Sunday, October 31, 2021

Odds and Ends

Halloween. Here we are. I'm not much of a Halloween person. I had been looking forward to photographing the community Halloween event, but we were advised to cancel it. What pissed us off is that we got two very different suggestions from different arms of the provincial government. One said, sure go ahead no problem. The other, the one that uses actual health data, said no it's a social gathering limited to 20 people even if it is outdoors. But you can do shifts. We thought about that and said no. It's a technical challenge and fun getting good photos in low light, plus all the dark in costumes.

There is a bag of good candy here and when it's gone we'll turn off the lights and shut down. Last year, there was a batch of 4 kids that showed up as I was getting tired of the game. They were in good costumes, and didn't have to be prompted to say trick or treat. I held out the bowl and told them they were the last and to split it between themselves. They were pretty pleased.

I've been busy creating collections of photos for a new website. The theory is that I can connect my version of Lightroom to this site, and any changes I make in Lightroom will be reflected in the site. Pretty slick if it actually works. I hope to find out today.

But the thing about sorting through looking for photos is that in some way it's almost worse than Image of the Year. For that I typically have a couple dozen photos to start with and winnow it down. Some of the winnowing down has already happened because some photos are not in the running. Which reminds me, it's almost time for October Image of the Month. I think I already know which it will be.

But with the new site, if I can get permissions, and nobody has said no yet, I can include them. This gives me several thousand photos to consider, and I'm still waiting for one client to get back to me. If they say yes, I'll have several thousand more to consider.

Readers that have been paying attention know that I recently upgraded Lightroom. It offers new tools to make some things quicker, like selecting the sky or the subject, and then manipulating the information relating to that specific area. It's much more flexible and powerful, and I'm still exploring. Now I see a photo from several years ago while looking to populate a collection, and several thoughts go through my head. 

  • Is this still one of my best photos?
  • Now I can make that sky better, but should I? Because if I fix one, does that commit me to fixing more of them?
  • Should I make another general editing pass, and if so, should I save the old edited version?
  • Which set does it belong in and why?
  • Do the photos in that set make a cohesive whole?
  • As a general rule, such a portfolio is only as good as the weakest photo, so should I sleep on it and make another pass determined to find and remove the weakest photo?
  • Should I get another photographer I trust to review the selections just to make sure I'm not out in left field?

I was out for a walk the other day in the wooded area just north of the dam, between the river and the bike path. I'd been to some of that before when the dam path reopened, but this time I was more along the river, with a bit of a scramble up a path at the end to get on top of the bluff. Then on the way home Fish Creek called me.

Part of the river bluff, converted to black and white. This may be a tad overexposed.

This little chunk caught my eye, and I spent more time getting into position without the brush eating me, than it took to actually take the photo.

I'm a sucker for bench shots. In hindsight I should have come here first as the sun was setting. The sun is now a little low for this particular shot.

Fish Creek. I've never been here this time of day. It's interesting seeing the change in the light.

Of the Day



Dragonfly with a serendipity bee

Eagle, but first a serendipity dragonfly from 2017. It makes me wonder if I could find an eagle and bee pair of images?

Owl. It wasn't trying to eat the finger, more like an affectionate nuzzle. 

Thursday, October 28, 2021

Update blues

And people wonder why I dislike updating software. There it was, everything playing nice together, 2 external drives and the tablet. I needed to update the OS to get the new Lightroom updates. That part went well. 

Except. I couldn't get the tablet to work with Catalina, the newer version of the Mac OS. Not at all, no matter what I did. It's free to a good home. Then the one external drive started disconnecting itself for no apparent reason. Playing with that. 

Much of the 'upgrade' to Catalina is stuff I don't use, and in many cases actively don't want. I don't even know what some of it is. And yet there it is, with the developers so proud of themselves. A pox on them. I do it only for the security upgrades, since this computer actually does have to talk to the internet. 

There's an old laptop I use for writing and occasional browsing, and more and more Safari is being pissy about connecting to websites, saying connection is not secure, and someone may be trying to steal your data. Feeding that same URL into another browser works fine. I don't want to upgrade it since it does what I want it to, and I don't want to fuss with a slower OS taking up what remains of memory. It's only a 2013 vintage, so I hope to get another decade out of it. This computer is coming up on 5 years old, hard as that is to believe.

