Wednesday, July 31, 2019

The micro-landscapes of Fish Creek

A few weeks ago I talked about micro-landscapes and aspect ratio. You need not go back and review, because it was mostly about aspect ratio, and this is mostly about micro-landscapes. But who knows where my writing will go? Certainly not me. If you feel the need to go back and refresh your memory, I'll hang out here till you come back.

When most people think of landscapes, they think of a sweeping view, a dramatic sky, mountains in the distance, rolling hills, mist creating layers, some water for reflections, something interesting in the foreground, maybe some leading lines, and vibrant colour that makes you want to walk into the photo and never come back.

But I'm thinking that if you frame it right, and play with scale, and think about composition, one can still create a landscape in a space that is only a few inches across. I was out for a walk in Fish Creek yesterday and found a few that are on the road to what I'm thinking of. As with the driftwood, these are all as found. See what you think.






6. This one is the least micro as shot, and might be too big. If I could have moved off to my left a bit and composed more carefully it might have worked better.





There are a number of other photos from the walk, many of which got converted to B&W. I was actually in the creek several times. The water is running clear now, and is the perfect temperature for wet photo rambling.

The time has come to muse about Image of the Month. Lots of choice.

Peony of the Day (June 30)

Driftwood of the Day

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

The cats are restless this morning

Sometimes there are polite interrogatory meows in the morning as we get up. Sometimes less polite. By the time I'm up and making coffee, they have escalated to firm demands to be fed. Now! Curtis gets some wet food warmed up and some crunchies added. He likes the crunchies more, so I'm a bit light on the supply. Celina gets just the crunchies (unless it's a freshly opened can and it's the morning) and she leads the way downstairs. That way she can crunch in peace till she's had as much as she wants.

There is a temporary lull. Coffee making proceeds.

Then Curtis hustles downstairs to wait for the door to open. There are more demands. Sometimes Celina will tell us she's done, and there's usually a few crunchies left over. Curtis loves to eat clean up, he's such a helpful cat that way.

The coffee production is well underway by then, and by the time it's poured peace usually has had happened. I'll browse the internet and sip. Depending on the season and time of day I might go out to the patio. Yes to be outside, but also to escape cat nagging. Sometimes they tell us (me) that breakfast is inadequate, and they want more attention, or for me to get the other human up and out to pay attention to them.

I used to be in the same boat as many other people. Morning as a race to get up, get done whatever needed to get done, and get out the door to get to work on time. Morning when we just want to be in bed for a few more minutes, when we have to cope with our sluggish selves, children, pets, recalcitrant breakfast production equipment, and traffic, and for what? To get to a specific place, usually by a specific time, to be with people you probably don't like much, especially first thing in the morning, to do stuff you probably don't particularly want to do. No wonder we look old after a few years of that.

Now, most days, I wake up when I want to wake up. Which is still about the same time as always, usually between 3am and 6am. The difference is that I can lie there quietly thinking about things if I want. Or I can get up and read if I want.

Or I can start coffee. I enjoy the routine. Start water boiling. (Feed the cats!) Decide which coffee to grind. I usually have 3 bags of beans from Crickle Creek coffee on the go; a dark, a medium, and whatever coffee of the month is. This time it's a lovely India Mysore. I'll weigh and grind the beans, getting the French press and mugs prepped. A few minutes later the cats are fed and the water boils. Pour over the grounds, enjoying the smell and billows of steam.

Four minutes later, pour into a mug, and ahhhhhh! I'll usually drink one mug, then make some breakfast and eat it with another. Sometimes I'll have some ideas about writing and I'll work on that. Sometimes, more rarely, I'll have a photo project on the go that still needs editing.

There are days, of course, that I need to get up and get going. Like to get to Repsol for a swim after the swim kid swoosh, and before all the rest of the people show up. There's a sweet spot in there, (no, I'm not going to tell you what time, because then you'll show up and it will be a crowd, but at least we could chat in the hot tup so I suppose it wouldn't be a total loss.) for a swim where I almost always have a lane to myself, and sometimes the entire pool. Much more rarely I'll have a morning appointment.

