Monday, September 15, 2014

Art show weekend coming up

I'm in a bit of a state today and expect to be for much of the coming week, so this week's post is going to be short and to the point. Each fall for the past seven years, I've hosted an invitational art show and sale. This year's event is this coming Saturday, September 20th. We've averaged three years in each of our two previous locations, and now we're on the move again, I hope to our final venue. 

Solar Gardens, a fifteen minute drive from Saskatoon, is our new show location. It's a destination in and of itself, so add in an art show featuring original work by twenty local and area artists in various media, and it's going to be a winning combination. Bonus for all on site is the wonderful new restaurant at Solar Gardens, which will feature their extensive selection of pizza offerings cooked in a wood-fired oven. Check their website menu for the options. Please note only the pizza menu will be available on show day. 

All the info you need is on the poster below. If you are in Saskatoon and area, or can get to Saskatoon and area on Saturday, come and join us. Fair warning: this could be a heavily attended event, so come with a plan to take your time and spend a few hours with us. If you could all think good thoughts about mother nature providing a lovely fall day for us, that would be appreciated as well.

Below is a sampling of some of the new pieces I'll have at the show. All are mixed media with photo elements. 

Monday, September 8, 2014

Birds and Day's End ---

Lots of bird activity around these parts of late. We feed in front and back feeders year-round so we generally have activity of some sort, but at this time of year the numbers and the species tend to increase as fall migration gets underway.

In the past week for the first time this year I've seen and heard flocks of snow geese calling as they fly overhead, often at night. I often walk my dog after dark. It's always a thrill to be able to scan the sky in search of the source of the goose calls at night, and to catch sight of the white vee of snow geese, their undercarriages reflecting the lights of the city and revealing them as they cross over the city.

In the countryside, crows and magpies are gathering in large flocks. I spotted this flock of "birds on a wire" while heading to the barn last week. Neither crows nor magpies, but some sort of marshland blackbird gathering their resources for a long flight south. 

Today we spied a brown thrasher in the front yard feeder area, amidst the many house sparrows that are our regulars. It was quite happily camped out on one of the front yard chairs while waiting its turn at the feeder. This isn't a rare bird, but is a somewhat unusual one for our location. 

In addition the the thrasher, we had a large invasion of grackles, who come annually in large numbers around this time of year. They are striking with their bright iridescent plumage, but a bit goofy-looking as well on account of their googly eyes. They are also very noisy and, if their behaviour is anything to go by, a little on the excitable side. They certainly do liven up the neighbourhood when they appear.

As I was heading into the city from the stables on the weekend, I had a feeling that we were going to get a nice sunset, so I headed over to the river where I could get a good view of the sky. I was right about the sunset which was quite satisfactory, although the new bridge with its traffic and the landfill on the other side of the river don't add to the natural beauty. 

As I was starting back home from the river, I luckily glanced in my rearview mirror and realized that the sunset was offering me one final photo op, which I was glad to be able to collect.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Last long weekend for this summer.....

It's the last long weekend of the summer, in North America, at any rate. The city experiences a mix of localized busy areas (back to school shoppers of various sorts) and streets that are more empty than usual as holidayers fit in that last lake visit before other activities and "business as usual" resume. 

I've been pegging away at various projects as I try to do most of the time. Despite the moderating temperatures, my studio on top of the house with the big south-facing windows continues to be way too warm for ongoing comfort, so my art production consists of a few minutes here and there until I feel I need to escape to the outdoors. I used to log many cooler evening hours in years past, but this year I find I am generally a bit weary by mid-evening so I have adapted accordingly. I do have only three weeks until my first show/sale of the fall and winter, so at some point I'll have to buckle down. That said, the "few minutes here and there" method does end up with finished results, just not the volume that steady application produces.

Shot one is another featuring the gelding from last week's blog. This is an "artist's indulgence" shot that I don't expect many others to be keen on, but I like it. This boy has an abundance of facial hair in the form of whiskers in various locations, and my eye was caught by the way the sun backlit his chin whiskers in the low light of the evening. 

Last week at Ebon Stables saw a great disturbance in the force field as large equipment moved in to tear up the water lines that feed the outdoor turnouts. The end result, achieved in a surprisingly short time, was new underground piping and year-round outdoor waterers, which are a welcome improvement. Up to now, the horses that live in the big barn had only seasonal water in their turnouts. While they managed fine with that system, it is a bonus that they will now have full access to water outdoors year-round. I'm always impressed with the precision that operators of these big pieces of equipment can demonstrate.

I've been playing around more with my Lumix FZ200, and last week I tried out the digital zoom for the first time. Up to now I've only used the optical zoom, which is considerable in itself, but the digital zoom is positively alarming in how it can zero in. The image quality isn't as good as with the optical, but it's good to know that I have another few gears of zoom for occasions when things are just a bit too far off. I was standing a fair distance away from this bee as he worked on one of our flowers, and was able to get very up-close and personal with the zoom.

I've been happy to see a couple of crow regulars at my front-yard bird feeder this year. I've snagged a lot of workable shots that I will be able to use as the basis for art in the future. This photo isn't great quality, having been shot through the front window (which needs cleaning as the lens keeps trying to focus on the dirt rather than what's beyond the window) on a very overcast day. However, I have been hoping for quite a while to get a shot that had the decorative crow and a real one in the same frame, and finally I've got it.

Late afternoon yesterday Jim and I were taking a little wander down a walking trail on the east side of the river. We could hear the sound of many voices ahead of us, and once we got right by the river, we viewed this parade of paddle-boarders poling along. Most of them had packs and gear of various sorts on the fronts of their boards, and when we called out to ask where they had come from,  some of the group had started at Lake Diefenbaker, 134 kilometres / 83 miles upstream. We didn't think to inquire how long it had taken them. There were more of them than appear in the photo--this was taken mid-pack. I'll bet they were glad enough to have reached their destination.

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.