Monday, July 28, 2014


I like colour, and one of my favourite colours is yellow.  At this time of year we have an abundance of deep rich sunny yellows in both gardens and in the rural landscape. 

The canola fields are in full bloom on farms all around the province. In my daily drive to the stables I go past many brilliant yellow fields, and can't help stopping to get shots with my camera. Depending on which way the wind is blowing, I also get a large dose of the very sweet scent of the flowers--almost a talcum powder smell, as best I can describe it. It's the kind of smell that seems like if you took in too much of it, it would make your teeth hurt.

Shot one shows the tree islands in the midst of the canola plantings, with the rusty rail-line tracks running across the bottom of the photo. These tracks will help transport the harvested crop so they have earned their spot in this photo.

Our day lilies are starting to bloom, with the prolific little Stella D'or being among the first to show itself.

I'm not sure what these cheerful little things are. I have a large pot of decorative millet planted in the front of the house, and these bright trailers are the filler plantings at the base of the tall millet. I like them for their colour (such a sunny yellow and a very nice green on the feathery foliage) and their form. I'll have to keep an eye out for them again next year when I'm shopping at the greenhouses in the spring.

Jim and I happened upon this house twice in the past week, both times by accident as we were heading elsewhere and/or following some of the many city street detours. On the second occasion I had my camera with me so we stopped and got a photo. I like everything about it--the cosy size, the way it nestles into its environment, and of course the great colours of the house and the decorative trim. It's always a pleasure to encounter people who aren't afraid to use colour.

Rounding out today's shots, here's another canola image. This is a panorama I took today on a side road. I haven't done any panoramas for a while as I tend to forget they are an option, but with the big lens, the only way to get the full feel for the spread of the fields was to do a panorama. I've sized it down to fit into the space allotted here, but the original width of the panorama as created would come in   at 54"/ 137 cm!!

Monday, July 21, 2014

A yard crow at last .....

July seems to be slipping by at warp speed, much like the whole year to date. I'm not sure why this is, as it's not as if I'm busily or even profitably (in any interpretation of that word) employed, but there you have it.

One of the small (well, in my world not so small) pleasures of this summer has been that finally I have my "own" crow that comes to the front yard bird feeder on a consistent basis. Possibly the entertainment value will pall over time, but for now I am greatly enjoying the photo ops, and have added massively to my corvid photo collection. Once summer is over (not for a long time, I sincerely hope) I'll be working up some new art images based on these photos.

With the ongoing heat and intermittent thunderstorms that dump water, things are growing like crazy in the yard. I have three young American bittersweet vines on the front trellis by the bird feeder, and anything that stands still for too long gets entwined, as with my crow fence sitter in shot one.

Then we have the real-life version of shot one, with the visiting crow. He eventually got tired of being tickled by the vine and stomped it down with one of his feet.

Last week in addition to the heat and humidity, we had a lot of smoke in the atmosphere due to many uncontrolled forest fires to the north and west of us. This smoke has really travelled as when I say north and west, I'm talking hundreds and thousands of kilometres away.  As you can see in shot three, the sun was still quite high in the sky, but an early darkness descended due to the heavy smoke in the air. This shot has a general air of gloom and despair between the smoke and the dead trees, drowned out by a few too many years under water. It would be a worthy setting for a story by of H P Lovecraft, an author revered by my teenage grandson, but whose charms have pretty well escaped me.

I noticed the reflection of the hosta and the lovely blue sky in the fishpond water a few days ago, and ended up doing a whole series of shots. I'm always fascinated by reflections, and this colour combination was just too good to pass up. 