Which while I'm thinking about it, the swim is slowly coming back after the 2 months off. Very slowly. It always starts good, but falls apart much sooner than I would like. The particular muscles involved seem to be getting lazier.

I think part of is that some of those same muscles are involved in using a camera. I'd never really realized how heavy a camera and good lenses are till after the first race. My shoulders and arms were tired.

By way of not changing the topic, I note that Ironman Canada is back in Penticton after a few years in Whistler. Most of you probably know that I'm coming up on 9 years since I did it. 10 years ago I was in serious training and went to volunteer and sign up. I know some of the people that are signing up again, and good for them. Not me. No way. Seeing the recovery times involved for when I push on the swim, and that was my best thing, I don't think there is enough recovery time after a hard bike, even without working. Plus, I don't have the fire in the belly to get out there and train train train anymore. That ship has sailed.

Last night we watched Elizabeth the Golden Age. Recently we watched The Crown. We've watched many other shows involving royalty, The Tudors, The Lion in Winter, Henry V, and many others that don't come to mind instantly. I wonder what they were really like at home out of the public eye, if they got a chance to do what they wanted to do, and what that might be.  If they ever got to sip their favourite drink and be themselves. I'm pretty sure there wasn't much of that; there's always someone bringing them a problem.

Work was often like that, someone bringing me a problem. I was fortunate in that it was often a problem I enjoyed solving, but sometimes not. Now I'm in the position of deciding for myself what problems I want to solve. Being in the well off first world, my problems (thankfully) are not where my next meal is coming from, or where I'll sleep tonight.

Now I mostly get to find my own problems. I think that if you aren't finding and dealing with problems, the universe will send them to you, trying to be helpful and all, to keep you from becoming bored. Sometimes it does anyway, apparently just for fun. Some of every day is devoted to avoiding future problems by being active today. The last little while has been somewhat less active for a variety of reasons we need not get into, but more recently I'm trying to get more regular about activity. Swim 3x a week. I've started to track daily steps and need to pick it up a bit. I've taken the hybrid out for several rides, and that's been fun enough to do more often.

Sometimes I think of great big important problems, like ridding the world of reptilian politicians, but my problem there is looking at the bigger picture. It might be that they are put here to force society to respond by becoming better than them. Sort of like a predator prey relationship, where the predator culls the herd of the weakest elements. It sure seems like the weakest elements of society are identifying themselves through the comments section, complete with ignorance of the issue at hand, and astounding grammatical and spelling illiteracy.

In some of my worlds, I'm tempted to have the voting booth be manned by cranky ex-schoolteachers of a certain age, who assign each prospective voter a topic. They have to handwrite a short essay on that topic. It isn't marked by the position on the topic, it's marked by how clearly and accurately you can state your position, with marks deducted for grammatical and spelling errors, and failure handed out for gross distortions of fact. (The elephant, a Federal or Provincial responsibility, for example.)

Sometimes it's small problems, like how to stay on top of the lawn jungle between daily rain showers. But usually it's deciding which of several choices is the thing to do today. Which, since they are all things I'd like to do, is a sweet choice. Decisions, decisions.

Let's start you off with a hit of colour. The ant is easy to find.

I like this second one better for composition reasons, but that ant is so cute I couldn't resist.

From a walk beside the Bow the other day. I had the wrong lens for bird photos, and was just getting close enough to get a shot with the lens I had. The heron was giving me the eye, but didn't seem upset. Then someone let their dog off the leash. Sigh.

You didn't think a walk near water would go by without capturing some distressed wood, did you?

Peony of the Day (June 30)

Driftwood of the Day

Monday, July 29, 2019

Macro Monday 31, flowers and almost a bee

Yesterday was a lovely day for photography, and yet a bit frustrating at the same time. Why? I missed composition by THAT MUCH several times. Lots of shots I didn't have the right lens. As I was just getting close enough anyways, some idiot let their dog off the leash and it frightened the heron. Then when I did get the right lens, the spider hid from me.

