Monday, August 25, 2014

Reality check---

We had our first little reality check on the advancing season this past weekend. The hot and humid weather we've survived for the past two months suddenly vanished, leaving us with single-digit (Celsius) temperatures, accompanied by stiff winds and rain. Our area was spared the worst of both wind and rain, with the south of the province taking the big hit on that front, but it was still a jolt. We briefly turned the thermostat from the air conditioning setting to heat, since the house was getting a bit chilly. Today was clear and sunny but a little cool for August, and by the end of the week we will apparently be back to hot and humid. I'll try to remember not to complain.

I enjoy sunflowers, both for their visuals and for their contribution to the insect and bird life of our yard. In the spring I went as far as actually buying sunflower seeds at the garden centre, but they have failed to impress, being slow to grow, short, and with very small heads. On the other hand, the sunflowers planted by the birds who frequent our feeder have done splendidly.

Shot one shows one of the volunteers, with its collection of happy bees of various sorts. The bird-planted sunflowers are all tall and very sturdy, with heads that are a good foot / 30 cm or so across. Next year I don't think I'll bother buying any and will just hope that the birds make good choices in where they let the seeds fall. 

When I'm not riding (Alpac is getting a month off just now) I tend to go to the barn in the early evenings. As the sun works its way gradually south, we get a lovely warm light shining in on the horses at the west end of the stables. Shots two and three are ones I took one evening last week.

The bars on the front of the stalls give a quite convincing zebra effect.

I've written before about how wonderful the daylilies (indeed, all the lily types in our yard) have been this year. Today I got the last shipment from the company that has supplied my wonderful collection of lilies over the years. After thirty-five years in business, they are shutting down. Today my final order came in the mail, and I was quite taken with the visuals of the box, which I am sharing here. Inside are twenty-five assorted day-lily corms, of various styles and colours. They were on offer for an extremely reasonable price, but as such are a "take what we send you" purchase, so until I get the first flowers on them (I hope that will be next year) I won't know exactly what I've got. I do know they will be hardy, healthy and good quality, so I'm happy enough to be surprised with the details. 

Here is one example of the many daylilies currently in bloom in the back yard. 

Monday, August 18, 2014

Let that be a warning----

Last week was one I think of as the "week of warnings". Mid-week we had a "heat warning". It was hot and humid and apparently the combination was going to be a concern, hence the warning. Just in case we hadn't noticed on our own. We've seen higher temperatures in years past, but the high humidity is new here, and it's true that the combination is way more challenging that just heat alone.

The next warning was an "air quality warning", the following day. Again, the heavy haze and strong smoke smell in the air (from forest fires to the north and west of us, I assume) were pretty noticeable, but maybe people needed to have that pointed out. Common sense is somewhat lacking these days, and as I like to note, "It never hurts to state the obvious".

On the following day, it was a "heavy rainfall warning", although luckily for us here it was for the southern part of the province. I don't know whether it materialized there or not. I suspect not as there weren't any flooding or other water disaster follow-up reports. Next  up we have the tornado warnings of Sunday, although once again they are not for the central region where I'm located. I guess if any of these things do happen to occur, we can't say we weren't warned!

As mentioned in last week's blog, my friend Donna and I went out to visit sculptor Ric Pollock in his tiny town about an hour away from the city. Shot one shows the front door on the house next door to Ric's. I was attracted by the monochromatic and textured exterior, and amused by the shiny new doorknob on the door. This house is for sale if anyone is interested!

Here's another building in the same community that Ric says is also for sale. Also apparently not in very good shape structure-wise, which is too bad. We didn't get too close, but the exterior looks to be not in too disastrous shape, and in its day I'm sure it was the pride of it's congregation. 

Ric and I are working on a project where I am photographing his sculptures (recycled-materials folk art would be one description) and creating photomontages featuring his creations in real-life settings. Here's one I did a few years ago. Stay tuned for lots more.

Here's yet another in my on-going series of "coming home from the barn in the evening" photos. It has been very dry for about two months now, and the dust that hangs over every country road makes for nice visuals when the setting sun shines through it. Taking photos straight into the low sun is always a bit of a crap-shoot, but I was happy with how this one turned out.

