Wednesday, August 31, 2022

The Sandhills night, still pre-crickets

When going on a photo trip, it helps to have a goal shot. The boot photo in the first post in this series was it for me. I slogged up the hill on a barely remembered zig zaggy sandy path, in the dark, carrying two heavy cameras already mounted on tripods, using a small red flashlight in my mouth to faintly illuminate the path. I had to stop to rest several times, but it was worth it. I still don't know what the film version of the photo looks like, and won't for a couple more weeks.

After I got that I played around with some other photos, then went to join the rest of the group. It was a perfect night! No wind, fairly clear, dark skies, and Northern Lights!

1. Still on top of the hill near the boots, looking east, trying to light paint some bushes. The bright star is Jupiter. The green is not an aurora, it's air glow.

2. Joining the rest of the crew on top of the main dune. Having fun with light painting, and long exposure ghost photos. You can see where people moved during the exposure. These are looking mostly east, I think.

3. Neil has just planted a tripod in my composition, which totally helps make it work.





8. Switched around to looking mostly west. Working on capturing some light painted rills in the dune. Others have a better version of this photo.

9. Shortly after I moved behind them to capture the crew in action, working on the light painting. It's an experimental process, try something and see how it looks. Maybe more light is needed, or different places illuminated. There's lots of variables.

10. Then I moved off to the side, hoping to capture interesting light.


12A. Then back to the parking lot. Here I'm looking back up the hill towards the boots. I've got a long sequence of photos like this, perhaps I'll make them into a time lapse, or a star trail. While the camera was clicking away, Neil fired up a barbecue and did smokies.

12B. Here's the daytime version of that photo, showing the zig zaggy path. It's higher than it looks.

13. The promised Northern Lights. We were getting ready to pack up and then it happened!

They faded after a short time, and we finished packing up at half past really really late.

The next day, after some afternoon safari with some crickets, and even though the light was not promising, we were out to the sand hills again. Here's a couple more shots as the light was fading, with no nice sunset.

14. The view of the main dune from the parking lot.

15. A couple of views as the light was fading. It was dark enough I could barely get the camera to focus. 


Of the Day





Green Fools
Some sort of Clown ritual.


Tuesday, August 30, 2022

12 years in a blur

I just realized a couple days ago that it's been 12 years since I completed Ironman Canada. Holy Doodle! August 30, 2010, or in database speak, 2010-08-30. Which is really the only way to express a date. Don't get me started on XL and American date formats.

I wrote up the experience back then, here's a list of the relevant blogs, if you've arrived late to the party. Even then, I was pretty sure it was going to be one and done. I felt no need to prove that the first time wasn't a fluke. I thought I'd continue doing shorter distances for a while, but it turns out I did only one more, the half distance, then none. I did a few other races, and the last one of those was in 2017. That was a half marathon from Black Diamond to a cinnamon bun, I mean, the Millarville racetrack, while Michelle rode her bike and documented the whole thing. (Hint, the photos document the only time a specific thing happened for me.) If you really want to read about my races, you'll need to look at the blogroll to see the dates, then look back by dates to find the actual blog. I'd be a bit surprised if anyone does.

I was just starting the contracting phase of my so-called career about then. My second stint at Skystone started by their request, there were two more contracts I looked for, then the work started looking for me. Once it hunted me down in New Zealand, and essentially captured me as I got off the plane at home. We arrived home on Friday, chatted to them on Monday, started Tuesday, and on Wednesday they asked for a copy of my resume to have on file. It's good to be in demand.

As a contractor, I only worked at some subsidiary of Enmax, Skystone, Talisman (now Repsol), Penn West (now Obsidian), Altagas, BPD Zenith, then Altagas again. There was a stint at Keyera in there, but they wanted me as a temp employee, not a contractor. Plus some contract photography work for Green Fools. Some days seemed to drag along the way, but looking back the whole thing is a blur now.

Some of my contracting buddies are like that, working a few long term contracts. In some ways they're almost like employees. Others bounce in and out of contracts, mostly to new companies, sometimes back to an old one again. Often you run into the same people again and again. Kevin at Skystone, EOS, and Talisman. Denis at Skystone and EOS. Sean at Skystone and Penn West. Jason at Penn West and Altagas. Andrea at Penn West and Altagas. Patricia and Jennifer at Penn West and Keyera. (Patricia is now at Altagas with Andrea, so I just missed her there, I wonder if she is picking up on my work?) Max and Simon at BPD and Altagas. Gary at Amoco, BP Amoco, and Cenovus via BPD. Todd at Skystone and Cenovus via BPD. Oksana was at Skystone during my second stint but I don't remember actually meeting, then at Green Fools, and Altagas. There's probably more that aren't coming to mind at the moment, and there's almost certainly some that overlapped and I never knew. A company can be a big place, and often I was too hard at it to pay much attention to what else was going on. It was one way of avoiding meetings. 

When I was starting my work life I was told to never burn a bridge by pissing off a former employer. You never know if you'll need that company again, or a specific person that was in that company and now gets to decide if you get hired. I did it once, and it felt good, but it wasn't the best idea in the world. For most fields, the world is a fairly small place. Once you start getting up near the top of the pyramid in any field, you'll almost certainly know, or know of the other people in that space. A good reputation is essential. 