For the photographers reading this, I've played with the new Lightroom a bit, and the whole selecting sky thing makes life much easier. I had mostly left the sky alone because changing it much usually made it worse. They've moved a few things around but it mostly makes sense. What I really want Lightroom to be is faster at importing. Much faster. I'll be doing an event in Nov and maybe I'll find out then if it's any quicker.

While playing with Lightroom I revisited a photo from the walk with Sean the other day. When reviewing it in colour I kept on going. Then as I'm trying to remember, things look different in B&W. I mulled it over and tweaked it a bit and looked at it a lot. Here it is, for better or worse. See what you think. 

For some colour, here's a sunrise from almost exactly 3 months ago.

Of the Day
Celina Serendipity, then Driftwood




Tuesday, October 26, 2021

A swimming update

My long time readers know that I like to swim. It's a great, low impact exercise, and I'm mostly pretty good at it. I've been complimented on my swim stroke by other swimmers (which sometimes is extremely meaningful), and even by lifeguards, and they see a lot of strokes.

The thing with swimming is that the mojo disappears fast when you stop for whatever reason. A week is no big deal, the first swim back is a bit rocky but most people wouldn't notice. I took a month or so off during a trip to Italy, and the first swims were brutal. That I had a cracked bone in my arm might have been part of the problem. 

You can get a bit more of the back story here, or a quick summary by carrying on with the reading. 

More recently I took a couple months off during our first trip to New Zealand, and it was like my arms had forgotten how to swim. It took a long time getting back into the groove.

So then there was the second trip to New Zealand, and I was determined to get in several swims while there. It's not like the equipment takes up a lot of space in the luggage. I'd hoped that with several swims I wouldn't be too far behind the 8 ball on my return. Interestingly enough, the last swim was in Auckland with my buddy Katie that coached me to Ironman. This is her, if you don't know her, from my people page on my other blog. We went for lunch after, and dropped her at the airport. 

COVID was just becoming a thing. We actually discussed the merits of being "stranded" in a south pacific paradise, but decided not to. Just as well. Even at this point I was thinking that COVID wouldn't affect the pools, and I was looking forward to getting back into Repsol. I mean, a swimming pool is a tub of lightly chlorinated water, regularly tested. The air is moist but has a tiny bit of chlorine. The surfaces are washed regularly. I figured the locker room was the most dangerous place, but that they'd up the cleaning routine and all would be well.

It wasn't. They closed the pools entirely and I gave up my membership. The closure went on and on, with occasional fits and starts of open where the rules were so complex I didn't want to bother. Then we got vaccinated and I started looking for a swim. My first one back was with Katie, a very very short swim, and mostly a water run to chat.

I start with several 10x passes at Canyon Meadows just to see how often I actually would swim, once I figured out how far behind I was. I've been pretty regularly 3 times a week, and at first it was bad. It got better surprisingly quickly, so I'm pretty pleased. Once then next 10x runs out I'll probably get a monthly pass and save a bit of money. My 20th swim back, or so, I broke my goal of a 20 minute 1000 m. The next swim was 19:35, and feeling strong throughout. There were even a few moments my inner shark surfaced. He hasn't visited for a long time, and I can't blame him. I wonder if he's at the same vacation resort?

I'm pretty pleased about the whole thing, since I had assumed it would take a lot longer. Next goal is a sub 30 minute 1500 m, while working on getting faster overall. I periodically time myself for 100 m, and the most recent effort is 97 seconds. I'd like that to be a bit faster. Down around 90 seconds was about the best I could reliably do, and the 84 seconds at a swim camp seems more and more like an aberration. Then again, I was chasing someone just a bit faster than me, and nearly puked at the end.

I have no photos related to swimming or the pool, so you'll just have to settle for a New Zealand beach. Poor you. How you suffer. Yes, it's similar to one that got posted sometime ago, but this one is cropped differently. Yes that dot way down the beach is Linda. Yes, the beaches were often empty or nearly so.



Lily, or I guess, lilies

Dragonfly, two very slightly different photos. The sun catching the wings ever so slightly differently.


Owl. Neil bonding with George.

Monday, October 25, 2021

Photo introspection

 The day started well. There was coffee of course, and even the tail end of sunrise was nice enough I scuttled out. But. (Just so you know, there are several buts in this blog.)

Somehow what got captured on camera was not what my eyes were seeing. The cloud photos were meh. The house bathed in the rosy light was nice but not remarkable. It's really mainly a shot showing the state of the garden that day. Still, I enjoyed it for what my eyes saw.

