art. I might like a photo even though it is technically poor, because I know the people in it, or something about it catches my soul, but I wouldn't say it's good photo. There's lots of art hanging in various galleries that I don't care for but that's just me. Someone says they're good photos or paintings, and put their money where their eyes are. Good for them, and I hope they sell.

Much of my reading, and looking, and thinking, was about works I didn't care for on first glance, and try to determine what made them good. There are many 'rules' about making good photographs, but I was trying to go deeper than that. Many really good photos break at least some of those rules, and some photos follow all the rules and yet are boring. One of the best books for this showed a fairly large image of the work, followed by commentary by the author and the artist. You can find further comments on the book here.

When I click the shutter button, I'm generally looking one of the following situations:
- I've got a good to great scene, and I'm working on capturing it. I might tweak the camera settings, try different lenses, move around to different points of view. Sometimes waiting a few minutes creates an entirely new scene as the light changes. I usually get at least one photo out of this that will make me happy. Sometimes I'll know it on the spot, other times I'm not sure. For this one I was standing beside the road, and did not want to wade into the deep snow on private property. It would have been nice if there were some dramatic clouds. I might have to come back, dawn could be interesting.

- I'm trying a specific thing, trying to create a specific image, regardless of the artistic merit of the resulting photography. There was one yesterday, walking along the top of the bluff in Cranston, looking at the mountain skyline. There was a plant with little seed pods beside the path. Nothing special to look at, but I wanted to capture that plant in sharp focus, with the distant mountains out of focus. You might call it practice, maintaining the visual and technical camera skills.

- I've got an indifferent scene, but there might be something about the light, or the setting, or the composition that attracts my eye. At the very worst they will become documentary shots; an image of what you'd see standing in this spot, a record I was there on a particular day. At best I get a nice surprise, that I found some settings or Lightroom/image manipulation software tweaks that produce a better image than I expected. I think of these as learnings, in that I can see something in the scene, and I try to build the skills to capture that. There's a subtle optical illusion in this one that amuses me. Can you see it?

-Blog fodder. I like to have photos in my blog that are relevant to what I written about. It can go either way. Sometimes a photo will spark the words, other times what I've written will drive me to capture a particular photo. It's a form of practice to keep what skills I have sharp. Sometimes I get really good photos, but mostly they are just a photo of something.

- I've been asked to take photos. This has happened at several races now. It's mostly fun, but it's much more fun to play paparazzi for buddies involved in activities.

-Much rarer is serendipity. I'm out, I'm holding the camera, and I get THAT shot. The one that makes everyone go "oh!" The one that sends chills down your spine as you edit it. You make several copies and put them in different places so you can't lose it. The one you make a big print of. The one you want to show the world. The one that everyone thinks you are so lucky to have captured, when you and other photographers know it's work, and planning, and being out there, being ready. This hasn't happened to me much, but you can see when it has here.

There's a saying in writing, "there's no place for bad writing anymore." Also, "the first million words are shit and the sooner you write them out of your system the sooner you'll be a good writer." This lament was by a writer who came of age when there were comics and pulp magazines. The editors paid a nickel a word and wanted it by deadline. Now the competition to be published is so fierce that there is no space for bad writing, or even slightly imperfect writing. Writers obsess about getting everything perfect, and there is a cottage industry revolving around the rules defining such perfection. I think it often makes for cookie cutter writing, but then, I'm not a published writer.

Much the same is true about images. We are surrounded by images. Social media. The news. Advertising in every media. There are images to look at everywhere, demanding our attention. There are people who have spent their lives figuring out how to attract our attention for the purposes of inserting an advertising message. Scantily dressed women is one way, but there are many others. In all of these there are no imperfections at all, nothing to impede that image from being mainlined into your brain. Yes, I'm a published photographer, with credit and everything.

On social media some people like to share their photos. I'm in several such groups, and some of the photos are stunning! Looking at what people have done is a learning experience. It's probably intimidating to newer photographers, looking at your best shot so far, and realizing it's not in the same league as some of the others.

There's one I'm thinking of on Instagram (which is a pretty crappy place to view nice photos, IMHO), a superb posed photo of a woman wearing jeans, a white T shirt, and a red jacket. My comment was that the photographer nailed it. The photographer, makeup, hair, and agency are all given credit and justly so. I've no idea how many other photos that didn't make the cut exist of this session, and I wouldn't be surprised if there are hundreds.

