Friday, April 30, 2021

The garden art

The garden is emerging from winter. The daffodils are out now. Some of the roses are putting out new buds. The famous Dread Alberta Rose by the garage is leading the way, like usual.

The garden art has been installed for another year, though some of it lives outdoors year round, and shows up in other photos, so not a surprise there.

Of the Day




Tuesday, April 27, 2021

The bees are back

Regular readers know that I like to photograph bees. It's quite a challenge with a regular lens, and gets harder as the magnification goes up. These are the first shots of the year, and it's pretty obvious I'm out of practice. Stay tuned, there will be more, especially once the mint plant gets going. The bees love that, and that purple shows up so well on camera.

We try to have a bee friendly garden, so it's nice to see them out. We worry there isn't much for them to feed on so early in the year. The hyacinths are just about the only blooms on the go just now. A couple of daffodils are just about ready to burst out. They're a little tougher to photograph now as Linda has had to put the green netting on to protect the tulips from the rabbits and deer.

Of the Day
Same chunk as here, but different composition. I think I had been intending to merge them into a wider image, and either I forgot, or it didn't work out.

And in fact, because I'm almost retired again, I went back and tried. Here you are. Several panorama merges that hadn't worked out then, now do since I put more memory in the computer.

Celina, another of the recent series of her writhing in the sun.


Artsy, not a shell.

Sunday, April 25, 2021

Sunday morning blither

More snow. Enough of that. The little yellow crocuses are closed up shop waiting for nicer days, and Linda is looking over the front beds, encouraging the plants to hang in there.

It's kind of funny. Weird almost. We've both had our first AZ shots two weeks ago. We aren't sure when the second shot will happen. Supposedly we are mostly protected against the virus, but we're behaving like we have not been vaccinated, just in case. 

More and more people here are getting vaccinated, but it seems like I hear about more and more cases. We are deep into a third wave here, with the number of new cases still above the 7 day moving average, and most of them are the new variants. We are somewhat more worried about catching it now than we were a year ago. Other than our house, the only indoor spaces for us these days involves shopping for food.

A year ago! I don't think anyone dreamed we would still be here now. And yet, here we are, and there are still people denying that COVID is a serious problem. More than a dozen Alberta politicians are publicly denouncing the various measures as being too harsh, while the science suggests that the measures are about half-way to adequate and implemented too late. Nobody knows how big the anti-vaxx problem is going to be going forward, but anecdotal evidence suggests they will ensure the virus survives and continues to mutate.

The current TV binge is still Grey's Anatomy. We just finished season 4 and going strong. With the library closed there is no new supply of books. I've been doing some comfort food reading of Georgette Heyer's regency romances. That might sound strange, but she's an awesome writer.

In a little while I'll head downstairs to bottle another wine kit. Next week I'm off to Red Deer for the remaining kits in our order. I've been playing with lighting, glass, and the kit boxes, but have not yet achieved a satisfactory result. This is merely one of the ideas.

Of the Day

Celina, from several photos taken the other day as she writhed in the sun. But first a serendipity from 2018.

Thursday, April 22, 2021

Once again

Here we are again, another round of summer, winter, and kind of spring. Day before yesterday was warm enough to go hiking in K Country wearing a light sweatshirt and traction aids. Yesterday was warm enough to barbecue both lunch and supper, though we didn't actually eat out on the patio. It was warm enough that we could have, but the patio furniture is still covered in winter guck and needs to be pressure washed. Today it's snowing off and on, with a raw wind making it not nice at all to be outside.

The hike with Sean was fun, though I didn't take all that many photos. The footing was treacherous enough to make following the creek rule a good idea. What's that rule, you ask? Wading through the creek in search of photos are two completely separate activities. One wades, or one looks for or takes photos. Never both at the same time, unless you want to find out how waterproof your camera is. I'll have to go back there when the weather is nicer, even though it's a popular spot, and likely to be overrun with bike riders.

Sean had some problems with his traction aids along the way. At one point I hung out at a picnic table while he backtracked a bit to find one that somehow fell off his boot. For a time there was complete silence. No human made noises. No wind in the trees. No birds. It was lovely.

