Monday, December 15, 2014

Skies and plant-life

It took me most of last week to recover from the Sundog show/marathon, but I think I'm pretty well there. I got to the barn on Monday to discover to my mild horror that Alpac had broken off his remaining lower canine tooth while I was at the sale. I use the descriptor "mild" as I've been down this road before with him. He broke off the right lower canine a couple of years ago. Having had this experience which was in essence a non-issue when treated by the vet, I was hopeful that our result would be equally good this time round, and so far this has been the case. Neither the vet nor I can imagine how he has managed to do this not once but twice, but I'm grateful it wasn't worse as apparently broken canines are frequently accompanied by a broken jaw. I certainly wouldn't want to go there even with a young horse, never mind with my senior citizen. 

I was doing some "catch-up" seasonal shopping early in the week, and I observed this interesting jet trail in the sky over the parking lot I was in. As I like to say about many things, I'm sure there is a story here, I just don't know what it is. 


I shot this dramatic sky on the way home from the barn on one of the slightly less grey days last week. We've had a couple of days of the expected brilliant sun and blue sky to which we feel entitled in the winter, but otherwise it's been pretty grey, dark and dreary. I guess that goes with the warmer temperatures we've enjoyed--winter choices are often bright and darn cold, or less cold but overcast. This was taken shortly after 4PM--we can look forward to the sunset occurring later each the day in only a week. 

I was out in a local riverside park doing some tree photos when I got this nice detail shot, full of colour and texture. From the shape of the leaves, I think this is some sort of willow. The little seed pods suggest it is a wolf willow, but they are usually classified as a shrub, and this was a good-sized tree.

We made our last visit of the year to Solar Gardens on the weekend (they close next weekend until April), to purchase some edibles from the Tasting Studio and to enjoy the greenhouses. This shot shows one of the greenhouses with its many succulents in various stages of development.

I liked the symmetry of these little guys, snug and happy in their little starter containers.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Prairie skies and birds

I've massaged a few images into shape for this post, but I don't have a lot of words in me tonight. I survived the three day marathon that is the Sundog Arts and Entertainment Faire, but it has taken its toll on me and I'm very weary. I downloaded what shots I was able to garner in the past week---samples of which are here for your viewing pleasure.

Shot one features the lovely tangle of my friend's clematis vine, lit by the afternoon sun. 

It's shaping up to be a better than average year for city raven photography if the past week is anything to judge by. Shot two shows a lovely fellow coming in for a landing on the roof of the garage across the back lane from us.

I've learned (the hard way, as usual) to bring the camera along on shopping trips, as the ravens frequent the shopping malls along the commercial strip in my part of town. This fellow was after a bit of fast food debris right beside my parked car. I managed to get a few shots of him before he took his treasure and marched off behind an adjacent vehicle.

Late afternoon trips to the stables were good for nice visuals this week as well. This shot shows the moon coming up over the fields on one of the rather frosty days of last week.

I was excited to see this sky full of colour in the southwest as I was leaving the barn another day. The sun will soon be as far south as it's going to get, and these colourful events will be happening a little later than the 4:30 or thereabouts sundowns we have these days.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Snowing and working---

Snow, cold and work pretty well define my past week. I'm into final prep for the Sundog Arts and Entertainment Fair, coming up on the weekend in Saskatoon--Friday Dec. 5 - Sunday Dec. 7. My last sale really reduced my inventory (this is not a complaint) so I've been applying myself pretty darn steadily to generating a goodly amount of new pieces for Sundog. I think I'm just about there, too, so as long as I don't lose focus in the next few days, all will be well. I've even managed to reclaim my regular  riding schedule, which helps a lot with keeping me from getting too wound up about deadlines. Nothing like daily barn therapy to keep a person balanced. 

Shot one was taken en route to the barn in the past week. We've had another large amount of snow and high winds/drifting since I took this shot, so the roadside landscape has changed quite a bit. Now there are some lovely sculptural shapes in the ditches, which I will photograph the next day that the light is right and it isn't -28 C / -18 F, which is what it's been for the past number of days. 

With the intensely cold and windy weather of the past week, we have even more birds visiting our feeders, both front and back. This female yellow-shafted flicker has been a regular visitor along with her partner. In this shot, she's hunkered down on the hanging feeder amidst the falling snow. The bright coloured object in the background is part of our flagpole. We needed to paint it this past summer and I thought having a colour would be good instead of the boring white we had before. The John Deere green isn't so noticeable in the summer greenery, but it certainly stands out in the winter landscape. 

Here is the  male flicker. You can readily tell the difference between the sexes as the female's beak area is unadorned while the male has a cute little moustache.