That is not a posed shot. I'm not entirely pleased by it for various reasons, but I wasn't about to tell her to hold still while I got the tripod and tried to fix the lighting.

Then there are photo competitions. I spent some time at the Exposure festival in February. The idea was similar to reading the books; I wanted to look at prints up on the wall, selected by a jury, and try to get a grip on what made them good. Some were obviously good in my eyes. Subjects, setting, lighting, props, everything was perfect but in a natural way. I stood looking at a couple (a ranching family in one, and a film projectionist in the other) in particular for a long while. I'd like to think I have the technical skill to capture a photograph of those people in their setting, but I couldn't even have begun to compose and light those shots.

Then there are others I mostly got. Not my taste or I'd have done it differently, but I could see what made it a compelling photo. I looked at some of them for a while too. Then there were some that baffled me. I didn't get it, not at all, and listening to a small group in raptures about them didn't help.

I haven't entered any photo competitions yet. I'm not sure I ever will. Why? I don't have the ego drive to have my work declared the winner, or to 'be good' out in front of god and everybody. While I'd like to become a better photographer, to see and capture a scene in a compelling way, I don't want to go to school to learn 'the 6 rules to become a professional landscape photographer.' I've no financial need, or ego desire to sell my work. If someone loves an image and wants to buy a print (which has happened several times now) I'm flattered and pleased and can make that happen. But I'm not going to go producing images I don't care for because someone will pay me for them. That's no fun.

Which leads me to another point, having fun. I've been out on some photo rambles with buddies, and that's fun. I've been out alone, and that's fun too. Yesterday I was sitting on a bench (the one on the right, if you were wondering) in Cranston, looking at the mountains and the clouds, wondering if there was an image there, thinking my thoughts, enjoying the warm day. A bald eagle flapped by, too quick for me to point the camera, so I just enjoyed watching it for a few seconds.

Getting back to the still life photography question I mentioned above, I've thought about that a lot. One of the sets of images at the Exposure was of plant material, flowers, blooms, vines, seeds, and it was composed. The photographer probably spent a lot of time laying out the various materials and getting them lit just right. The gallery staff told me the prints had not been digitally assembled. I spent some time wondering why this way, and not differently.

I've done lots of shots where I get back to the computer and only then realize there's a tree branch or something else in the way, or some cat fur on the macro object, or there's a fence post in the shot and I can't remove it because I'd then take something else out and I really should have recomposed the shot, or that something cluttered the shot that my eye overlooked but the camera saw. In some of these cases it's a matter of moving the view point, or using a different lens, or a different zoom, and fair enough. In others it's a matter of actually removing vegetation, or digitally manipulating the image, or putting something in the shot that wasn't there when you found it (I'll put this rock over here to create a triangle of leading lines blah blah blah).

Power lines are the bane of landscape photographers existence. Many go way out to the boonies to escape them, or will digitally manipulate them out of the scene. I've done that a couple times, but mostly my take is that the power lines are there, they are part of the scene. Take the photo in such a way that the power lines are part of it, in an artistic way. Yeah, still working on that.

Mostly I shoot what I see as best as possible. Physically manipulating the scene before taking the shot to make it better, implies you know exactly what you're doing and trying to get. In some cases the end result is contrived, and thus seems less real to me.

When photography became a thing, painters and other artists were outraged. Photography wasn't an art. There was no skill involved. Even now, some people don't think of photos as art. Lots distinguish between paintings and photographic art, but I think that line is blurrier than most realize. For example, when I was at Resolve the other day, there was a big print of an embroidery project. Big print. More than a project, it was several lifetimes of work. They had carefully set it up to be photographed with the best equipment available, worked on it digitally for realism, and the resulting print is stunning. People looking at that print when framed and on the wall are going to be hard pressed to tell if it's a print or it's the real thing. I could see the texture of the threads and wanted to touch.

Of course I look at the work other photographers produce. I like to look at shots of Calgary, and try to figure out where it was taken and what they did to get the shot. I like to see the play of light on the scene. In some cases I want to replicate that shot, mainly to prove to myself I have the skill to do it. I see how they've used ordinary elements to produce an extraordinary shot, and I try to remember in order to apply it other places. Other times I'll like the shot, but recognize it's not my style.

