Saturday, April 21, 2018

Signs of Life

No winter lasts forever; no spring skips its turn. 
- Hal Borland 

Amazing how the pelicans show up exactly when the weather warms up.

pelican in flight

I didn't notice them at the time, but the reflection make a good backdrop for this pelican in flight.


From a distance I thought this was one of the Common Goldeneye that hang around all winter. But through the telephoto I could see the red beak and slightly different coloring of a Common Merganser.

Common Merganser

The jackrabbits are looking a little scruffy as they shed their thick white winter coat and expose their new tan summer colors.


They're pretty tame around Innovation Place, but still a little suspicious of the paparazzi.


A pair of Canada Geese were checking out the island in the pond at Innovation Place. So far none have decided to nest there. Probably a little too much pedestrian traffic. I love the patterns their feathers make.

Canada Goose

I couldn't resist a few last ice shots. You wouldn't think it, but there is actually life under that ice - the first few water boatmen are already swimming around.


island bird life

So much life on this island - pelicans, cormorants, gulls, and Canada Geese, safe from people, dogs, cats, coyotes etc.

I haven't found any crocuses yet, but other buds are bursting.

buds bursting

These were all taken with the Tamron 18-400 lens on my Nikon 7200.

See all 19 photos

Thursday, April 05, 2018


Through my home office window I could see a bunch of birds in the trees. It turned out to be a flock of waxwings. I always get Cedar and Bohemian waxwings mixed up. I assumed these were Cedar but when I went to confirm, I found they were Bohemian. The Cedar waxwings have a yellow belly, whereas the Bohemian have rust red under their tail. (Cornell says the red under the tail can be hard to see, but it was quite obvious in the photos.)

Bohemian waxwings

I grabbed my camera and opened the window to get a few shots. With the window open I could hear them chittering. I didn't get any great photos but it was fun to watch them.

Bohemian waxwings

They were obviously eating the berries in one of the trees, I'm not sure what they were finding (if anything) in the other trees. There were even some on the ground that appeared to be scooping up and eating snow.

Bohemian waxwings

Suddenly, without any obvious trigger, they all flew away at once.

Bohemian waxwings

Monday, March 12, 2018

By the River

Sunday morning I was walking instead of running, so I took my camera with me, just in case. I remember thinking I probably wouldn't take any photos because I've had enough of winter. I returned four hours later, with almost 800 photos. (Don't worry, I won't inflict too many on you!)

With the temperatures and the water level in the river going up and down, there is lots of interesting ice and icicles.


As the water washes in and out, it changes the color and light and reflections so I end up taking numerous shots of each subject (part of the reason for so many photos).

shore ice

I got lucky on this next shot with the "shooting star" reflection in the river.

shooting star

The weir was pretty with the early sun backlighting the fog against the blue shadows.


I can't decide if I like the fast shutter (freezing the motion) or slow shutter (smoothing) version of this wave. What do you think?

wave at the weir - fast shutter

wave at the weir - slow shutter

If any of these photos catch your eye, you might want to click on them to view them larger. There's interesting detail that you won't see in a small version. If you're on your phone ... never mind!

There were a few Canada Geese around. I always feel sorry for the ones that hang around all winter. (If I was a Canada Goose, I'd head south!) You can see the ice on the back of this one.

Canada Goose, ice on its back

Sometimes I wonder why I keep taking Canada Goose photos. I already have a zillion of them. But I keep taking more, hoping, I guess, for something better, or at least different. Occasionally I get lucky. I just happened to have the camera ready when this one decided to stretch its wings. And the sun just happened to be in the right place. (I only had time for one quick shot and I didn't get lined up well so I almost cut off its head. I used Photoshop to extend the background, which it does amazingly well, and I don't feel too guilty about.)

Canada Goose showing off

The other common bird on the river in the winter are the Common Goldeneye. Although you often find them along the shore, as soon as you arrive, they turn tail and head away, making it hard to get anything but butt shots! This was one of the few that was a little more cooperative.

Common Goldeneye

This one was either showing off, or just stretching its wings.

Common Goldeneye showing off

And just when you're about to take their photo, they dive!

Common Goldeneye diving

There were also chickadees around, and flocks of sparrows, but not very cooperative. At one point I heard a bird call but couldn't see the bird. It sounded a bit like a crow or magpie, but also a bit different. Eventually I caught a glimpse and it was a blue jay. It didn't want its picture taken either.

I found a few reflections by the Prairie Lily boat.

reflections of the Prairie Lily

And by the Broadway Bridge

Broadway bridge and reflection

And more ice on the way home.

ice on the beach


It was a fun photo walk, with a good variety of results.

See all 40 photos

Thursday, March 08, 2018

Photos of the Day

Spring seems reluctant to arrive this year. First a big dump of snow, just when it was starting to disappear. And then more cold. -23c this morning and a breeze that probably made the windchill -30. So I wasn't really thinking about getting my camera out. But the sunrise across the park was too good not to try, so I thought, "just one photo, it'll be quick".

sunrise across the park

Of course, it wasn't (either one photo, or quick). The light was changing fast as the clouds and fog blew past. Several times I put my camera away, only to pull it back out a few minutes later. I should know, once I overcome the inertia and start taking photos, I seldom stop at one!

foggy sunrise across the river

I was basically taking my mitt off, shooting till my hand got too frozen, and then putting my mitt back on. A glove would have been nice, but I only had my big mitts which were too clumsy to operate the camera.

foggy sunrise over the river

Closer to the river, there was lots of fog. The common goldeneye ducks were drifting in and out of view. And a Canada Goose actually appeared (more or less) at one point.

