Sunday, May 31, 2015


The flowering trees are coming to an end, with most of their petals now lying thick on the ground (along with all the seeds from the trees) so these are probably the last of the blossom photos from this year. They are delightful while they last.



These leaves of these next flowers are one of the first signs of green to emerge from under the snow. But because the leaves lie under the snow all winter they often look rather bedraggled. The flowers are a nice splash of color though.

spot the spider

I didn't notice the spider until I was looking at the photos on the computer. Can you spot it?

Speaking of spiders, I've been watching for the fishing spiders by the pond. So far I've only spotted a few small ones. I assume they'll get larger as the summer progresses.

These flowers always look pretty in the early morning light.


And the irises are starting to flower. They must run the sprinklers early in the morning so when I arrive at work the plants are all covered with sparkling drops of water.


See all 9 photos as a slideshow or overview

Saturday, May 30, 2015

River Paddle

Last weekend a friend of Shelley's got us out for a paddle down the river. (Thanks Rebecca!) It was a beautiful morning, the sun was shining and the river was calm. We got out fairly early which was good because it was getting hot by the time we finished at noon.

Of course, I had to do a little photography along the way. (with the new Nikon 7200 and 18-300 lens) We didn't see anything too special, mostly the usual suspects - gulls, Canada geese, ducks. We did see a couple of beavers but they didn't hang around long enough to be photographed.

on the river
Shelley and Rebecca

There were lots of some kind of bug that must have hatched in the warm weather. The swallows were swooping over the river and catching them.


I never get tired of watching and photographing the geese. They seem to have a lot of character. When I was out running the other day the trail was blocked by a pair of geese with their goslings. Usually they shepherd their family away from you, but this pair just stood their ground and hissed at me. If I got too close they would start moving towards me, aggressively. Eventually they wandered off and let me pass.

Canada geese


Canada geese

Lots of gulls around as well, especially on the sand bars.

Franklin's gulls
Franklin's gulls

And a runner taking advantage of the pedestrian walkway under the new bridge

bridge runner

See all 22 photos as a slideshow or overview

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Bug of the Day

When I took my iced coffee outside I found a visitor on my chair. So of course I had to run back inside and grab the macro lens. Anyone know what it is?




The macro lens is for my old Pentax, I'm going to miss that lens, as you can see it does a pretty good job. Will have to look for something similar for Nikon.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Nature's Delights

Spring is nature's way of saying, 'Let's party!'"
- Robin Williams

I took the new 7200 on my walk to work the other day. It was a beautiful sunny morning and the trees are exuberant. It was partly practice and testing the new camera, and partly just my usual joy in recording the wonders of nature.

The pelicans have been congregating in the mornings below the weir. It's a bit far from the walkway on the bridge with only the 18-300 but doable. Funny how small the Canada geese look next to the pelicans. The pelicans have the second largest wingspan of any North American bird (number one are the condors).

pelican morning preening

At the other extreme, here's testing the macro abilities of the same lens. It's still cool enough in the mornings that the bugs are moving a little slower and easier to photograph.


I love the new emerging leaves.

springing forth

And, of course, all the flowering bushes and trees.


Almost an overdose of color on some of them:

a riot of color

A lucky shot of someone else enjoying the flowers:

busy bee

new leaves by the pond

Despite the frustration of learning a new camera, and missing some of the features from the old one, I'm pretty happy with the results so far.

See all 24 photos as a slideshow or overview

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

The Road More Traveled

I'm normally a fan of the road less traveled. But it can be problematic. Since 2007 I've been using Pentax DSLR's (K10, K7, K5ii, K3) And I've been happy with them, at least until the K3 started giving me problems. I'll leave that story for another day when the saga is over but the end result is I've had enough of Pentax.

I'd already been wondering how long I'd stick with Pentax since their market share is tiny. Which means things like lenses aren't always available in Pentax versions.