In a few cases I think my work is comparable, but in most I realize they've gone that extra step, to take a good photo and make it great. There's a little something to take it from 'nice' to 'WOW!' I see them, but I'm not discouraged. I'm inspired. It shows me what a photo could be. I want to recognize when the subject has the potential, and learn to take full advantage to create that wow shot.

Part of this is finding my own photographic 'voice.' So far I haven't found that I'm an X photographer, to the near exclusion of all else. I'm fascinated by light and colour and interesting shapes, and look for them in ordinary scenes. I like it when people say they've never seen something quite that way before.

So that's enough about me, let's talk about you… what do YOU think about me and my photos? I love to get comments on the blog, even if you disagree.

Friday, March 23, 2018

A rosy survivor

Look what emerged from the snow! The rose out front has been buried for what seems like months. The sunny days lately have been melting the mounds quickly. Even after all that, a rose hip is still hanging in there. I'm sure some wildlife will come along soon to nibble it. I found this when I was out shovelling the sidewalk this morning.

Yes, it snowed last night. If living here was easy then everyone would do it and it wouldn't be fun anymore. At least the air isn't hurting my face anymore.

The dread Alberta rose beside the garage has hips as well, but it doesn't get covered the same way. It gets covered in ice sometimes. You may think I've got the camera all tilted, but no. I think the icicles formed, and the branches gradually drooped. The road in the background is level.

There are some other roses emerging from the snow, though they weren't buried. There's a few hips on this one, but they're harder to see.

Are you feeling buried? Hang in there. The snow will go away eventually. Just keep doing your thing, hard as it might be some days. You aren't alone, like the roses. They can't ask for help. You can. Reach out to someone in your family, a friend, or even a professional therapist. Even just that sometimes helps.

If you're the person being reached out to, respond. Take a few minutes and listen to that person. It can make all the difference in the world to them. No, you aren't too busy. You can skip one You Tube video of cute cats.

I posted fairly late last night, and you might have missed two photos of Curtis and a bit of a rant.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Some days I wonder

As I get older I start to balance two conflicting impulses. One is to look at the idiocy of the world, and rage against it, using logic and experience to influence things for the better. The other is to remember that you should never argue with an idiot because he'll drag you down to his level and beat you with experience. That and never get involved in a land war in Asia, or go in against a Sicilian when death is on the line.

It sure seems like idiots are taking over the political system. Trump is by far the best example, but we're growing some here in Canada as well. What baffles me is many people are clearly voting against their own interests. I can't help wondering what's in their water? I mean, why would any woman or black person vote for Donald Trump, excepting those already in the 1% where the money balances out the minor stings (to them) of misogyny and racism? Without their votes he wouldn't be elected.

And stop saying, "but Hillary." Had she been elected I'm pretty sure she would have run a moderately right wing administration, more of the same old, same old, by people who have been running things for several generations at least. Yes, those people are taking way too much along the way, but neither are they rocking the boat so badly as to risk swamping the ship. Plus, as politicians go, near as I can tell, she is about average for dishonesty. Trump is in a league of his own, making our most lying politician (Harper, hands down) look like a Boy Scout chump, yet he seems to be getting away with it, at least so far. You know it's bad when the LAWYERS insist they have two people in the room, so they have some support when he says something didn't happen.

But lets talk about ordinary people. At the open house for the ring road I was eavesdropping on some of the conversations. There were lots of questions, of course. Some could have been answered from the material on line. Some of it was on the material right up there in front of them, though some of the print is really small. Some of the questions involved comparisons between then and now, or now and the future. Lots involved specific details about the plans that were not clearly addressed in the documents available. All of this is fair game. Not everyone has the time or the patience to wade through all the material, some of which is out of date.

Then there were the people complaining about the road, wanting construction to stop. As if. People complaining about not being consulted, and not being mollified by the 50 year history of the road development. (Much of which, I must admit, involved nothing happening over long periods.) Just because they hadn't personally been consulted is no reason to stop. It just demonstrates the need to pay attention to what our elected representatives are up to with our money.