One of the things I really liked about Skystone was periodic informal morning coffee discussion of who had moved from company A to B or had been promoted, what company was looking for which skills and could we supply a contract body, what person was looking for work and did anyone know anyone that might need them, how so and so made out running their turnaround, who was taking or offering which certification courses, and just generally what was happening in our slice of the oil and gas industry. At one point I knew or knew of almost all the chief inspectors and senior inspectors in the pressure vessel world. Since I was running what came to be known as the second biggest vessel database in the province, I got to be known to them as well. It was no surprise for me to be chatting with the data clerks for the Alberta pressure vessel regulator about data integrity or to my counterparts in other companies because the A&D activity never stopped.

The blog has talked a bit about dialing back on fitness. The long break while in New Zealand was part of it. It's like my arms had forgotten how to swim when I got back, and my legs did not want to run anymore. I got to thinking about all the ways 80+ KPH on a bike could go wrong and decided I didn't want to find out first hand. The road construction near here make being on a bike a much more dangerous proposition.

So now I'm swimming regularly (up to 247.5 K this year so far), and taking the camera for fairly regular walks. I could be doing better. Then again, here I am the age I am, still up and around. Not on any medications, though I'm amused that some people say I need to be sedated to calm me down, and some have hinted I need something stronger than coffee to perk me up. I'd like to think I'm still with it, as they say about some older people, though some might disagree. I made no secret during my last contract that there were some times I felt like the guy on the team that should have retired at the end of the previous season.

What other changes in 12 years? Still married. A few relatives have died, some a surprise, some not. And longer term, I can remember older relatives saying, when I was a small child, that the world was going to hell in a handbasket, or similar sayings. That certainly is still true in many ways, but people have been saying that forever. But if you only look at the downside, yeah, the world is a terrible place, getting worse hourly.

Maybe stop paying as much attention to the bad news. In lots of ways, the people directly involved with the bad news can take care of it, and if they can't, and think you can help, they'll come ask. In the mean time, as I like to say, stand out of the way of people being productive. Stop giving the bad actors attention.

More importantly, get involved in making some good news. It doesn't have to get reported on CBC or CNN, just make the world a better place for those around you. Not just your family and friends, but also the stranger in the parking lot that's having a tough time getting out of that spot. Give them a minute. Put your own garbage in the trash can, and pick up some garbage during your walk. Don't be THAT guy in traffic, weaving in and out trying to get ahead, or ignoring the pedestrian trying to cross. Volunteer for an organization that's looking for help, and pretty well all of them are. If you're minded to donate to the food bank, give them money, not some old can of what might still be food you found in the basement. Mind your own business, but don't be so obnoxious about it that it screws up other people.

TV shows and movies show us millions of ways to be cruel to each other. Turn that off. That's why I couldn't watch Game of Thrones, and I had such high hopes for it. I forget who the author is, but a character in a book once asked, 'why is it so many people know so many torture methods, and are all too willing to use them, and so few know how to give a good foot rub and fewer actually do it.'

I've been struggling to find a photo to go along with today's blog, so you get Michelle, BRBE! Meeting her late in 2013 kind of got me back on the exercise bandwagon, after having fallen off after Ironman. We ran hundreds of kilometres together, all over Calgary. We did long bike rides out in the boonies. We spent lots of time in the Repsol pool and hot tub. We supported each other at races. She is a huge part of why the last 12 years is a blur of fun times.

And of course, Linda. None of all this would have happened without her. 

Of the Day




Green Fools, which was chosen today because it's the Landscape serendipity.

Celina, from 2016.

But first in another serendipitous coincidence, a Clown Funeral.

Monday, August 29, 2022

Some of the pre-cricket part of the Sandhills

There we were, an intrepid crew of 5 and our fearless leader, heading into the wilds of Saskatchewan, looking for a giant sand dune and the galactic core. I found cowboy boots.

1. The desired galaxy over boots shot, early in the evening, light painting with red. I hope to have a similar shot on film. Part of the problem for me with these trips is getting unique photos. I know this one is.

2. But I'm getting ahead of myself. There's lots of photos to edit yet. We were out till half past really really late, on a perfect night, topped off  by an open air BBQ, cameras clicking away for most of it. And, to top off the evening, Northern Lights!

But first was the drive out. In case you've never been on a Zeller tour, getting there is often half the fun. You'd think a drive across the southern middle of Alberta, in the middle of a heat wave, would be dull. Not so.

We detoured into Dinosaur Provincial Park. Neil scored rock star parking for us.

3. Trees do grow in the badlands.

4. Lots of interesting rock formations.


6. A 6 photo panorama of the park.

7. Some of the crew overlooking the park.

8. A 22 shot panorama. This will print out 10 feet by about 1 foot. I'd go back. This is much nicer than the Drumheller area.

9. Wind farm construction.

11. One lonely tree. There was much discussion about how many, and which species of bird would live in such a tree.

12. Buffalo bridge panorama.

13. Another view of the bridge.

14. Another.

15. The van using the bridge, complete with commentary.

16. A reflection from the bridge.

17. Here's proof that there's something at the end of the rainbow.

More photos are coming, stay tuned! Including the northern lights!

And in a periodic announcement, if you're new to the blog and want to be notified by email of new blogs, because I'm not always good about putting it on Facebook, ask to be added to the email list. You can send an email to keith at nucleus dot com, or comment on the blog, or text if you know my phone number.

Of the Day


I love these dark lilies, even they they are extremely difficult to photograph.

More badlands. I think this is Orkney Lookout, on a road trip with Sean.

Green Fools

No film to show for a while. I used a roll of Acros II during the trip, but it doesn't go to the lab till after Yukon.