Sunday, December 27, 2015

Exploring the Frost

After my frustration at being stuck inside with all the beautiful frost outside, I was determined to get out the next morning to take some photos. Thankfully there hadn't been any wind to speak of so the frost was still thick on the trees. I headed out before it got light hoping to catch the sunrise but thick gray clouds blocked the sun. There wasn't even a bright spot in the sky where the sun should be, and not a hint of color. But it was the frost that had lured me out and there was no shortage of that!

frosted backdrop

Although I love sunshine, it's actually quite hard to take photos of snow in bright sun and the soft flat lighting was better in many ways. One drawback though, is that white subjects against a white background tend to blend together. Usually I prefer natural light but I used the flash a few times when it was still quite dark and found that it worked well to make a subject stand out by making it bright against a dark background. Cameras have gotten much better with flash and they now do amazingly well, even with tricky subjects like white snow. Of course, the results weren't always completely natural looking but I was ok with the tradeoff.

frost covered branches

twinkle twinkle little star

I shot a variety of subjects, from closeups of the frost (amazingly thick) to views of the river. There were even some ducks - Common Goldeneyes. They were funny to watch - one minute there'd be a big group swimming along and the next they'd all pop out of sight (diving for food), only to all reappear a moment later.

Common Goldeneye

At one point I was kneeling at the base of some trees just off the trail, shooting straight up. A man came along the trail with his dog and I gave them both a good scare when I stood up out of nowhere!

looking up

Normally when I process my photos I'm aiming for sharpness and contrast but with a few of these I went the opposite direction, trying to recreate the hazy look of the gray day with the snow in the air.



It was quite cold (around -20c) but I dressed warm and it wasn't too bad. I just wore a thin glove on my right hand to operate the camera and kept it in my jacket pocket the rest of the time. After an hour or so my fingers and toes were getting cold and I started to head towards home. But strangely they gradually warmed up again and I ended up staying out for over two hours. My body must have realized that it wasn't going to freeze and it didn't need to cut off circulation to my extremities!

like a bird on a wire

Although I didn't make it more than 10 minutes walk from home I ended up taking over 500 photos, filling up one 16gb memory card and starting on a second. (My camera has dual slots.) I had a spare battery warm in an inside pocket but the one in the camera only dropped one notch, despite the cold and using the flash. It started snowing towards the end but by then the camera was cold enough that the snow didn't melt or stick.


These last two were my prints for the week.

The downside of taking that many photos is going through them afterwards and trying to pick out the "best". I gave up after whittling it down to 50. That's still too many, but I got tired of choosing!

If you want more, see all 50 as a slideshow or overview

Thursday, December 24, 2015


Every brief and fragile crystal is a glittering jewel in its own right, transient but perfect. Blue shadows lie across the snow. And the meaning of that snow: life for the thirsty grass. Life for the animals that feed on the grass. Life for us who live here.
- Edward Abbey
I emerged from the house into the still dark morning to find the world transformed into a magical frost covered landscape. It was still dark, lit only by the street lights, but brighter from the white all around. Despite it being really too dark for photography (at least without a tripod) I only made it the half block to the end of the alley before feeling compelled to pull out my camera.


I love my morning walk to work. The lower path along the river was a tunnel through the frost covered trees. The frost was sparkling like diamonds. This is my kind of "Christmas tree". Not some indoor plastic thing covered with colored baubles. (Apologies to those of you who love your decorated trees, it's just not my thing.)


I continued to take photos as I walked to work although I really wasn't too sure any of them would turn out. My everyday carry RX100 is a great camera, but for this I would have had a better chance if I'd had my DSLR. As I expected, many of the photos were useless but surprisingly, some of them turned out not too bad. (As long as you don't look too close!) Even if none of them had turned out, it was still worth it since the camera makes me look closer at the amazing world around me.

foggy frosty morning

I took the two shots forming this panorama separately without thinking about joining them, but when I saw them on the computer I immediately thought to combine them. The ice on the river was moving enough to be a bit blurred with the long exposure. (1/3 sec handheld!)

cross that bridge when you get to it

Even after arriving at work I had to take a few more shots out the window of my office.

from my office window

Walking between buildings at lunch the sun was glinting off the frost and I itched to be out taking more photos, but I had work to do.