There I was, prowling around the garden in the evening sun to see if there were any nice shots. The light was on a flower that looks a bit like a sunflower, but more spiky. I had a thought for a shot, but 25-105 wasn't the right lens, although trying it showed me a spider web I hadn't seen before. Then with the macro lens I was trying to get dialled in on the spider in the web, but then it hid. So you'll have to console yourself with the web and some spider snacks. Only later did I think of misting the web so it would show up better.

Technically, since this is a peony, it could be the Peony of the Day, but then that would break my rules about that feature. But what I was thinking as I shot it, was sending it to my buddy Julie as a hair photo and asking if her products could help. (I'm so bad.)

This, too, is a peony.

A bee at about 2x, in flight, checking out a flower.

Lily spots.

Lily petal tip

A bee stalking some flowers. At first I wasn't going to edit this one, but then I realized the flowers are nice and sharp, and maybe the bee is more menacing (or as menacing as a friendly hard working bee can be) out of focus. (Out of focus only by THAT MUCH!)  Another mm or 2 and it would have been perfect.

All this is proof that it takes lots  of work, and lots of 'failed' photos to get the good ones. Then again, if it was easy everybody would do it and it wouldn't be any fun anymore.

Peony of the Day (June 29)

Driftwood of the Day

Sunday, July 28, 2019

A Sunday morning meditation

I am sitting in our back patio. Drinking coffee on a beautiful warm morning. Alternating between reading 'Behind the Camera' by Paul Lowe, and reviewing blog comments. My buddy Janice has been busy with other things lately, and is catching up. In between all that, this view.

And yes, I'm trying to ignore construction noises in the background. I'll think about the clank clank clank, and the beep beep beep, and mentally edit them out. There are also cat howls, since they are alone in the house. It's more melodic than the construction, but I'm trying to block it out as well.

So I'm thinking about photographs, and photography, and photographers, and photograph viewers, and photograph subjects. Plus shoes - and ships - and sealing wax - Of cabbages - and kings, but we aren't going there, at least not yet. I'm easily distracted.

It turns out I've done a lot of people photography lately. The Green Fools theatre intensive workshop was a major example, but doing a Family fun day and a Stampede breakfast and a senior's brunch for my local community association were big photo days as well. People are turning out to be more fun to photograph than I thought.

I've narrowed it down to two groups that are the most fun. Kids from about 4 or so up to teenagers, and people older than about 30. Why? Kids are on the move, which makes them a challenge, and things are still new for them and they haven't learned to edit their faces. By the time most people are 30 they've got a bit of experience with the ups and downs of life and it begins to show at least in their eyes, and sometimes on their faces. Seniors can have fascinating faces, and you usually get a sense of their life just from looking at them. The others? Around me babies scream and poop. Pass. Teenagers are mostly pretentious posers with bland boring faces. Pass. 20-somethings are a bit of a mix, some are getting to be interesting, but most are wearing a smug look that does not photograph well.

The workshop was a major revelation for me. Mostly people go about their lives with a neutral expression, trying not to show their inner turmoil. Part of the art of the photographer is to catch such people in a moment where we can see at least a hint of that turmoil.

When I started shooting triathlons I got to see people being focussed on the task at hand, usually preparing their gear, but with time to kill before the start. This leads to an interesting mix of expressions. There are some posed shots, but I don't think these are as successful. (I could digress into the resting bitch face story, but it's been told in other blog posts.)

The theatre people are being trained to project emotion. Not just with their faces, but with their entire being. Let me tell you, this makes for dramatic photographs, even in a bright white space, with the participants wearing workout gear or motley clothes. (Did you see what I did there?)