Sean and I had arranged to get together for a photo ramble on Friday, and so we did. We ended up in what I think of Bowmont Park, though the sign says Dale Hodges park. Whatever. We did a nice loop, starting on top of the bluff, going down the hill to the storm water stilling pond, and back through the engineered wetlands. It ended up being 5 K or so, not that we're going for distance or time. But.

Normally when I import photos to the computer for editing I'm eager to see at least a few of them. I'll know when I took it that it was good and I want to see how good. Yes there are occasional crushing disappointments as I realize I missed focus ever so slightly, or there's something in the composition I didn't see at through the viewfinder. To compensate there are occasional happy surprises.

The quickest look during the import process at the one shot I had actually worked on, changing lenses and everything, was disappointing. I had other things to do that afternoon so I set it all aside. During our lunch after the ramble Sean and I had discussed (among many other things) the idea of letting photos sit a little while before editing, as a way of increasing objectivity. So I didn't mind trying this. I actually edited Sunday morning.

It didn't take long. Once I sat down and looked at them I realized almost all of them weren't really shots of anything in particular. Yes the wind was calm so there were some nice reflections to be had. Normally I like reflections but these didn't do anything for me. Many of the shots were a nice "so there I was and this is what there looks like" which is fine if you're writing a travelogue. 

We talked about black and white photography a bit, and just writing this now I'm wondering if some of the shots would be better for being converted to b&w. Not that I'll do that now. Maybe this afternoon.

For a while I worked on a mushroom or fungus growing out of a tree crack. It had nice rills on the underside. I felt like a beginner photographer again. I knew what I wanted, or thought I did, and I didn't get it. Yes, I could show you a photo of my attempts, but I won't. Why waste the bandwidth? I'm not even sure what I was doing wrong, though I suspect I really should have set up a tripod and played with the exposure and aperture more. Maybe if I'd been more organized and analytical I'd have set up a series of shots and focus stacked them. 

In the end there were only 4 shots that made the editing cut. 

This is not that fungus or mushroom. It's another one that I saw on the way out and didn't really think about a lot. Let's just say it's in no danger of being image of the month.

My readers know I'm a big fan of old wood. I'm a little surprised this panorama worked, from a technical merging perspective. There's lots of interesting stuff on it, but there was a fence or something just underneath it that played hob with the composition. 

Sean getting a nice shot of bullrush fluff. I think. Hope it works out. I tried a similar shot with a bush seed head or something, and was not pleased with the result.

The best reflection of the bunch, and yet. 

Don't get the idea that I think the day was a failure. Oh no! I had last seen the park when it was under construction and I think they've done a great job. It's on my list of places to visit again. 

I'm thinking that the photos reflected my mindset. I didn't have a clear vision for what I was wanting. I didn't really think about what I was trying to say with the photos, and as a result the photos didn't say anything.

Of the Day





The photo that Neil is taking of George ended up being his Facebook page header for a while.

Saturday, October 23, 2021

Recent books

I like going through the photography section in the library. I think they rotate the stock of books between the libraries. Between one visit and the next a whole bunch of older books might show up, and periodically some newer ones. 

Seeking Stillness by Olivier Du Tre. 
I think I've read this before but can't find a photo of the cover. It's all black and white landscapes, and as advertised, quiet and serene. It turns out that the reader's lighting is really important. I started reading while sitting in a chair facing the sunny south windows, and had so much light coming in that most of the images were really dark, and most of the shapes were blobs. Once I moved it got a lot better.

Rainbow Revolution by Magnus Hastings. 
Colour! Provocative! Imaginative! And a whole lot more. This is what you get when you give creative people a white box to pose in, with any props they want to bring along to pose with, and anything goes. I can just imagine the setup (and take down) time required for some of the shots, and the number of tries to get it perfect. 

I like looking through photography books to get ideas about what other photographers are doing, what they think are good images, what the models think are good images, and all the associated props and poses and lighting and effects and on and on. There's some fabulous ideas here, though let's just say I'm not going to suggest some of them to some of my potential models.

Some of these photos are in your face, and I know people that would be upset by them. They'd probably be upset by the whole book, what with the creative explorations of gender identity and expression. The world is bigger than what the binary sex cisgender white bread world imagines it to be. 