In mid-week I had a meeting at Solar Gardens. I put on an invitational fall art show each September, and this year's show will see a change in venue to Solar Gardens. I'll be posting more details closer to show date, which is September 20th. As I was heading back to my car after our meeting, I got a number of shots of this young squirrel as he rested on the arm of a wicker chair. I've rarely seen such calm and low-key behaviour from a squirrel. If there was an ideal environment for a squirrel, it would have to be Solar Gardens, with abundant food resources, lots of trees, and no predators.

Monday, August 11, 2014


Last week my friend Donna and I went on an outing west of the city--a two-fold mission to get some work-related (for both of us for art purposes) photos and just enjoy getting out together for the first time this year. 

First we went to visit my friend Ric and get some photos of his artwork for a joint project we are working on. I'd never been to Ric's place before, and was surprised and impressed at the lovely landscape we went through as we worked our way north and west of the city. Ric's work and our joint project will have to wait for another week's blog for some of those visuals.

On the way back from Ric's, we detoured to the south of our homeward road to find and photograph an old barn that a customer of mine wants done as a photo transfer art tile. They had given me very good directions in an email that I printed out and took along. One part of the directions involved a reference to "No Name" road. This continued to puzzle us until we got to the corner in question, when it suddenly became totally obvious. Who knew?? 

This is the barn that I was questing after. It's a beauty, built in 1917, and still hanging in there, albeit somewhat compromised in structure as the years have passed. All the other original farm buildings are gone, with a modern house now on the property for the current residents.

The weekend saw the annual August horse show at Ebon Stables, one of the first in recent memory that didn't involve at least one big dump of rain at some point. I was ringside doing client photos for much of the time. Shot three shows a very typical hunter/jumper show scene, with the riders going over their next jumping course, aided by arm gestures. I have no idea how hunter/jumper riders remember the many courses they have to memorize on the fly in the course of any given show.

I literally almost fell over this little guy as I was moving around beside the hunter ring, trying to get situated for an optimal shot. He scrambled away down his "back door" hole, then once I was motionless again, he ventured out for long enough for me to get this shot. I believe he is a thirteen-lined ground squirrel. Whatever he is, he is darn cute.

Yet another "big" moon on the weekend. I have been playing around with my non DSLR bridge camera lately, inspired by an online friend who has purchased one and re-kindled my interest. I realized that I had never tried the digital zoom, having always gone with the conventional (and correct for the most part) wisdom that optical zoom gives a better quality end result. I have to agree that the shots I get with the optical zoom are sharper and clearer, but by gosh the digital zoom really gets up close and personal. Usually to get the moon to fill the picture I would crop out a lot of black sky, but this is exactly as it came out of the camera, with no cropping at all. If I had taken the time to set  up a tripod, I would have had a slightly sharper result, but I don't have that kind of patience. 

Monday, August 4, 2014

Yellow: Part 2

 It's been hot and very muggy, so much so that I've even given up riding for a few days. It's just not worth the stress on the horse and on me, so we're taking it easy. This "minimal effort" philosophy applies to today's blog as well. Since last week's "yellow" theme seemed popular, and I had lots of yellow options yet to share, we're doing a second yellow themed blog this week.

Shots one and two feature the yellow begonias in our front planter, as requested by a friend in last week's comments. Shot one shows one of the wonderful plants with abundant blooms, and shot two is a close-up of a single flower. These alternate in the planter with bright red begonias, and they are set off by a trailing white-flowered filler whose name escapes me at the moment. Altogether quite satisfactory.


This was shot into the lowering sun on a side road as I was heading home from the barn last week. The dust in the air caught the sunlight and turned everything to a rich yellow-gold. 

These are some of the many lilies that are blooming in our yard just now. It's a very good year for lilies.

 I've had family visiting from BC this weekend, and this afternoon we went up for a walk at Innovation Place. One of the water features there had a whole collection of water lilies in bloom. I was quite struck by this one with its bi-polar colour effects. Most of the rest of them were plain pink.

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.