I found this gift from the crow in the dry creekbed of the front yard a few days ago. I tend to come across a lot of crow feathers one way and another, and have quite a good collection now. I have a concept in mind for a photomontage art piece with a feather and rock theme, but like most of my artwork these days, it will have to wait for cooler weather. I have the double whammy of not being able to stay indoors when I could be outside, plus the fact that my studio is intolerably hot in the summer, so even if I am moved to do some artwork, it's a pretty big challenge.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Big moon and hot summer

I went out to a country road a few nights back to view the "super moon". Shot one shows one of the results. It's a pretty poor offering as far as photography goes, but I wanted to share the effect of the size and the colour that it had as it rose above the horizon. I used my "bridge" camera for this as it has a larger zoom than my DSLR. Either it can't produce better quality low-light shots, or, more likely, I don't know the correct way to set it up for more successful end products than this. I do know that in order to get the quality I would like I would need my Nikon DSLR , a tripod, and lots of patience, but with the mosquitoes the way they are these days, there's no way I'd be out there fiddling with a tripod. I did see a more dedicated person than I am with exactly that set-up as I was heading back to the city, and I hope his results were better than mine. I'm sure he paid for it in bites. Maybe I'll get better motivated/less lazy before the next super moon, assuming we have clear skies for that one.

It's been a funny year in the garden due to the late and cold spring, so my peonies are a good couple of weeks later than usual in blooming. Most years they are out in late June, and generally get pounded into the ground almost immediately by a June downpour. I think I have fewer flowers than average this year, but due to the hot and sunny weather they are holding together quite well. I like the intricate sculptural qualities of their shapes. It wasn't until I looked at this on my monitor that I realized I also captured a cute little green spider in this shot.

This was "just another day on the way to the barn" last week. This was also taken with the little bridge camera that I used for the moon shot. It does a nice enough job when it has decent light to work with.

I drove past this herd a week or so ago, coming home from a client horse shoot. While the scene looks idyllic, in fact the flies and biting insects were brutal, and I was glad just to stop briefly for a photo, then carry on. The visuals of long grass and summer sun can be lovely, but the reality often falls short for the poor animals that are out there 24/7.

I think of these two as the "bookends"at Ebon Stables. Their stalls are opposite each other at the east end of the stables, and they were enjoying themselves this afternoon keeping an eye on whoever was passing by that end of the barn. They are both Paints from my friend's breeding program, spending a couple of weeks at Ebon just to give them a taste of life away from the farm.

Monday, July 7, 2014

One trip--

One photo outing in the past week has provided all the visuals for today's post. I heard via the grapevine that a friend in the riding world was fostering a pair of young ravens that needed assistance until they are old enough to fend for themselves. Ravens being the obsession they are with me, I made arrangements to visit and beetled out there as quickly as I was able to, bringing along another friend who is experienced with corvid care who was also interested in meeting them.

Our first point of interest on arriving was the entertainingly decorated white (technically grey, in horse-speak) ponies as they rested in their turnout. It seems that some of visiting little girls of the summer riding camp wanted to have a shot at doing painted ponies, and were granted permission to do so. I often view white horses as a good starting point for many of my own art pieces, so I can't fault their reasoning. Once we've had a good rain, the ponies will be back to their original "blank canvas" status. 

We visited with the ravens as they were being fed. I was impressed with how big they are (not sure what I was expecting) and the serious nature of those beaks. They are both able to fly about reasonably well, so it won't be long until they are ready to move outdoors to their natural habitat. I hope to be able to get out and photograph them again if they stick around the area once they are on their own. I suspect they will.

Who knew that a raven photo op would end up with a series of "happy pig" images? This cutie is a "rescue" pig that was turned in anonymously (i.e. dumped overnight in his crate) at an animal clinic in Alberta (if I recall the story correctly) by his previous owner. He has had the enormous good fortune to end up on my friend's horse farm, where he entertains everyone with his cuteness and winning personality. He's just a little guy at present, about half the height of the Golden Retriever dog, but is also still a youngster as best anyone can tell, so it's hard to say what size he'll end up. His name is Hamlet, which is perfect in so many ways.

Here he is showing his dressage moves, with a nice lengthened trot across the diagonal.