So far the flowers in the front beds seem to be hanging in there. 

One of the newest flowers, blooming in between snowfalls. It doesn't look so happy this morning.

Construction has started on the sound wall beside the new highway. I feel for the people living along the berm. The next couple months are going to be noise and dust, just as the weather is getting nice. They've been living with construction for several years now. It must seem endless. I'll be taking photos from this vantage point over the next little while.

In binging news, we finished off season 3 of Grey's Anatomy. We cheered at how the wedding scene ended. The main show writer seems to be working from the rule 'what's the worst thing that could happen to this character?' So far we've been thoroughly entertained.

Of the Day
And because it's such a crappy day out, I wanted a reminder of the sunny warmth of New Zealand. 



Front Bed
From the 19th.

Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Answering some questions

 I'd been pointed to the Sara Harley's blog a while ago. She is several steps ahead of me, photographically speaking, and I've found it interesting to follow along. In her most recent blog she answered some reader questions, and I commented, and she asked how I'd respond to those same questions. Fair enough. Here goes.

Question 1: Silence, music, podcast, or something else when you create / work?

Mostly, I'm a silence kind of guy, especially if it's something I need to concentrate on. About the only exception is if I'm doing a block of photo editing where the photos are all similar, or are in groups of similarity, like event photos. They will be seen on social media and are not expected to be fine art. I'll do lens corrections (unless it's really dark or high ISO), and the Lightroom auto button. That gets me most of the way there, then each photo will get cropped, and settings tweaked. Any big problems will get fixed, but like I said, it's not fine art where every pixel has to be perfect. For this, some classic rock that I'm familiar with will give me the drive. One of my favourite tracks for this is Sina's cover version of In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida by Iron Butterfly. It's long, so fewer repeats, and has an amazing groove.  Or CCR's cover of Heard it Through the Grapevine. I've never got the podcasting love. 

Question 2: What's your favorite part of the process as you create / write?

For writing, the favourite part is asking my characters to explore a particular scene I've had some ideas about. Or maybe they had the ideas and kicked them up to me. I love noodling it around, trying different versions, and writing it out in my head. Figuring out where the scene goes, and how it ties in with other scenes is an intellectual challenge. Getting the exact sequence of words is fun. I really like the rush that comes when a big block of text actually gets written.

Photographically, I love getting out with my camera. Sometimes I'll take one specific lens and I'll typically only 'see' shots I can get with that lens. I've usually got a pretty good idea of what I'm looking for. Other times I might have a couple lenses, and I'll be looking for interesting compositions. I'll swap lenses as necessary. 

Event shooting is fun, and I miss it. Figuring out where to be for a race is straightforward, but the timing has to be razor sharp. Doing the community events is fun, especially trying to anticipate where the action will be and getting out in front of it. I've often had one eye looking through the viewfinder to shoot, while using the other eye to look for the next shot. 

The actual editing in Lightroom is ok. Some people can play forever, going down an endless rabbit hole of edits. I'm more get it done because most are what I think of as social media quality. Some are much nicer photos, and if I was going to print them, or someone wanted to buy it to print, I'd make another pass through the editing and look really carefully.

Question 3: Where do you do your craft, and what's that space like?

The writing happens on a laptop wherever I happen to be sitting in the house or out on the patio. The photo editing computer (a big iMac a few years old now) is in a room with a north facing window. Reflections are sometimes a problem. It sits on an IKEA desk that is usually quite messy.

Question 4: How do you choose who to follow? (Blogs, Instagram, Facebook, etc.)

I'm trying to cut back on Facebook time. I follow a particular photo group, and if I can see that some specific people have posted, I'll look at them. I try not to scroll down through the feed, since there's too many sponsored posts and that annoys me. I have to personally know someone now before friending them.

Instagram is the main social media if I've met up with another photographer. It's safe to exchange Instagram accounts, and this gives you a sense of what they're like as a photographer. This is how I keep track of a few people I've met in New Zealand. I'll follow someone if their photos are interesting. My problem is that it's a crappy way to display photos, and most of the people don't seem to be interested in looking at good photos. A cute photo will get more likes than a quality portrait. Colour more than black and white. I talked to one well known photographer about this, and he said he knew perfectly well how to take photos that would get lots of Instagram likes, and it bored him to tears. I follow some performers and would love to collaborate on a project with them. Once COVID is a memory I'll do up some proposals.