This abstract composition is actually the sun shining through the windshield frost on my car. I was interested in the shapes the frost had taken, and the gold of the sun shining on it, contrasted with the lovely blue of the sky.

Here is one of the new directions I have been exploring of late. I'll have several pieces of this sort at the Sundog sale. It's a combination of alcohol inks and inkjet printing and is relatively small, with the main image size being 13 x 18 cm / 5 x 7 inches.

If you are in Saskatoon and area and plan on attending Sundog, be sure to stop by and say hello. My booth is number 114, on the concourse (upstairs/entry) level. I hope to see you there.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Excitement in the Neighbourhood

Today's first two shots show a bit of excitement that occurred in the neighbourhood in the late afternoon one day last week. The dog and I were working our way home from our afternoon walk when we became aware of a lot of sirens in the vicinity. We live only a block away from a fairly major thoroughfare that often has emergency vehicles rushing from point A to point B, so I wasn't paying undue attention until a fire truck trundled down our own relatively quiet street, heading west. When I looked along the street I could see great clouds of smoke being blown by the quite strong north wind. It looked to be coming from the vicinity of the school, and was pretty much where Rony and I had been on our walk only moments before. Of course I had to grab a camera and head down to where the action was.

Shot one shows the scene from a couple of blocks away. At this point I was right beside the neighbourhood school, so I knew that wasn't what was burning. I never notice the proliferation of overhead lines in our area until I see them in a photo like this--not very attractive, but they do give the birds something to perch on. 

When we got close to the source of the fire, I realized it was the garage behind the house where our eagle and bear friends, featured on last week's blog, reside. There was a lot of smoke, and apparently had been some explosions from propane and oxygen tanks inside the garage, along with concerns about the fire causing arcing in the above-mentioned overhead power lines. By the time I was witnessing this, the fire crews had it pretty well under control. Not a good day for the garage, but better that than the house, which appeared to be undamaged.

In a less exciting vein, here is a shot I got along the grid road to the stables last week. This would look very different now as we had our first serious snowfall on the weekend and much of this would now be covered. I always appreciate the soft colours and the texture of the roadside native grasses. 

Jim and I went to a craft sale on the weekend in the midst of the snowfall, and ended up parking on a street with a view of the iconic Bessborough Hotel and downtown buildings from a different vantage point than the usual. The original version out of the camera looked almost like a black and white photo with very muted tones. I was playing around with it in Photoshop as I tend to do, and this is the result I got when I applied a blending filter that I don't generally use. It's kind of an odd effect, but for some reason I find it quite appealing, so this is the version you get to see. I do plan to work on some of these shots in monochrome, but that will have to wait for later.

Ice wine, anyone? Much like the brightly coloured frozen sweet pea flowers of last week's blog, the few remaining grapes on our backyard vine have retained their good looks and strong coloration. While a bit on the tart side for eating "as is", these grapes make wonderful jelly and juice. I've got a good deal going with a friend who is a fanatical picker. She gets to pick all the grapes she wants, and we get a few jars of grape jelly in exchange. Same deal goes with our sour cherries. We have more jelly most years than we can eat our way through, yet I haven't made any for years!

Monday, November 17, 2014

Back-lane wandering

It's definitely winter here now, but at mid-day most days it's still "warm" enough that I can walk my Boxer Rony if we both dress well and stay out of the wind. I've taken to walking the back alleys of our neighbourhood, which are usually more sheltered than the streets and sidewalks, and are a lot more interesting as well. We tend not to use the alleys in the summer, partly because we walk after dark to avoid heat stress for him and it's hard to see where we're going, and also because there tend to be dogs in the back yards that we go by in the warmer weather, which can be challenging on a number of fronts.  

Shot one shows a back alley shot from a couple of days ago. These lovely sweet peas seem to have freeze dried in a way that has retained, or even amplified, their strong colour. It's kind of a shock to come across something like this in an environment that is largely monochromatic and low-key these days. 

I've been working on a project doing photos for a tree guide of notable trees of Saskatoon. I thought it would be fun to add in a couple of shots of the "afterlife" of trees that are no longer with us, and I shot this one a few streets over from our house. Our neighbourhood is a hotbed of these tree trunk sculptures which are entertaining in their number and variety. As with most things, I'm sure there's a story behind the proliferation in this area, I'm just not sure what it is. 

I got this image on the way home from the stables yesterday afternoon. I particularly like the patterns the wind-blown snow makes on the surface of the ice. 