In this shot I think he's practising his "podium smile" for future wins in whatever sorts of competitions he might end up in.

 This was one of the side roads en route to the raven/pig outing. I'm always happy to add to my modest collection of "stating the obvious" photos. This reflects the large amounts of rain that we've had this June, and indeed in the few previous years as well. There are a lot of areas in the province that used to be totally dry that are now under feet of water. This past week saw several tornado hits as well in the south of the province, some of them not too far from here. But at least it's hot and sunny now and has stopped raining!

Monday, June 30, 2014

Lovely weather for------moose

We had a couple of good days on Friday, and most mercifully also on Saturday, which was the day of my one and only outdoor show/sale for the year. I do have a decent canopy tent with sides, but in high winds and/or a downpour, it's a less than ideal set-up for protecting artwork. Since I've done this particular show in nothing but heavy rain with wind for the past few years, having a warm, sunny and calm day on Saturday was very welcome. There were a lot of people out and about in the area, as the Jazz Festival was on as well, and the day was quite busy. 

We were pretty well back to regular programming with rain on Sunday, and again today, but those two days last week were great. We in central Saskatchewan are in much better shape than much of the rest of the province, though, with some areas to the south and east of us receiving 6 inches/15cm of rain in a 48 hour period. Towns are being evacuated, roads are underwater or washed out, highways are closed, and there is still more rain to come. 

Things continue lush and beautiful in the garden. Shot one shows my downspout gargoyle enjoying a tasty snack of the Ninebark blossoms. 

I caught this little bee (or bee-like insect, not sure what it is) in action on one of the Japanese irises. They're almost done flowering but were glorious this year, so tall and elegant.

This was a horse-show weekend at one of the local stables. They got the benefit of the lovely days on Friday and Saturday, but things went south by Sunday afternoon. I had a few photo clients riding in this show and headed off to get some hunter ring photos early Sunday afternoon. I got a few shots before the skies opened up and things ground to a halt. Since it was going to be a while before "my" riders would be in the ring, I went home for a coffee and a read.  The rain stopped and there was a fair wind and lots of cloud, but also big patches of blue sky that let the sun through. As I headed back to the show in hopes of getting my photos, the sky darkened and the rain started belting down. I drove out of the rain zone as I left the city, but it pursued me and just as I got to the show, the downpour began there as well. I got this one shot of a horse and rider before they gave up and headed for the barn, then I was out of there myself. The footing from the downpour was such that over-fences classes didn't seem likely, and by then the show was mostly done anyway.

I headed east to Ebon from the horse show, to check on my own horse, and was pleasantly surprised to see that no rain had fallen there at all. This is a rarity, as if there is any rain in a twenty mile radius of the city, it always seems to fall at Ebon. I got this shot from the approach road to Ebon, looking west to where the downpour had occurred. Of course this state of affairs was too good to last, and Ebon was pretty well underwater again today, just when the outdoor riding rings were finally looking hopeful. Some day I'll get to ride outside again.

Today's trip to Ebon brought the wonderful surprise of a moose sighting in the north grassy treed area by the highway. Usually by the time I get my car stopped and wrestle the camera out, any wildlife I might want to photograph is long gone, but this moose seemed pretty unconcerned, so I was able to get a few shots, although not at the best angle, as she (no antlers, hence a female) wandered off into the bush. Up to about ten years ago, moose were confined to the northern/boreal forest parts of the province. In the past few years, they have been sighted in considerable numbers right into the south of the province, and sometimes even in the cities. We had a little group of three "Ebon moose" a few years ago, but they disappeared, and this is the first one I've seen out there in about three years. Very exciting! 

Monday, June 23, 2014

The summer of our discontent---

Admittedly, we're not that far into "official" summer, but so far I'm not very happy with it. We've had a solid week (and more) of relentless rains, low skies, and very little light. Today was the first day without rain but it's supposed to return in a couple of days. My backyard rain gauge shows close to 4 in/10 cm over the past ten days. Everything is *very* green, but we do need some heat and sun to bring gardens and hay crops along. 