These days Canon and Nikon pretty much have the market cornered. Both are good and which is "better" is heavily debated. Canon probably has the lead in video, but I shoot very little video.

I wanted an APS-C sensor, for a smaller camera and for longer reach with lenses. (due to the crop factor.) That meant either the Nikon D7200 or the Canon 7D mk2.  DSLR's seem to be focusing on full size sensors, while people willing to settle for smaller sensors are moving to mirrorless cameras. I like my little Sony but for certain types of photography, a DSLR is still the best choice. I decided to go with the 7200. One (minor) factor was that the 7200 takes two SD cards whereas the 7D takes one SD and one compact flash (which would be useless to me). Both are recent releases so the models won't be outdated too soon. (The Nikon D5500 is quite a bit smaller and has much the same sensor, but it doesn't have the same level of controls and displays.)

I'm not really looking forward to the switch. I have the Pentax in muscle memory and now I have to learn a whole new set of controls. Admittedly the functionality is mostly the same but the way you control it and the quirks are all different.

Any complex system has parts you don't like. And Nikon and the 7200 are no exception. One thing I found right away is that there's no easy way to reset the settings. This isn't unusual, my Sony RX100 is the same. Maybe it's just because I'm forgetful, but too many times I've altered settings for a particular shot and then unintentionally continued to use those settings, ruining a bunch of subsequent shots. I liked Pentax in this respect. It had a green button that would reset the basic exposure. And you could also define what settings should be kept or cleared when you powered off. I had mine set to clear almost all the settings when powered off. At first I thought I had found the Nikon equivalent - two buttons with green dots that you held down together. But you have no control over what it does and it clears way too much, including switching to JPEG mode! I find it hard to believe that JPEG should be the default. On a relatively high end camera like this surely most people are shooting RAW. On the other extreme, turning off the camera doesn't seem to reset anything. You can turn the camera off in the middle of a bracketing sequence and when you come back in a week it'll want to finish the bracketing. I guess that makes sense if you have to turn off the camera to change batteries or memory cards, but that'll be the exception. For me it'll be much more common that I'll end up shooting with the wrong settings. But I'll live with it, like I do with the Sony.

Another quirk is that for bracketing the 7200 requires you to either press the shutter multiple times or switch to continuous mode, whereas Pentax automatically allows continuous for bracketing.

One good feature of the 7200 is that you can still shoot RAW in full auto mode. On the Pentax full auto forces JPEG.

One theoretically big difference is that Pentax has image stabilization in the body, whereas Nikon (and Canon) have it in the lenses. To me it makes sense to have it once in the body instead of in every lens. But Pentax lenses weren't especially cheaper because of this, and as long as you have stabilized lenses there's not much difference.

As far as image quality goes I'm not expecting much difference from the K3. There's a minor increase in resolution - the 7200 is 24mp whereas the K3 was 20mp. Low light performance and auto-focus might be a little better. However, for the last six months I've been forced to use my older K5ii while my K3 has been away getting "serviced", so there will definitely be a bump in quality from what I've been using lately.

Of course, this means replacing lenses, flash, remotes, batteries, etc. On the positive side, I replaced the 18-250 with the Nikon 18-300, and will be replacing the Sigma 150-500 with the 150-600 (due out shortly), so I'll have a little more reach with both. (With the tradeoff of slightly larger size.) Hopefully I'll be able to sell the Pentax gear and recoup at least some of my costs.

I haven't taken many photos with the 7200 yet. As a true geek (of a certain sort) I've been studying the manual first :-) These two were taken in the backyard while experimenting.



I'm a little sad to be joining the mainstream. Never liked to be one of the crowd. The first thing I have to do is replace that gaudy Nikon neck-strap since I have no desire to be a walking advertisement!