I'm just now thinking of the contrast between Seeking Stillness and Rainbow Revolution. Going from a book of quiet, subdued landscapes done on B&W film to the exuberant portraits was a bit of a shift. A lot of a shift, but it makes me think about images and their place in the world and the images that I want to produce. 

It's easy enough to create a unique image out of all the billions of images that have been produced. I just need to step into the back patio and take a photo of the garden. The combination of plants, this time of the year, the lighting, the equipment and settings will be unique. Boring, but unique. Or take a photo with the settings screwed up, or with a damaged lens, or expired film, you get the idea. That will be unique, and might be interesting, but much more likely is just a bad photo, another one in a near infinity of them.

I want to produce images that are interesting and have a particular flavour of unique. My particular flavour. I can sometimes recognize other photographer's work without seeing their name, regardless of subject. One of my goals is to produce images that hit a sweet spot of technically good, unique, interesting, and recognizably mine even without the watermark. I'll probably be working on this the rest of my life. 

Technically many, perhaps even most images are unique, but often you can't tell. Two skyline or landscape photos taken at the same time from the same vantage point are likely going to look pretty darn similar, unless the photographers deliberately try to make them look different.

Sean and I were discussing this during our ramble in Bowmont Park yesterday. So many Instagram photos are commercial products to generate likes from the lowest common denominator. Or if not the lowest, a low one. Instagram is a terrible platform to share photos on. So many are not interesting, at least to me, but then, I'm not Instagram's audience. There are people surprised I'm on Instagram, and I'm surprised too some days.

In another sense, we've been taking photos of people since cameras were invented, so that part isn't unique. Individuals are, but unless the person has really striking looks, it's just ho hum another photo of a person. (Unless you happen to be related to that person, or you're a cop looking for that person, or a model selling your particular image, or a few other ors.) 

So, how to take interesting photos? Find interesting things or people to shoot. Find or create great light. Find or create a theme or a hook that ties the photos together.  Or become so famous that your photos are declared good regardless of their actual merit. In today's society that might actually be the easiest way. 

The 100 best Celebrity Photos. (from People magazine.) 
You've seen most of these photos before. Maybe all of them if you're a celebrity kind of person. However lots were new to me, but generally the most interesting part was some text putting context around the photo, plus saying who's in the photo, when it was taken, and by whom. It's interesting seeing famous people when they were young.

One Face Fifty Ways by Imogen Dyer and Mark Wilkinson. The cover pretty well says it all. If you're a new photographer interested in shooting people this is a great book to get. Not too technical, or condescending, but some good info to get you started. There were some good reminders for me. It's interesting to see how different the same face can look under different conditions.

In other reading, The Truth be Told by Beverly McLachlin was surprisingly good. It's not just the story how a girl born in Pincher Creek during WWII became the Chief Justice of Canada's Supreme Court. It's a story about how roles for women have changed over that time, how the law has changed. The rule of law is fundamental to a civilized society, and she gives a bit of a window behind the scenes of how and why that works. 

While reading I was reminded of the time I watched a video of a Supreme Court hearing. One of my buddies was a lawyer arguing part of the case (Canadian Egg Marketing Agency v. Richardson, [1998] 3 S.C.R. 157) and it was fascinating to hear her commentary while we were watching the video.

One of the things that pisses me off big time is someone ranting and raving about some issue and who's fault it is or who should do something about it, and getting the order of government wrong. Meaning they are mad at the province (probably because they disagree with the ideology of it, or the gender of the party leader (you would be disgusted by the things some Albertans said about Rachel Notley), and it's a federal issue. Or maybe they get the law wrong, or quote American law, or maybe they're just making it up out of their imagination.

One recent example is our municipal election. As if sorting through 27 mayoral candidates wasn't enough, the province inserted a couple questions. One was about equalization and the other about senators. Now, these are purely federal matters. The easy one is senators, the Prime Minister of the day can appoint anyone they like to be a senator. The qualifications for the job are trivially easy to meet (although one did fail) and it's easy well paid work with an amazing pension. Every politician in Canada dreams of being appointed to the Senate. It's one of the major clubs the Prime Minister can use to keep their MPs in line.

Equalization is complicated and I'm not going to get into it here. There are probably only a few dozen people that actually fully understand it. I'm pretty sure that none of them live in Alberta. Again, this is a purely federal matter. Kenney is looking for leverage to change it, and is hoping nobody remembers that he helped create and voted for the current version of it. It isn't going to change no matter what the vote results are, or how much Kenney threatens to hold his breath till he turns blue. The whole issue is Kenney posturing to his base.