Shot one shows the jump ring at Ebon stables as it was a few days ago. Even more water fell since I took this shot. This was taken around two in the afternoon, and demonstrates the gloom under which we have been toiling. Even on the 21st, the day of longest daylight hours, it was dark enough about seven in the evening that streetlights were coming on. It should have been light until ten or so.

Then there was the deluge of that evening that caught Rony and I at the end of an "away from home" dog walk. Even at the highest setting my windshield wipers could barely keep up to the job of letting me see where to drive, and I did need to see in order to avoid the deep puddles and flooded areas at intersections. Not fun. 

The river is running high and fast as the heavy rains to the west of us have filled the reservoirs of  upriver dams which have had to release water. None of this seems to bother the local pelican population, who were in evidence when I stopped by the weir a few nights ago. There were about thirty or so pelicans to be seen up and down that part of the river. This fellow had a few good catches at the base of the weir, then headed downriver to visit some friends on the far bank. 

I can't recall our front yard ever looking as splendid as it does so far this year. We've spent a fair amount of time working on weeding and general maintenance, which helps, and the weather conditions do seem to have done wonders for my irises. Now that we've not been able to weed for a week or so, we'll have to play catch-up for the next while. At least the weeds are easy to pull when the ground is so wet.

The foul weather has provided me with more studio time than normal for this time of year. This has some benefits as I have a sale coming up on Saturday ( 28th), so at least I'll have a decent amount of work to display. Check out the Waterfront Craft Art Market information and come to the show on Saturday. It's in a new location this year, in Kiwanis Park just north of the Bessborough on the riverbank, 10 AM-7PM.  The raven tile below is one of the new works that will be at the sale.

Today we finally saw a bit of sun and some patches of blue sky, as the final shot demonstrates. The body of water in this picture (complete with resident waterfowl) wasn't there before the rain started a couple of weeks ago. This is the east lawn area of Ebon Stables. 

Monday, June 16, 2014

All Alpac, all the time

Anyone who has passed even a casual eye over this blog will know that horses are close to my heart,   and my own gelding, Alpac, holds the key to that heart. I'm well on in my sixties now, and for as far back as my memory goes, horses have had a magnetic influence on me. I didn't actually learn to ride until I was in my mid thirties, and launched into horse ownership a couple of years after that. Alpac is the third horse I have owned in those years, and (apologies to the others, who were deeply loved in their day) is my ultimate horse. He is big, beautiful, full of character, can be challenging, and is a great ride. He's taught me so many things over our years together, and we are still learning from each other on a daily basis.

Today I am celebrating a bittersweet occasion as my boy has achieved his twenty-fourth birthday. Sweet because we are still together and both in relatively good shape for our ages, bitter because no horse will live forever, and each passing year brings us closer to an inevitable parting. 

Every year I do a photo shoot of Alpac to mark his birthday, and the montage of images in the first photo is this year's effort, taken on the weekend. I went out to the barn planning to ride, but his behaviour when I brought him in from his turnout suggested that letting him out in the big pen for a run and a buck would likely be a better option if I wanted to stay in one piece. Despite his senior years, he still has days when he's pretty wound up and just needs a good blow-out, despite the fact that he is ridden regularly, five days a week on average. I always enjoy watching him on these occasions, and am grateful that he's still got enough energy to alarm me every now and then. 

In addition to being my riding partner and companion, Alpac has been the inspiration for a number of artworks over the years. The remainder of today's images are some of the artworks I have done in which he is featured. These are all photomontage works, which start as photographs and evolve into their final incarnations via Photoshop and a lot of time and effort on my part. All these images are featured on my Fine Art America  website (Horses gallery and Fantasy/Mystery gallery). They are available for purchase there in a variety of size and presentation options.