Monday, October 27, 2014

Bird spotting

Another lovely week here on the prairies, with sunshine and warm temperatures right through to the end of the weekend. Today we're under grey skies, sitting close to freezing 0C/32F and with drizzle interspersed with the occasional snowflake. However, we're supposed to be back into double digits by next weekend, so all is not yet over with our fall. I might eventually get some leaves raked if the snow holds off long enough. 

I had another go-round of the ongoing game of "tech challenge", this time with my printer, which in uncharacteristic fashion decided to go rogue on me just when I most need it. It took a good couple of days and a lot of ink for me to sort it out, but for the moment it's functioning and doing what it should. Now I need to apply myself to getting ahead of my pre-Christmas sale production while things are good.

It's been a good week for spotting birds of various sorts on my forays into the countryside. I often take the quiet "graveyard" road to the stables, as I can poke along and stop for photos as required. I had just gone past a marshy area beside the road one day last week when it registered that I had seen a great blue heron. It was still there, close to the road, when I got the car turned around and returned to the spot where he was resting, but of course by the time I focussed the camera, he was already retreating. Then a second one lifted out of the long grasses and joined him in a stately departure. Sadly, this will likely be their last year in this nice spot as the city continues to gobble up surrounding land and habitat in endless new suburbs. Makes me sad. 



On Sunday, a visiting friend and I headed out to the Pike Lake area to visit the glass show at Solar Gardens and to tour around the back roads of the area. Outward bound, we stopped at the side of the road to photograph some of the many sandhill cranes that were poking around in a field of large bales. There are a *lot* of sandhills in the area this year, many more than I've seen before.


Here's a shot of the east aspect of Solar Gardens, as seen from the entry road. I love the mix of art and nature in this shot. While I was there, I took the opportunity to top up my supply of the amazing plum chutney they carry in the tasting studio. It's beyond wonderful.


As we worked our way back from Pike Lake, we came upon a huge number of geese on a little backwater area between the lake and the nearby South Saskatchewan river. The majority of them were snow geese, with a good number of Canada geese interspersed, likely several thousand in all. The visuals of a flock like this are amazing, but the sound they make is almost more impressive.


Most of the leaves on the trees around here are now down, revealing a good crop of berries on many of the decorative varieties around the city. I'm always fond of oranges and yellows, and had to stop to get shot of these berries in the warm late afternoon light. I don't know what sort of berries they are, but the tree was thick with them and made a very striking sight.


Monday, October 20, 2014

Ahead of the game for a change----

With the continuing fabulous extended-fall weather we have enjoyed for the last month, I feel it's safe to say that winter this year will be shorter than in the past couple of years, unless it stretches out at the other end. In 2012 we had our first snow on October 20th, and in 2013 it came on October 22nd. Both, if I recall correctly, were substantial amounts of snow that stayed until the following spring. With today's highs in the 20-25 C / 68-77 F range in most of the province and the forecast for warm and sunny all week, I don't think we'll see snow in the immediate future. I've hauled out my gelding's fly sheet yet again, since there are still lots of insects making the most of the mild conditions. Flowers continue to bloom, and even my basil is still with us, although suffering from the fact that I keep forgetting to water it. All in all, it's about as nice (and long!) a fall as a person could hope for.

I've got a lot of commitments to meet, both in the form of editing photos for clients, and of getting artwork done to supply the retail outlets that carry my work and for the upcoming pre-Christmas show and sale season. I've been logging a bit more studio time than in the past few months, but the lovely weather does make it hard to buckle down and stay indoors.

Shot one today is from the "client photo" file. I finally got the editing done on a shoot I did in September. The original plans were for a June photo shoot. That was thwarted by the endless rains of the spring and early summer. Then we got into "way too hot and buggy", followed by "wait until the grass has been grazed down a bit". Sometimes these things follow their own timetable. In the end, we got the job done. This is Magnum, a fine Arab gentleman who at 28 years old (I think that's correct!) is still in splendid shape and dearly loved by his owners. 


I usually plant a tea rose in a large container by the front steps to our house. This year's rose was by no means one of the more spectacular or prolific ones, but it gets full marks for persistence. It's still flowering and producing more buds despite the late season, although as witnessed by the condition of some of its leaves, it's feeling a bit weary these days. 


On the weekend I came home from a vintage sale in the country by way of the dump road, where I like to check out the corvid population. There are still lots of crows around, and the raven population is increasing as they drift south from their northern forest summer vacations. In typical fashion, the crows didn't make it easy for me to get photos. A sizeable group of them drifted along through the tree tops ahead of me as I tried to catch up, most of them always just out of range of my zoom. I did catch a few shots from the car as I was heading home. I had a friend with me who had come along to the sale--she now knows that if I'm doing the driving, chances are she'll be high-jacked at some point along the way to stop for crow or raven photos, whether that's part of the original plan or not. Luckily she's a bird and corvid person herself, so I don't think it was too much of a hardship for her.


I had an appointment downtown one day last week, and noted how wonderful the riverbank trees were in the area where I had parked. I resolved to come back on Sunday morning when things would be quiet, in order to get some shots. When I got there on Sunday, I was astonished to discover the entire area is vastly busier on Sunday morning than on a "business" day. Parking was much harder to find, and there were people everywhere, walking, jogging, sitting on benches visiting, playing with their children, walking their dogs, you name it. Despite all the action, I was able to get the shots I wanted without too much difficulty. This tree really appeals to me with the dynamic strong sculptural shapes of the branches. I think I'll have to get some more of it once we're into winter and the leaves are all down. 