Canada Goose in the fog

Of course, the bridge is always a good subject, especially with the foggy sunrise.  I like that I caught the pigeon, so typical of the bridge.

foggy sunrise

foggy sunrise

Much as I enjoy the views, crossing the bridge is always the coldest part of my walk. No matter how calm it seems down below, there's always wind (and windchill) on the exposed bridge. Some mornings I'm very glad to reach the end of the crossing!

the end of the bridge

The last few days a flock of Bohemian waxwings have been hanging around Innovation Place, sometimes in the tree right outside my office window. They seem to be pecking at the bare tree but I'm not sure what, if anything, they're finding - no berries, maybe some kind of insects left over from last summer? Unfortunately, the gold tinted windows of the Galleria aren't ideal for photography. The camera struggles to focus and it's hard to get rid of the tint. This is the best I managed.

Bohemian waxwing

Meanwhile, indoors, the amaryllis are continuing to bloom. They're beautiful but they're not in a great spot for photography, with cluttered surroundings and a distracting background. Your eyes tend to  focus on the flowers, but that doesn't work as well for a photograph. I tried blowing out the background, which sort of works.


Then I switched to closeups which avoid the background issue. And I always love the details anyway.



See all 15 photos (all taken with the little ZS100 and processed with Lightroom)

Saturday, March 03, 2018

Photos of the Week

It's nice to have the sun up by the time I walk to work. Although it's still winter here, we've had some wonderful frost. I haven't taken many photos, but I grabbed a few the other morning. (Only a few because it was -20c with a wind)

frosty morning walking to work

frost on tree

This last one is more abstract. I really like the photos and writing of Guy Tal and this image reminded me a bit of him. (Not that my images are up to his standards.)

frost on tree
I fear that future generations will judge us harshly for our failure to place proper value on wildness, diversity, open space, spirit, solitude and other treasures of the natural world still available to us today. May they at least know that some of us tried. 
~Guy Tal
While it might still be winter outside, some of the plants inside think it should be spring. The Amaryllis in the Galleria at Innovation Place are starting to bloom. The first day I only had my iPhone.


The next day I had my little ZS100, which did a better job. (There's soon to be an improved ZS200 that's the same size but with a longer telephoto.)



Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Truncated Travels

Annapurna from Pokhara

Sadly, our trip was cut short by an unlucky accident. Shelley fell on a rough hillside, twisted her ankle just the wrong way, and ended up breaking it. At first we thought it was just sprained, but to be safe we carried her to the car and took her to a private clinic for X-rays. They brought us a wheelchair but we had to carry her up the stairs in it. Who puts a medical clinic on the second floor of a building with no elevator! On the positive side, the X-rays only cost $12 :-)  But then it turned out due to a festival holiday and some sort of medical conference there was no doctor so they had to email the X-rays to Kathmandu. Eventually word came back that the ankle was broken and would require surgery. It was a bit of a shock. The clinic tracked down a doctor at one of the hospitals so we carried Shelley back down the stairs and fought our way through the crazy traffic to get there. The doctor confirmed that surgery was required but it was routine and he had done many of them. He said it would require 6 days in hospital. Yikes! Surgery and 6 days in a third world hospital sounded pretty scary. The doctor put a cast on the ankle to immobilize it (the most painful part so far!). The funny part was that we had to go down to the pharmacy ourselves and buy the supplies for the cast.

I had the X-rays emailed to me and forwarded them to a couple of doctor friends. It was the middle of the night at home so I didn't expect a fast response, but thankfully one of them was awake  (thanks David!) and confirmed that the ankle was broken and would require surgery. (bimalleolar fracture - more common in older people and in women for some reason) He agreed that it would be better to have the surgery somewhere else. But we weren't sure where that should be - Kathmandu? Hong Kong? Vancouver? The issue wasn't the surgery itself but the risk of infection. Later, the other friend (thanks Ian!) responded with a similar opinion. He also consulted with his orthopedics department and they said it would be ok to delay the surgery for up to two weeks, and ok to travel as long as the cast wasn't too tight, the ankle was kept elevated, and Shelley stayed well hydrated. (risk of swelling and blood clots).

The earliest flight out of Pokhara wasn't till the next day so we searched for a hotel with an elevator. (Not common here - our current room had a great view but was up five flights of stairs.) The next morning I shipped most of our gear home so we could travel with just carry on.

It was a long trip home - Pokhara to Kathmandu, Kathmandu to Hong Kong, 13 hours in the Hong Kong airport (we got a room in the airport hotel), Hong Kong to Vancouver, Vancouver to Saskatoon - roughly 36 hours from start to finish. We got home about 1am Saskatoon time with a 12 hour time difference

It was strange to be back home so suddenly, back to snow and -20c winter. We had just started to settle into our holiday, getting into the paragliding, finding a favorite coffee shop in Pokhara (White Rabbit), and looking forward to trekking and scuba diving. But considering our adventurous activities, there are much worse things that could have happened. It sounds like Shelley should make a full recovery, although that will take anywhere from three months to a year.

I didn't get much time for photography in Pokhara, but walking along the lakefront to breakfast one day I managed to catch a couple of the common birds. We also saw a brilliantly colored blue kingfisher but I didn't get any photos.

Common (Indian) Myna

Indian Pond Heron

It was sad to leave the Himalaya again, so soon after arriving. Such an amazing place.

Machupuchare from Pokhara