Mayors gone Bad was fun. So many bad mayors, so many ways to go wrong, with some of them being mind bogglingly stupid. My mom once told me that anyone that wanted to be a politician shouldn't be allowed to have the job. Most of the mayors mentioned in the book are classic examples of why. 

Our about to be former Mayor, Naheed Nenshi was listed as one of the three good mayors in the book. I'm wondering when the research on him was done in relation to the Olympic bid and Flames arena debacles. It's probably good for him that he didn't run again, because I don't think he would have won. This way he can go out on his own terms as a winner, and move on to whatever is next for him. He is not quite 50, so I doubt he's going to retire and write his memoirs. It will be interesting to see what he gets up to.

Of the Day



Eagle. This gives you a sense of just how big it is. 

Friday, October 22, 2021

Carburn reflections

I've often said that time was invented so that everything wouldn't happen at once. That's the theory, anyways. Wednesday was one of those days. A whole pile of stuff landed there, and by the end of the day I was thinking it was like being at work again. 

By late morning on Thursday I was itching to be out with the camera, but where to go? One buddy who is usually good to go on short notice was out of town, but we've got a date for Friday. I like walking along the river and remembered I hadn't been to Carburn park for several years.

Holy Doodle! The parking lot was nearly full. But first I have to tell you a story about old people, and getting to the walk. There I was, humping cameras and stuff out to the car. I could see this old couple tottering along the sidewalk. By the time I got to backing the car out of the garage they were at the bottom of the driveway. I'm part way out of the garage, car stopped, looking over my shoulder at them, waiting for them to move along. They are standing there, looking at me looking at them, in the way, waiting for who knows what. I was beginning to think they had suffered a paralytic medical episode of some kind and I was going to have to get out of the car and investigate. Eventually they came to and moved along. Good thing I wasn't in a rush. 

There is a crosswalk with signals near the Shoppers Drug Mart on the usual way out of our neighbourhood. Another old couple ignored the button and just strolled out into the crosswalk. I saw them in lots of time, but the guy in front of me wasn't expecting that at all. I was beginning to think there was going to be a graphic demonstration of driver incompetence right in front of me, but he came to and stopped just in time. I'm not convinced the old couple actually knew the danger they were in. They never looked around.

Then the parking lot at Carburn Park. I'm turning down a lane to find a spot, and there they are. An old couple with what I assume is their daughter and grandchild. Taking up the whole lane, slowly strolling along, oblivious. I took a spot right away, got out of the car, got a drink, got my cameras, hat, and strolled toward the path. I caught up with the old couple before we got out of the parking lot. They were still taking up the entire lane, and had captured another car with a driver slowly losing her shizz.

Yes, cameras. I brought my usual digital and the borrowed film camera. I was hoping to find something to capture on film and did so. There's still a half dozen or so shots left on that roll, and I'm itching to get them taken and the film processed. Maybe today.

However, the walk along the river was lovely and peaceful, at least as far as people were concerned. Cars were a different story. The park isn't far from Deerfoot and Glenmore, and there is no escaping car and truck noise. Once out of the parking lot I didn't see hardly anyone for much of the walk; I think most of them were on the main path. I was off the beaten path looking for photos. Along the way I found a wonderful spot for portraits, and will have to remember it. Here's what I found in the order I found them.

1. The Bow river is well known for it's trout fishing. There's a story of a famous blues musician that was lured to play in Calgary by having the gig arranged during fishing season. 

2. You knew there'd be shots of distressed wood.


4. The squiggly shapes caught my eye. I was having fun composing the shot, thinking about how dark to make the roots.

5. This was tricky to process. For some reason the wood was coming out blue.

6. Much better as a B&W.

7. I had high hopes for this bit of driftwood, but I didn't like any of the compositions. This is the best of the bunch. I was thinking if the water level was about 3 inches higher to cover most of the rocks it might be much better.

8. Carburn park is a great spot to go reflection hunting!


10. Still some leaves on the trees.

11. More pareidolia. This was fun to compose.


13. Some of you know what this is. If you're on my blog notification list, you'll get the story. You can get on that list so you don't miss any blogs, and get some of the story behind the story, by sending email to keith at nucleus dot com, or loungecatproductions at gmail dot com. 

Of The Day

Peony, but first a winter serendipity from 2016.