For blogs I'll put almost anyone on a blog evaluation list, and I'll check in on it pretty regularly. Someone that posts at least somewhat regularly, and is interesting will make it to my blog roll. Periodically I'll prune the bottom of the blog roll. I figure if someone hasn't blogged in a long time, they've moved on to other things. I'd like to follow more blogs, but it's getting harder to find good non-commercial blogs that interest me. 

Question 5: Why do you write and post on your blog?   

And that is the $64 million dollar question! This started as a fitness/triathlon blog, with occasional rants and commentary, and over the last several years it became more of a photography blog. Sort of. I don't follow the blogging 'rules'. It used to be that every morning there would be at least several blogs to read, sometimes a dozen. There were lots of comments. Some of the comment threads went from one blogger to another's blog, and maybe to another. Now, blogging seems to be dying. 

I won't say I've got writer's block when it comes to blogging, but I'm finding it harder to find the text for a blog. There's lots of photos, especially if you're a fan of driftwood or flowers, but I think there needs to be more than just a bunch of photos for a blog. The work contract has sucked up a lot of energy over the last year, but I'm on the home stretch. I can feel the battery recharging, and maybe once I get started on my projects I'll feel more creative energy for the blog.

Mostly I write for me. I like writing. Blogging is an easy way to display photos and chat about what I'm up to. Sometimes writing a blog is how I find out what I think of a particular issue. My readership is small, but loyal, and the comments are fun. I'll be doing it for a while yet, I think.

Linda strolling another New Zealand beach. I did lots of thinking on the beach, and can't wait to go back.

Of the Day


Artsy x2 because serendipity.

Sunday, April 18, 2021

How does that go? April showers...

Here we are, once again. Snow. Still, we need the moisture. It's been bone dry here during our nice weather. I was just out looking over the garden. The little blue swills don't look happy at all. The hyacinths are just starting to bloom and are sitting there with a resigned expression. The yellow crocus have firmly closed up shop for the day. Some little blue and white flowers that I don't have a good photo of yet are looking very cranky. The main clump of hens and chicks is now buried. The tulips and daffodils are still growing taller every day. The roses haven't done anything. I can't see the white peony stalks.

Still, we need the moisture, and it's likely to soak into the ground. We haven't set up the rain barrels yet, though it would be nice to capture it. We're pretty sure there's going to be some nights where it's well below zero.

Work is quiet just now. I'm getting some time to think about my own projects, on my own time, at my own speed. Some of it is photo related projects that have been on hold a bit, and can now (well, sort of, damn you COVID) move forward.

But mainly I've been thinking about characters. The characters in the various things I'm writing, or working on writing, or editing, or just noodling, whatever you want to call it. Plus their relationships to the other characters, and the timeline of the whole darned thing. Just lately I've been musing some news that Les and Ceridwen got, and how it affects their relationship with Belinda, and what happens about then to Belinda's sister. None of it's written down yet, or even storyboarded, but the characters have been having fun trying different roles.

Like many other people we've been binging TV on Netflix lately. We've never watched much TV, though that's been changing. Some shows are really good. One example was the new Battlestar Galactica. I remembered the horrific 70's version, so full of promise, so badly executed. Even the science fiction fans were embarrassed about it. So when the new version came out, how good could it be? Except it was, and eventually we drank the kool-aid. We took to getting discs out of the library and eventually got a deal on the whole set. Seeing Katee Sackhoff in Big Bang Theory reminded me that I've been meaning to rewatch it.

Along the way we discovered other shows that tickled our fancy. Elementary and Sherlock both came along at about the same time. We turned out to be Elementary fans, and think the show got progressively better over the run, while Sherlock got progressively worse. Curtis was a huge Elementary fan and loved watching it with us, while other shows he would often amuse himself doing whatever cats do when their humans aren't around.

Lucifer was a happy chance. We watched the first one and got hooked. Silly and a bit over-wrought in places, but it was fun watching Tricia Helfer show up, and we're eagerly awaiting the last half of season 5.