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Prints of the Week

More from our Kanchenjunga trek. I'm not sure what caught my eye about this one. It was taken in the late evening so it was close to black and white to start with. Usually prayer flags are so colorful but no sign of that in this photo. Maybe it just brings back memories for me, in which case it may not be one of your favorites. And black and white isn't everyone's cup of tea.

end of the day

For a splash of color to balance the black and white I also printed this closeup of a freshly painted mani stone.

mani stone

Shelley set up our last living room wall for hanging photos so our rotating home "gallery" is now up to nine photos. So much of our viewing is now done on screens these days, but there's still something different about a print. Paper is never as bright as a computer screen, but it's different to live with them a while and see how they grow on you (or not). If you're a photographer, I'd encourage you to print and display some of your images, even if it's just 8x10's.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Trying to Fly

I watch the wind these days, for the right direction and the right strength at the right time, to kite or maybe even fly my paraglider. Frustratingly, these three elements seldom align.

Earlier in the week it started to look like conditions might be reasonable on Sunday morning at a nearby hill - the wind in the right direction and not too strong. As the day approached, the forecast shifted and it looked like it might be good Saturday evening as well. Great, I thought, I could camp out and fly in the evening and the morning. But it shifted again and Sun. morning the wind was going to be totally backwards. But Sat. evening still looked good. The wind was too strong during the day but was forecast to drop to 10 kmh around 4pm. That was almost a little light but I figured it would probably be stronger at the top of the hill, so even if it was double the forecast I'd be ok.

I arrived at 5pm and hiked up to the top of the hill. I came up on the side away from the wind so things seemed good. But as soon as I stepped on top I knew it was too strong. It was gusting to over 30 kmh (where my wind meter maxes out), over triple the forecast. I settled in to practice my "parawaiting". Although it was a reasonably warm spring day it was still chilly sitting in the wind on the top of the hill. I figured that the wind had to die down eventually (as it typically does in the evening). I'd give it till 6. When that arrived with no change in the wind I decided I'd give it till 6:30. At 7 I gave up and headed down the hill. Two hours of waiting was about my limit!

The wind wasn't quite as strong at the bottom of the hill so I decided I'd see if it was kiteable. It was a little gusty but after a few tries I managed some decent kiting. That gave me a little more optimism. And it seemed maybe the wind was easing off. I decided I could probably fly the bottom part of the hill. Flying 20 or 30 feet isn't exactly the thrill of a lifetime but it sure beats sitting waiting!

I started with forward launches because the hill is steep and uneven and I wanted to see where I was going. But it was hard to control the glider in the shifting wind so I switched to reverse launches and was just careful not to back up!

I gradually worked my way higher up the hill. I'm not sure if the wind was actually getting lighter or I was just getting used to it. I went back up to the top but it was still too strong. I did get in a couple of flights from just below the top that were at least long enough to sit back in the harness and make some gentle turns. I got in about an hour of flying, and a good workout of climbing the hill repeatedly.

Shelley was, as usual, busy with SSAR so I was on my own. Not that it's any riskier on your own, the only advantage is you'd have someone to call for help. I brought my inReach emergency beacon and carefully turned it on before I started. But I realized after I was done that I had forgotten to put it in the pocket of my harness. Oh well, if I had broken a leg I would have just had to crawl across the field to where I left it :-) My father used to say it was a curse to have too good an imagination.

As it turned out, the main risk was the ticks. I'd heard they were bad, but I didn't notice any at first. Then I happened to glance down and I had about ten crawling on my pant legs. I found a bunch more crawling up my ankles and legs. I found more when I got home and stripped. The next day I found one crawling on my desk!

Later, out of curiosity I checked the wind at the best hill I found in south-west Saskatchewan. And, of course, since I'm not there it was looking perfect for flying. It's pretty obvious this is going to be a frustrating business!

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Ten More

A few months ago I printed and framed a bunch of my photos to hang up in my company's new offices. I thought 16 would be lots, but it's a big office and there was plenty of room to hang more. The photos seemed to go over well so I did another batch. As usual, the hardest part is picking them. I aimed for a mix of local and travel, landscapes and critters.