A few of them had "better" ideas for the billions the road will cost, as if that money were handed out on a platter to be spent as desired. One person was on about the bridge over the Elbow River west of the reservoir. You'd think we'd never successfully built a bridge over a river before. One engineer did an eye roll when someone got up in his face talking about big oil, and mega-projects that would bring about the End Times, and that money should be going to build churches. At least the Freemasons or the Trilateral Commission didn't come up, and neither did Mercedes Man and the anti-BRT crowd.

Meanwhile, we are building up to complete road construction chaos here in the SW. It's going to take a lot of patience some days, and I fear someone is going to pop a gasket along the way. I've already seen people shaking their fists and rocking their truck back and forth. There was a BMW driver who insisted on driving down the dotted line on the 14 St to Glenmore west merge lane. As people came up in the right lane (which ends in a couple hundred metres with zero forgiveness), he would swerve over and try to block them from moving forward. Meanwhile he was behind someone, and couldn't move into the next lane left to zoom ahead. There he was, swerving left and right, probably cursing up a storm, and complicating the life of everyone around him, all on too little coffee.

There's even parking lot rage. I was in the pool Tuesday afternoon, for complicated reasons involving a yoga class and visiting my favourite print shop. (Yes, the swim went well!) There were lots of cars because of a synchronized swim event. One woman had come out to her car, and I think she was either dropping off or picking up stuff. Meanwhile someone thought he was about to score a plum parking spot, and was waiting, blocking traffic. There was some bad language shouted out the window when she locked the doors and started walking back in. (Yes, I'm being accurate with pronouns here. No, I don't know if he was driving a BMW.)

Yes, I use Facebook, as do at least some of my readers. It's all locked down, or it was when I last looked. I never respond to polls, or do the copy and paste in support of blah blah blah, or play any of the games. I had to unfriend one person who was badgering me to play and wouldn't take no for an answer. I try to repress the advertising, do very few page likes, put very little of my personal interests on there, and run it though social fixer. It still makes me grind my teeth some day. Yet people are surprised their data was stolen. Duh! If you aren't paying for the product, you are the product.

We watched the first season of Billions over the last week or so. I'm liking the show, enjoying the ambiguity of good guy / bad guy. There's lots of twists and turns, more than a few conflicts of interests, and lots of unethical behaviour. The other night I drifted off to sleep wondering what I'd be like if I was a billionaire. To have more money than I can conceive of spending. What would I do with my time? What would I do with the money? I'd like to think I'd be a force for good, like the surface or public personal of the Bobby Axelrod character. Then again, who knows?

As a reward for chewing through the mini-rant, you get two photos of Curtis.

Embiggen this and look at his eyes.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Springtime brutality

Winter is hard on cars. Days, weeks, and sometimes months of minus WTF takes it's toll on us, and cars.  But spring is brutal. Yesterday a pothole ate one of the tires on our car. I got a couple of K, then it started singing the flat tire flop song. Sigh. They couldn't repair it, so that's a new tire.

It's not just the potholes. There's probably a technical term for them, but the alleys are full of slushy holes. Drive into them and you drop to the bottom of the slush. It might be deeper than your car tire. An inch away could be steel hard ice. I'm guessing a tiny chunk of salt fell off a car, which started the melt, and when it gets some sun there's more local melting. The ice softens up as the water spreads out and down.

There's a spot in the alley behind us where there's a a foot of water in the hole, and ice all around. At night a thin, non car supporting skim of ice will form, but don't be deceived. Drive in and you won't drive out. I try to drain the water away, but look what I have to deal with. That ice wall is 4 to 5 inches thick, high, whatever. Bump!

Our neighbour behind us did much of that chipping, and my wrists thank him. It's a minor consolation that there are some nice reflections to be had, provided a willingness to stand in another puddle.

The amaryllis bloom is still developing. Stay tuned.

Meanwhile we are being whipsawed with nice days and cold nights. There might be snow tonight, disguising the slush holes and potholes even more. At least the air isn't hurting my face anymore.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Fading, and swelling again.

Not me. The Amaryllis. It's bloomed, faded, and there are some new blooms coming in. I've never seen them at this stage. I'll have to watch this. If I was a real pro, I'd set up on of my cameras and take a time lapse of it. There'd probably be a cat photobombing happening, which you guys might like.

