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 cedar 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.

cedar 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

Monday, February 19, 2018

Pokhara Paragliding

Our first day in Pokhara we had to get permits before we could fly (and, yes, they do check them) so after applying, we went to the Sunrise LZ to get our gear sorted out and do a little ground handling. We haven’t flown since the Owens Valley in October so it was good to warm up. There were kids practicing with old gliders. They play for endless hours, so they are totally natural at it, forward kiting without even holding the brakes, just reaching up occasionally to pluck a line, as if they were playing some giant string instrument. One of my them, about 10 years old, offered to give me lessons. “I can help you, brother” he told me. There were usually kids at the landings who would pack your glider for you (for .50 or $1). I wanted to give them the business, but they packed hurriedly, and not the way I like to do it.

Once our permits were ready we headed up to fly. The main Sarangkot launches are incredibly busy with hundreds (literally) of tourists taking tandem flights. There were a ton of Chinese tourists since it was their New Years. So we went to the Toripani launch, a little further down the ridge and less crowded (although still busy). It also has a huge open field for landing, whereas the other landing areas are smaller and busier. (But you still need to watch out for the water buffalo!)

Shelley keeping her distance from the water buffalo


It was hazy, so conditions weren’t at their best, but after a bit of searching I managed to get a decent climb and get high enough to cruise along the ridge to Sarangkot. I wasn't excited about the big gaggle in the house thermal so I hunted around the edges and still got a decent climb that let me make it back to Toripani where I climbed back up above the ridge.

Strangely, I suddenly started to feel extremely nauseous and on the verge of throwing up. I've gotten queasy from paragliding before, but not recently, and not suddenly and severely like this. I had been ready to keep flying for a while, but I felt so awful I turned my glider directly towards the landing. Thankfully the air was smooth. But my mouth was filling with saliva and I was really struggling not to vomit. I was trying to figure out the best way to do it without spattering myself and my harness. Under my arm? Over  my shoulder? To the outside of a turn? I had a feeling it wouldn't be pretty. Thankfully I managed to control it, and it passed almost as quickly as it came. I didn't feel too bad for the landing and soon felt almost normal again. It was a strange ending to a great flight.

Shelley (center) descending to land

Day 2 was even cloudier and there wasn't much thermal activity. But even a sled ride was 15 minutes, and with the shorter flights we got in three runs. By the last flight the sun was trying to come out and I found a few light thermals to stretch my flight out to 50 minutes.

tandemonium at Toripani launch

It rained in the night which helped clear the overcast and day 3 we got in a couple of good flights. In the morning I missed the upper thermals and ended up scratching down low for a long time (50 minute flight). Meanwhile, Shelley was way up high above the ridge. By the time I finally managed to climb up, it was time to head down. Our next flight we flew over to Sarangkot, climbed up again, and then continued down the ridge towards town, eventually landing at Sunrise LZ.

Shelley (top right over the lake) approaching Sunrise LZ

Day 4 started out clear and sunny. We went up a bit later to miss the initial rush of tandem flights. Although you could squeeze in between them and launch, it was easier just to wait till they were gone. I managed to snag a thermal and get up right away. Claudio suggested I could just stay up and wait in the air for them to come back for their second flight but that would have been a long flight (assuming I could have stayed up). So I made a quick transition to Sarangkot and then headed down to meet the rest of the group. We headed back up although the cumulous clouds were getting tall and dark. Shelley and I launched between a few drops of rain. There was lots of lift, but it was a little rough and strong. And the rain kept sprinkling. So we headed down. In hindsight I would have been better staying up on the first flight.

Pokhara Lakeside from the air

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Kathmandu Monkey Temple

Another favorite spot in Kathmandu is Swoyambhunath Stupa or the easier to remember and spell "monkey temple". We usually walk from Thamel. It's a couple of kilometers and can be a little tricky to navigate the winding narrow streets, but it's always interesting to get out of the tourist area. This time we passed by several vacant lots covered in drying sheets and other laundry. Obviously some kind of laundry service. The first time we walked here (1997) we passed open fields and farming. Now it's all developed and covered in buildings. This is my seventh visit to Kathmandu over the last 20 some years. In some ways it's changed a lot (cell phones!), but in other ways it's very much the same dirty, crazy, chaotic place.

prayer flags in Thamel

The monkeys themselves seemed quite mellow this visit. Sometimes they can be a little scary when they fight amongst themselves or try to steal food or shiny objects from the tourists. We were told there is a bigger risk of rabies from monkey bites than from dog bites.

monkey relaxing on stupa


monkey looking thoughtful

Of course, the young ones are still fun to watch as they climb and jump and play.

baby monkey showing off his climbing skills

The temple is much the same as always - stupas, prayer flags and prayer wheels, monkeys, pigeons.

prayer wheels

monkey with pigeons on the stupa in the background


We found a rooftop cafe to relax and observe the goings on around the stupa. The local raptors flew by regularly and I spent a bunch of time trying to photograph them. Needless to say, mostly unsuccessful, but I took enough (and I've had enough practice) that a few of them came out reasonably well. I haven't figured out what they were. At the time I thought maybe vulture but the photos don't look like that. Maybe some kind of kite? (good detail if you click to view larger)




These are cropped substantially, but I'm still impressed with the Tamron 18-400. Most lenses that would handle this would be twice the size and weight.

If you come up the main front steps of the stupa, it's worth going past the stupa and down the far side where there are more stupas and monkeys (and prayer flags!).

prayer flags

On previous trips to Nepal it used to be difficult to find good coffee. At best they'd dredge up an ancient jar of instant coffee. Now, you can get espresso coffee everywhere, and some of it is actually pretty good. There were four coffee shops within a block of our hotel. Mike's Breakfast has moved and doesn't get good ratings any more, but other old faithfuls like Fire and Ice (pizza) are still going strong.

Next stop Pokhara and paragliding! (the original instigation for this trip)

See all 21 photos