By the time I walked home it was dark again and my camera stayed in my pack. At least the days are getting longer again :-)

For more of these photos see all 8 photos as a slideshow or overview

Best wishes to everyone for the holidays!

Monday, December 21, 2015


The sunshine lured me outside yesterday afternoon with my camera, although there's not much warmth in it this time of year. It was only around -10c but still cool enough standing around taking photos, especially with mitts off to work the camera.

There are limited subjects around - no butterflies or flowers! But the ice and snow form their own patterns and aren't without their own cold beauty.

ice crystals

The remains of the plants are dry and brown and the seeds are waiting for spring.


With the cooler weather the river is starting to freeze over.


river ice reflections

I also stopped on the way home tonight to try to capture the pastel colored sunset.


For more photos see all 18 as a slideshow or overview

Sunday, December 06, 2015


The sunrise this morning was very colorful. I wasn't going to try to take photos because our view is quite cluttered, but Shelley started taking some and shamed me into it :-)

Here's the overall "cluttered" view. Although the ground does slope down behind the house it's not quite enough to have a clear view.


To make better photos I zoomed in to smaller sections of the scene.


After taking one shot of this, I realized the camera was focusing on the near tree, so I took another shot focusing on the far trees. As I was trying to choose between them I realized I could "focus stack" them, basically taking the top part of one and the bottom part of the other. Although Lightroom now lets you merge panoramas and HDR, you still need to use another tool like Photoshop to do focus stacking. Hopefully that'll come to Lightroom at some point.

And even tighter:


And a little different section:


When you shoot raw, you have the freedom to adjust the white balance after the fact. That's great, except it means you have to try to remember what the color really was, or at least decide what you want it to be. I always laugh when I hear that someone's digital photo has not been processed at all, since that's impossible. It might have made slightly more sense in the days of film, but digital photographs have to be processed from the sensor data. There's no such thing as "no processing". All it means is that you left the processing to the camera's (or computer's) automatic choices. Of course, "processing" is a slippery slope if you're doing it manually and there is admittedly more room to make images that diverge from realistic, as in some of my reflection photos.

Thursday, December 03, 2015


An assortment of reflection photos from the last little while. I took 'em where I found 'em - ponds, lakes, ocean, swimming pools ...









As usual with my reflections, these are more heavily processed than most of my photos. Many of them don't look like much before adjustments. When I'm taking them I have to imagine what I can do with them.

For more photos see all 25 in this album as a slideshow or overview

Tuesday, December 01, 2015

Parting Shots

Final batch of photos from our trip, I promise!

While we were waiting for the bobsled races in Whistler I couldn't help noticing the frost on the snow and trying to capture it. It's always tricky taking photos of white on white! Good practice for back in Saskatoon.


Back in Vancouver we walked from the train station to Terra Breads for supper and on the way back I quickly pulled out my camera to capture the view. (handheld at 1/30 at ISO 7200 - the wonders of modern cameras!)

Vancouver night skyline

As usual we were treated to great scenery on the train ride. But the windows were dirty, and the train moving, and I resisted taking any photos, knowing they wouldn't turn out well. But the sunrise was fantastic and I gave in. And yes, the sky really was that colorful!

sunrise from the train

This one had a bit of a surreal feel to start with so I reinforced that with the processing.

sunrise from the train

And finally the sun began to peek over the horizon.

sunrise from the train

The sunrise lasted a long time - these shots were taken from about 8am to 9am.

For more sunrise photos see all 11 in this album as a slideshow or overview

Thursday, November 26, 2015


We're on our way home by train. We stopped in Seattle to break up the journey (and since you need to switch trains anyway.) We prefer stopping in Portland, but the connection north to Vancouver works better from Seattle. It was quite a transition from sunny warm Santa Barbara to fresh snow on Mt. Shasta and cold rainy Seattle. (And news of snow waiting for us at home.)

We weren't too ambitious in Seattle so we headed over to the Space Needle area where we ended up at the Science Center. There were some pools of water and trees changing color which provided photography material (while Shelley waited patiently!).

This shot was bland out of the camera, but I quite like this heavily processed version. (Blowing out the highlights got rid of the distracting wall behind.)

autumn colors

I liked the floating leaves (with sunken ones as a backdrop)

floating autumn leaves

I even managed to combine favorite subjects with autumn leaves on reflections :-)

floating autumn leaves

There was a butterfly garden in the Science Center where I also took a ton of photos.