I always like the patterns the snow reveals in the stubble fields at this time of year. Horse owners around here are hoping for a lot more snow very soon as the footing in pastures and turnouts is dangerous at the moment. We had a rainfall that created ruts and uneven lumps in the horse turnouts that have now frozen solid so there is no even footing at all, and the horses have to be relatively immobile or risk damaging their feet and legs. Once we get a good snow cover there will be some give to the footing and it will be evened out, making it safe for horses to move around on. Unfortunately, it isn't a given that will we get much more snow soon, or at all, depending on what the weather gods deal out to us.

I've been working hard in my studio trying to build up stock for my next pre-Christmas sale. I took a brief reading break down on the main level of the house today, and became aware of a tremendous amount of noise coming from the front-yard bird feeder. When I got up to head back to the studio, I glanced out the front window to see the cause of the excitement in the sparrow population. This sharp-shinned hawk was hanging out next to the feeder, which really doesn't seem like a smart hunting strategy on its part. I watched it for a while and think from its behaviour that it might be a youngster from this year's hatch. It did seem a bit clumsy and clueless. These hawks are an interesting contrast in many ways to the merlins that are the other hunting species we have in the city. 

Monday, November 10, 2014

It's here----

Winter suddenly arrived with little fanfare or warning over the weekend. When I got up on Saturday morning to get ready to head out to day two of the art sale where I had a booth, the ground was covered with snow, and the streets were covered with glare ice. Since I was heading out before the city crews were out to sand the intersections, it was a careful drive for me, keeping a sharp eye out for other drivers who had either forgotten how to drive in winter (lots of them around) and/or didn't have their snow tires installed (ditto). Luckily for me I guessed right when I booked my tire rotation and my snow tires beat the ice and snow by a couple of days. I made it to the show in a timely fashion, and am pleased to report it was a stellar one for me as far as sales go. The only down side is that I am really going to have to work relentlessly in the next couple of weeks to get my stock up for the next sale in early December. That's kind of a good problem to have. 

I've been pleased to see some of my favourite bird species haunting the back yard feeder since the snow came. Yesterday morning we had magpies, blue jays and a pair of flickers all in close proximity. The magpies are definitely at the top of the feeding pyramid when it comes to intimidating other species away from the peanut supply.

Shot one shows one of the magpies (we had two this morning, possibly three) trying to get out of camera range as quickly as possible. I didn't have the shutter speed quite high enough, but I didn't get the chance for a second shot, so this will have to do. He/she had been working away at the grapes on the trellis, which I'm sure would be the bird equivalent of ice wine for tastiness in this season. 

I went down an alternate road on the way home from the barn today, in order to catch the big vista of the sky and fields. I don't remember noticing the sun halo in real life, but there it is in the photo. It was quite an overcast and gloomy day, so the light is a bit lacking in most of today's photos. 

While I was shooting my landscapes, I became aware of a honking sound rather close by. I looked off to my right and there was a field of Canada geese hunkered down in the stubble, getting out of the wind (it was about minus 10 C with a wicked wind) and gleaning spilled grain from the ground. Most of the geese have left the area, but as long as there is food available in fields such as this, the remaining ones won't necessarily be in a hurry to head south.

This scene is one I might as well get used to, as "monochrome landscape with ice and snow" will be the order of the day for a lot of months to come.

We have a good population of house sparrows that frequent our feeders. I prefer to think that there are two distinct tribes, the front-yard sparrows and the back-yard sparrows, but really they could all be one big group. This shot shows some of the front-yarders taking shelter in the dense greenery of whatever sort of evergreen this is by the front walk.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Show time!

This is going to be a bare bones post. I haven't been out and about much with the camera (or without it for that matter) in the past week as I am finally buckling down to studio work, trying to get ahead of Christmas stock production for the stores I supply, and finish enough work done for the two pre-Christmas sales I am doing. It's been kind of hectic, but I've always been able to work well under deadline pressure, having had decades of practise, so I'll get the job done.

Sale number one is coming up at the end of this week. Shot one shows the promo poster. To those who have attended Artisan before, note the shortened hours (no Sunday sale) and the new location. Free parking! For those who are not familiar with Artisan, I encourage you to come out. This is the "boutique" sale that is a calm and peaceful shopping experience, with a manageable number of booths to visit. Quality and variety are keynotes of this sale, with a relaxed atmosphere. Note there is also a restaurant on site. I hope to see you there. I'm in booth 15.

The remainder of today's images are some of the new photo works that will be available at the sale. If you miss out at the sale, contact me and I can provide the one you want in whatever size you prefer. I will also have a large number of one of a kind mixed media pieces. Come check it out.