Here's the nice bloom from last week.

It's now faded and crumpling. In the mean time, it slimed me as I was getting photos of the nearby hibiscus. Good thing the police didn't happen to see my hands. I don't know if they still use the term 'red-handed', but they would've liked to. Readers from last year know that I'm just as interested in fading blooms, as I am in budding, and full blossom. They're all beautiful in their own way.

The poor hibiscus gets chewed by Celina a lot. We are fortunate that the recent bloom is too high for her.

Monday, March 19, 2018

Macro Monday 24, in my cups

I got looking at an object I use very nearly first thing every day. Learning to use a camera has been great practice in looking at things differently.

The first thing is seeing light differently, appreciating the different qualities it has through the day. Next is thinking about what would make a good shot. Maybe the light makes it, and it would be just an ordinary shot even a few minutes later. Or maybe it's just a compelling subject by itself, or maybe you see it in a new way and you know how to create the conditions to shoot it so it's interesting. Then you think about what lens to put on the camera.

I took this object out to the patio while looking things over. It was only when I put it on the ledge that I realized what could be done. It actually took several tries to get that last shot. Then it was down to the basement for the macro lens, amazed at the colour and texture that was coming up.

Doesn't this look a little like a flower garden? These did not need a lot of pushing in Lightroom once the exposure was right.

Here's the object. The harsh morning light really fired up the reflections and colour. The big version of this really pops, but I'm not sure how well that shows up for you. And yes, that's a bit of a selfie. I didn't see that till I edited it.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

For the Celina fans out there

In furry person, Celina is quite a pretty cat. Very elegant and well spoken. Extremely well spoken on many different subjects, as anyone who has met her knows. Photos, however, don't seem to do her justice. The camera doesn't love her the way it loves Curtis. I'm not sure why. She's actually a difficult subject, always turning her head, or giving me the squinty-eyed look when I have the camera in hand.

Often when she snoozes her head is tucked down into her tail, or into the lap she's in, which doesn't make for a good photo. I don't think I've ever seen her snooze on her back like Curtis does. She typically doesn't stroll from place to place, she darts, and it gets her nearly stepped on sometimes.

Lately she's been taking to eating her food really slowly. Curtis bolts his food then comes along to push her away to finish hers. She's such a tiny kitty we don't want to see her miss any meals, so we separate them, or stand there and watch. She will slowly crunch away, looking at hime between bites. Poor Curtis. A few times I've just let them do their thing. I figure if she's hungry she'll eat faster.

Here's 3 recent photos that are a bit better than average for her.

Friday, March 16, 2018

What happens under bridges

Most of us never think about bridges, other than crossing them on the way to where ever we're going. Almost nobody thinks about the underside of them, but sometimes they make for interesting photos.

This is one of the older bridges in Calgary, and the lowest. It's only 2.0 m clearance (6'6"). There are several signs about the lack of overhead, and yet there are still mishaps. On the day I took this, a tall cube van was doing an 11 point turn on one side of it, while drivers going either way waited patiently. That's better than the alternative for all involved. The driver had the grace to give the other drivers an embarrassed wave when he finished. Several people have tried to drive bigger vehicles under there and it worked out about like you'd expect.

There's a famous bridge in Durham county, North Carolina. It's informally called the can opener. Google 11foot8 and prepare to be amused. Thats 3.56 m, so I guess it's just high enough that people think their vehicle will fit. I wonder how many drivers have been fired over the years.

The graffiti is what caught my eye. It's actually fairly far from the path, and the river is lower than the path. I'm just guessing that some kid either scrambled out on the girders and painted with one hand, or they somehow used a ladder.

This was meant to be an arty shot of icy reflections. If there'd been 3 rocks in an artistic triangle I'd have  been a lot happier with it, but I wasn't about to hump 2 more rocks onto the bridge just to drop them.

You can see that same rock off in the distance. This is the pedestrian bridge over the Elbow, between 9th ave and the Bow river. I like the nice clean lines, unlike the cluttered mess of the first bridge. The only difficulty was essentially standing on some homeless person's front porch. There is a bit of an alcove in the bridge structure where someone has been sleeping.