I like direct, "portrait" style shots like these, but it's also fun to try to find different compositions.


Owl butterfly

And just for something different, a final architecture shot.

hallway & fountain

For more photos see all 39 as a slideshow or overview

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

San Jose del Cabo

Unless you like mega resorts with mega people and mega booze, stay away from Cabo San Lucas. And if you do, you're probably reading the wrong blog! To me, Cabo San Lucas has little to do with Baja, at least the Baja that we love. I don’t think Jacques Cousteau came to Baja to buy a Gucci bag.

But Cabo has the main airport and the easiest access to Cabo Pulmo. The answer is to stay in San Jose del Cabo, about 15 km down the coast and the historic town. It's still touristy with tons of souvenir shops, but at least it's not resort-land. There's a town square that has local (non-tourist) events, historic buildings, art galleries, and small hotels and restaurants. (Note: San Jose is not on the ocean, don't come here for beach time.)

We've previously stayed at El Encanto and the Tropicana (bigger). This trip we got a good deal at Casa Natalia and stayed there for the first time. It's in a great location, right on the corner of the main square. The hotel has a nice restaurant and there's a nice little coffee shop just around the corner. There's a small pool to cool off in after wandering around in the heat. (Even in November it's hot in the middle of the day.)

Casa Natalia

bougainvillea & view from our room at Casa Nataiia

There are lots of restaurants in the area. The Tasting Room has no menu, you tell them your food preferences and choose three or five courses, and they do the rest. Our being vegetarian was no problem and they served us tasty and creative dishes. We chose three courses and it was plenty since they also brought several "extras". It wasn't cheap but it was as good a meal as we've had anywhere. We also had a great meal at Don Sanchez, in a lovely court yard with a talented guitar player for entertainment.

Originally, we hadn't planned to spend much time here, but with our diving cut short we had a couple of extra days. It was nice to relax, catch up on photos and blogs, and wander around. Just nearby (within walking distance) there is an estuary that is a protected nature area. It's a bit rundown (like many things here!) but there were lots of birds and it was a quiet escape.


White-faced ibis

Osprey in flight

This next photograph was somewhat of an "accident". I had changed my camera settings for a bird against a bright sky and then forgotten to put them back. This ruined a number of other shots, but I actually like the way this one came out. I realized I should try "high key" (mostly bright) photos more often.

Soldier milkweed butterfly

I ended up taking quite a few butterfly photos this trip. I mentioned to Shelley that I didn't have the patience to try to identify them and she volunteered. (Part of the problem is that the butterfly app I have isn't as good as the bird apps.) I thought this was a Monarch and I was partly correct, it is a milkweed butterfly (like the Monarch) but this is a Soldier (we think).

White peacock butterfly (?)

Pipevine swallowtail

If you have a car, or don't mind a longer taxi ride, we'd definitely recommend a visit to Flora Farms. Make sure to allow time to wander around as well as enjoying the restaurant. They grow much of the food they serve and everything we had was wonderful. Check out some of their unique cocktails like the hibiscus mimosas which come with an actual hibiscus flower in them. (Hibiscus popsicles and jam are also tasty local specialties.)

hibiscus flower


cactus wren

As we were driving back from Flora Farms we passed a gap in a wall and in the split second glimpse I thought I saw something. I confused Shelley when I yelled "stop!" and got her to back up. Sure enough, here's what you could see through the gap:


The lizard (not sure what kind) was in someone's backyard so it was hard to get a clear shot, and when I got too close it ran away. It was quite large (relative to the usual small ones running around) - maybe 2 ft in length.


Also within walking distance from San Jose is Wirikuta, the cactus garden and nursery, and sculpture garden. It has no fixed hours and the first time we tried to visit it was closed, but the second time it was open and we enjoyed wandering around.

cactus flowers



There were lots of colorful spiders around but they were quite small and sitting on the middle of their webs getting blown about by the wind i.e. hard to photograph! Here's my best attempt of many. (This one was smaller than a raisin.)


In addition to cactus, there was lots of bougainvillea, and a variety of palms (I think these were African).

bougainvillea & palms

For more photos see all 59 as a slideshow or overview