I wanted to make a first pass editing them fairly quickly so I could pass along a link to the participants. There's already been some activity there. Now, or soon, I want to take a more reflective look through them, all 6,000 of them, to see if I missed any good ones, and to think about what works and why. Clearly this isn't going to happen quickly, but I think it's important for me to grow as a photographer.

If one counted and categorized all my photographs, I suspect you'd find most are of flowers, distressed wood, 'there I was and this is what you'd see', landscapes, and people. There's other things too, of course, but I'm talking of the broad brush picture here. Some very small number of them are at least on the rocky path to artistic, whatever that means in your mind.

In my mind it means something beyond a documentary photo. For me it's easy to take a photograph of something, in focus, in context, with natural colours, such that anyone can clearly say (after yawning) that's a photograph of a rose, or a cat, or a mountain landscape, or whatever.

Now if I take the photograph differently, such that while it still might be obvious what it is, it's also more. The light is better, the composition changes the context, there's something about it that makes the eye linger. Maybe it catches detail not normally seen, like the fine hairs on a flower, or pollen on a bee.

The  technique might change the photograph so dramatically that nobody knows what the actual subject was. It becomes an abstract work of colour and form. There's been a couple of those recently, and they're lots of fun. These are actually quite difficult. One can't really decide to go shoot an abstract. It happens suddenly, when your photographer eye realizes the play of light on a surface could be captured by the camera in a particular way to get a hoped for result, and with any luck you have the camera in hand or at least nearby.

Now the question is becoming, what do I want to take photographs of? The flowers are handy, at least during certain times of the year, but I'm trying to move beyond taking ordinary photographs. I'm aiming for the extraordinary, what with the light, or the water drops, the composition, or whatever.

While I took many beautiful photographs in New Zealand, and I'm looking forward to taking many beautiful photographs in Yukon this fall, I don't believe that one has to travel to the ends of the world to get beautiful photographs. There's beauty everywhere, the trick is to find it and capture it.

For me, the finding part is to slow down and look more carefully. I'm getting better at that. But then I sometimes rush the actual photography part, and when I look at the photographs on the computer I'm disappointed that I didn't quite get the photograph I wanted. Sometimes I didn't nail the focus, but most often there's a subtle (or not) goof on composition. Cropping can fix some things, but not everything. It amazes me sometimes what I see on the computer afterward that I didn't see when it was in front of my face.

The book shows photographs, talks about it and the photographer, and gives technical tips related to either the photograph, or the body of the photographer's work. There's some interesting things to try, to be scheduled into my busy life in retirement. I'm about 99% sure now that I'm not going to take another office job contract. I've started making plans to retire my company next year in an orderly financial way.

As a digression, I've been a bit surprised to find that financial planning at this time of life is even more difficult than while working. Up till just recently, the discussion is quite simple, how much to put into various forms of savings, and once you've accumulated a bit of a nest egg, to review performance. Now I have to decide how much to live on, which is driven by the question none of us knows the answer to, which is, how long will you need money? I have to think about taxes and income brackets and fees. Totally a first world problem.

Now I'm done my coffee, and the burst of writing creativity. Time to brave the cat horde and insert the photographs and publish. Have a fun Sunday!

Peony of the Day (June 29)
Look for the ant. In fact, you should do that for many of the peony photos.

Driftwoood of the Day

Saturday, July 27, 2019

All green, few rocks

Here's a few more from the Sheep River valley tour. Yes, it was a productive day for photography. There are some peony shots from the morning of that day that will show up anon.

Pity the clouds obscure the mountains, but I think it gives more emphasis to the green on green and subtle lines of the hills and vegetation.

This is one of those shots that is deceptively simple. It's easy to get the flowers and water drops sharp, and all the background to be a blur, but I wanted to get the background only a bit blurred to give a sense of the space the flowers are living in.

A subsurface creature peeking out.

Dodging a great deal of cow poop to get to these bits of wood.

Peony of the Day
From June 29. I love the subtle bits of red and yellow in with the white, and the tiny bits of decay starting on some of the petals.

Driftwood of the Day

Friday, July 26, 2019