I like that there is space for people to take in the view without getting in the way of people that are just passing through. Looking to the left in this photo is where Elbow joins the Bow. I suspect that there are some nice photos to be had there, if the light is right. The ones I got were blah.

There's lots of bridge construction happening. Closest to home are new bridges over Fish Creek  and the Elbow for the ring road, along with lots of interchange bridges. Crowchild trail is being widened and about time too, that's been a major bottleneck for decades. Macleod trail has a recently completed (I think) double diamond bridge at 162nd, and a new bridge for the ring road.

Construction is supposed to start on 9th Ave over the Elbow going into Inglewood, which is going to be interesting to see how they do it. Unlike the recently opened zoo bridge, they can't close off 9th Ave for two years of construction. Can they? There's some vacant land nearby, maybe they'll build the new bridge there, then one weekend remove the old bridge and lift the new one in place. That would be cool to watch. Let's just hope the engineers do their sums correctly, and it doesn't turn out like that pedestrian bridge over Shaganappi Trail that was 11 cm too short.

It's not really a bridge, but there's lots of work happening on the deck of the Glenmore dam so the bike path is closed for a couple years. It's not really a bridge, but there's a BRT underpass being built at 14 St and 90 Ave.  Those are just the ones I know of off hand, without doing any research. There are probably more, and that's not even talking about road widening and other construction projects.

In the mean time, getting anywhere is going to take longer. For obvious reasons the construction companies restrict access to the building site, and that means lane closures or restrictions. This just sets off the road rage idiots, who feel that it's all happening just to inconvenience them personally. It's probably going to surprise a few distracting driving idiots who think they can do their normal social media thing as they drive and realize too late the lanes have changed. I feel for the people around them.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

The less said about that, the better

After the nice swim, let's just skip over Tuesday entirely, shall we, and stretch the skip  till the lovely snooze with the Curtis soundtrack Wednesday afternoon. You don't want to know.

Then Linda was trying a new recipe. It tasted really good, but there are improvements to be made, she says. I managed to catch a moment of the cauliflower pizza prep. Rather than a wheat based crust, it used riced cauliflower. That's the piece that needs some work.

While that was in progress I was out doing a little bit more ice chipping after the snooze, trying to get as much water off the street before it snows more.

Yes, more. They are forecasting 10 to 15 cm of snow today. All the snow so far has been light and fluffy, but this is probably going to be wet and heavy. Good thing I don't have any outside plans for tomorrow. Well, except shoveling. Lots of that.

Here's what it looks like Wednesday evening after a beautiful sunny day.

The alleys are going to be ugly. That's all soft and slushy, and I sure hope it gets cold before it snows.

By contrast, this ice is hard as steel. I could see some subtle yellowish highlights in the ice from the setting sun, but they don't really show up quite the same here.

As of Thursday morning, there is a light fog, ominous clouds, and it's just beginning to snow. Here we go again.

Anybody have any experience with big digital frames? One of my buddies wants to get a print of the white peony, (yay!) and I was thinking of getting one done as well. Linda has a small digital frame, maybe 10" diagonally she kept on her desk at work. We got to thinking a big one might be a nice way to display my good photos. At some point you get into TV territory, and I don't much care what it's called, as long as it can cycle through photos. Suggestions?

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

More from a Fish Creek ramble

These are from a walk at the beginning of the month, on a day that looked like spring. However it was playing with us, since it snowed lots more. In the meantime I was happy to tramp through Fish Creek between Bridge 2 and 3, especially since I was wearing traction aides.

They were totally necessary, since the ice on this hillside path was the only stable thing to walk on. I don't know where I'd have gone if a bike appeared. Yes, there were lots of bike track on that path. Right beside the ice was slippery mud, with frozen ground underneath, and a long way down.

I've looked up toward this path many times, wondering where a daring bike trail came from. Now I know. It's wonderful to still be discovering new trails after all this time. No doubt there will be many more over the summer.

Along here might have some nice sunrise or sunset shots.

I doubt this bit of the creek is anywhere near so photogenic now, with the snow melting in the warm days we are swimming in. The roads are a sloppy enchilada, and that's where they've been plowed. There's some pretty fearsome ruts on the rest of the streets.

Remember that one atypical photo from a few days back? Yeah. Today's the day.