We were scrolling through the Neflix suggestions the other night after watching a dreadful SF movie, and Grey's Anatomy came up. What the heck, we thought. We'd heard of it, and thought putting in 45 minutes before bed to scope out episode 1 was fine. You know how that turned out, since it seems everyone has watched at least some episodes of the show. Hooked. We just finished season 2. We're only 15 years behind the times, which is about par for the course for me on current trends. There are several hundred episodes for us to go, if we stay the course. This is beyond a weekend binge. We'll have to pace ourselves.

But what makes shows compelling, at least until they jump the shark? Yes, there's all the exciting action. Will that ambulance patient make it through the radical risky surgery to walk out of the hospital? Will Sherlock and Joan solve the murder? Will that rag tag band of humanity escape the Cylons and find a home?

But really, I think it's the characters. If you don't care what happens to the characters, you won't watch the show no matter how explosive the action. You'll put that book down and pick up another. You might not like a character, but for whatever reason you are emotionally invested. Maybe they remind you of you at a time in your life, and you want to see if they make the same changes you did. Maybe you're in love with McDreamy. Maybe something they say or do just hooks at your soul.

Writers would give non-vital organs to be able to reliably create characters that hook the audience like that. Just making someone quirky doesn't do it. A left handed albino tuba playing vet specializing in rhinoceroses might be quirky and memorable, but will it hook the audience? Probably not, because it will seem put on and fake. 

And once you have a great character, you need to introduce them to the reader/watcher. Reveal a bit, but not too much at once. Show the start of their relationships in a plausible way, but with some barrier or conflict. Like-ability is one fairly reliable way of hooking the audience. If a character is someone you could see yourself being friends with, you're more likely to keep watching. And yet some unlikable characters are so compelling. Many people love a good bad-boy or want to see them get their comeuppance.

 Is Grey's Anatomy realistic in terms of hospital behaviours? No. This is a drama series, not a medical procedural. I'm pretty sure that in any hospital, for almost all the time, the people are either too busy, or too tired, to be off shagging in obscure rooms. But it does make for interesting character development because shagging is more interesting than writing reports and doing lab tests. You want the audience asking themselves, will they or won't they? It's worked for 17 seasons. That's a huge testament to the skill of the writers and the actors.

Meanwhile, at the moment for us, we're waiting to see if McDreamy finds the stones to tell his wife the news. How Izzy copes. If George screws it up.

In the yesterday was so nice department, here's where a sound wall is going, soon, they say. You can just see the stakes in the ground where it will go. I'll probably visit this spot a bunch over the coming weeks to see how they're doing.

That was during a walk yesterday. 20+C. T shirt and shorts. Just to remind you, today it's snowing.

Of the Day

New Zealand, of course, in one of the eco-sanctuaries. 

Front Bed



Friday, April 16, 2021

The white peony is getting started

Spring is really on a tear here. It's been warm and sunny, and there's plants exploding out of the ground. I think the flower of the day is going to have to become a regular thing now. I started flowery Friday last year in late May, and was behind all summer. I might start earlier this year. 

This is the white peony just poking the first exploratory stalks out. Can't wait to see what it produces this year as it tries for Image of the Year.

There's hyacinths almost ready to bloom. But first a serendipity tree from New Zealand, in the Dunedin city gardens. This is one of the first photos from our 2020 trip.

I was out for a walk yesterday, hoping to visit Fish Creek on the opposite side from where I was last week. However, there is construction. They're building a large pad in the river underneath 22X. No idea why. I went elsewhere and parked, hoping to walk into that location but no, the path under the bridge is entirely closed. This is the view from just below where I parked. That drab half dead grass look is why landscapes are so difficult this time of year. At least one of my regular readers knows exactly where this was taken.

In a more technical note, the Feed Burner thingie. I've never understood it, but I'm pretty sure some of my readers get my blog through it. In any case, it's going away in July, if I understand a recent notice correctly. So if that's you, and you haven't already, you might want to sign up for my own email notification service. Send me your email, and you get prompt notification that a new blog is published, along with some idea of what you are getting into, and often some extra tidbits.

Of the Day


Front Bed