Saskatoon winter night

Waskesiu river


Kingsmere lake

Canada geese

Yellow warbler


Dramatic skies


Alaska mountains

It's great to have somewhere to hang a collection of prints. If anyone is interested in coming over to have a look, feel free to contact me.

See all 10 photos as a slideshow or overview

Saturday, May 09, 2015

An Embarassment of Riches

There must be more to life than having everything.
- Maurice Sendak, Where the Wild Things Are

A few photos walking home Friday after work. One thing Saskatchewan has is seasons. Hard to believe this is the same place that a few months ago looked like something out of the arctic. There are almost too many new plants and flowers to absorb. A wonderful time of the year!



new leaves


And, yes, I'm probably overly fond of the sunbursts!

See all 9 photos as a slideshow or overview

Monday, May 04, 2015

Birds on the River

Now they pass, filling the distance, 
a faint flapping of wings against the light, a throbbing winged unity. 
- Pablo Neruda

A few days ago I got out on the river with my kayak for the first time this year. I was on my own so I decided to take the long lens and see what birds were around. It always makes me a little nervous with the expensive camera and lens on the water, but our kayaks are fairly stable and the river was calm. Although it's a challenge to hold a long telephoto steady in a moving boat, it is a great view point and many of the birds are easier to approach from the water than from the land.

I mostly saw the usual suspects - Canada geese, white pelicans, and ducks. There haven't been a lot of pelicans on the river yet. Mostly I've seen a white clump of them on the end of the island above the weir. There were a couple of them below the weir parking lot just hanging out.

White pelicans

I could see another one on the other side of the river so I headed over there. But once I got across I got distracted by a pair of Common mergansers. (If I was a bird I think I'd be offended to be called "common"!)

Common mergansers

Eventually they got tired of me following them around and flew away. You can see the streamlined head and neck for diving and the hooked beak (with backwards pointing serrated teeth) for catching fish. Unlike most birds, the female is actually the more showy of the pair with her reddish brown crested head. The male's head often looks black but in the right light it has a green shine.

Common merganser (male)

By this point the pelican I'd come across the river to see had disappeared. But it's a common spot for them so I found an eddy to park in and waited. Soon enough one of the ones from the other side of the river took off and flew over. I tried to follow it with the telephoto but had the usual struggle getting it both in the frame and in focus. I count myself lucky if anything turns out.

White pelican

I also tried to catch it landing but the one that worked out is rather a funny pose. It looks like it's praying or something.

Pelican landing

This shot clearly shows the "horn" they temporarily develop in breeding season.

White pelican

This one didn't hang around for long either so I headed back down the river where I found the pair of mergansers up on the shore. I laughed when I got back to the computer and saw this photo of them walking in step like some old married couple.

walk this way

There were also small shorebirds flitting about but they moved around quickly and were hard to capture. This one looks like a Spotted sandpiper.

Spotted sandpiper

Just at the end of my paddle I came across a Canada goose on the shore that let me get quite close before deciding to fly away. I shot a continuous sequence as it took off and a couple of them came out quite well. I love the long stride on this one. (I could just hear our paragliding instructor yelling "run, run, run" when we were taking off.) And you can see it had it's eye on me the whole time.

Goose takeoff

Any appearance of skill at this kind of photography is mostly due to taking a lot of shots and picking the lucky few that are half decent. Most of the 400 shots I took looked more like these two!


See all 14 photos as a slideshow or overview

PS. A sad postscript to this post is that two days later, walking along the river on my way to work, I saw a dead duck on the beach. I realized it was a male common merganser. I thought maybe a hawk or eagle had got it, but as I got closer I could see it was intact. Then I realized it was tightly entangled in fishing line and had likely drowned. I only saw the one pair but there could be others around so it's hard to say if it's the one I photographed. If so, those photos were its last. I wonder if his partner will find a new mate. Will they still walk in step? Yet another victim of the apex destroyer, homo sapiens. When we don't kill deliberately, we do it by carelessness and disregard.