Today's final image illustrates a "you never know what you might stumble across" scenario. I was walking the dog one night last week. We took a short cut through the local park when I looked down to see this photograph lying on the sidewalk. It's a harvest scene, almost certainly from Saskatchewan, and almost certainly from the late 1800s or early 1900s. There it was, on the sidewalk, just waiting to be rescued, which I did. It was in the general vicinity of a dumpster that is used by the housing units across the street, and I can only assume it was meant to be thrown into the dumpster. It was getting too dark for me to check the inside of the dumpster to see if there were any other discarded treasures. It rained that night so it's a good thing I picked this one up, but not so good for any others that might have been in the dumpster as it is open to the air. Maybe I should head over there in the daylight and take another look, just in case.


Monday, October 13, 2014

All is well ---

It's been a good week, both weather-wise and in my computer, where after a few days of odd happenings things have been quite settled and functional for the last few days. Doubtless there is something not quite right lurking in the depths that will reappear at the least convenient moment, but for now I'm pretending all is well.

It's an interesting fall season here. Some trees are bare, some are very highly coloured, some dull and tired looking, and some still with green leaves. We haven't yet had a killing frost in our part of the city, and I have to remind myself to keep watering the flowers that are still trying hard to hold up their end of things. The temperatures have been warm/hot enough that I've had the air conditioner on in the car on a few afternoon trips home from the barn, and I've had to put the fly sheet back on my gelding as there hasn't been enough cold to knock the fly population back. Given that by October 15th we've had snow on the ground in the past two years, this is a nice change. 

Shot one shows one of the "highly coloured"options in a park a few blocks away where I have been walking the dog lately. It's finally not too hot for him to be walked in daylight hours if we go in late afternoon. Although I do like my summer walks in the dark and cool of the late evening, it is nice to be out in the daylight where I can actually see my surroundings. 


Something else I need to keep on top of with water is the front yard birdbath. The sparrows have been vigorously enjoying group baths which can empty out the birdbath pretty quickly. They do a lot of water flinging in the process. This is one of my "through the not very clean window" shots, so the quality isn't great, but I feel this captures the essence of the group experience. I do enjoy my sparrows.


Here's the harvest moon, 2014 edition. I was heading down the east alleyway at the stables when I spotted it rising large on the horizon, so I ran out to the car to get the camera and record the moment. The moon was quite pink, which doesn't show up accurately in this image. This was the moon of the eclipse night as well, but I wasn't keen enough to get up at 4 AM to check it out.


My eye is always attracted by colour, pattern and texture, all of which can be seen in this shot, taken in our back yard. This is a good example of the Japanese concept of "wabi sabi" which finds beauty in the simple, humble, transient and imperfect.


I got today's final image this afternoon at Ebon Stables, of a friend's horse having a good time in one of the big paddocks where he had a good burnout. I love doing this sort of shot, especially with such a handsome fellow as my subject matter. 

Monday, October 6, 2014

I'm fine!!

No usual blog post today. I've just spent way too many hours trying to locate and recover *all* (and that's a heck of a lot, in the tens of thousands) of my entire collection of photos that mysteriously vanished while I was working in Photoshop this afternoon.

I still have no idea what went wrong, but I have (I sincerely hope) made a recovery, albeit at the cost of a lot of time and effort, not to mention fraying nerves. The missing images consisted in all my existing art shots, all the elements for future works, the archives of previous work, client images, family photos, etc. etc. In short, my whole life vanished for a while. I do have cloud and external backup for the worst case scenario, but managed to sort it out within the main computer eventually.

This being the case, I don't have it in me to wrangle photos for today's blog. I'm going to take the dog for a walk, then veg out in front of the TV or with a book. See you next week.

And the "I'm fine!" header up top? If I miss a week's posting I tend to get phone calls and emails from my family and friends asking if everything is all right with me, so yes, I'm fine, and with any luck my photo collection will be as well. If not for this concern, I wouldn't even have had this explanation in me.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Back in time---


I spent much of the past week recovering from the art show and all the run-up prep that it entailed. Now that it's almost October and the weather is turning on us, it's time to start dealing with neglected indoor projects and getting the yard and garden ready for winter. 

Through some miracle of nature, we haven't yet had a killing frost in our yard, so I actually do have ripe tomatoes. A *lot* of ripe tomatoes, with more coming every day. I discovered slow-roasting in the oven last year, then freezing the result, so I have been doing a batch a day for the past while, and will continue to do so for a few days yet. It's not quick, but it is easy, and the end result is amazing.

I'm picking up my riding life again after a very on-again/off-again summer and early fall, and once both Alpac and I get a bit of fitness back, we should be good to go for our regular work. Logging more studio time is also on the agenda, but only when the weather dictates that I will be more happy indoors than out. Our winters are so long and relentless that we have to optimize the few non-winter months we get, so I don't retreat totally indoors until I have to. 

Shot one shows a bright red leaf that caught my eye as it was backlit by the sun in the hawthorn tree in our front yard. I love the rough and peeling texture of the bark on this tree.


Shot two shows an interesting fungus high up on an elm tree. I've been doing the photos for a revised tree tour guide of Saskatoon, produced by SOS Elms, a local tree protection group that my husband belongs to. It's been interesting gathering photos of the different species of trees in various locations around town. I've been impressed with how many people in this city are knowledgeable and passionate about our trees. I wouldn't have noticed this fungus, but as soon as I stopped on the sidewalk with my camera to get a shot of the elms, a man appeared seemingly out of no-where and engaged me in conversation. He was working in the neighbourhood installing fibre-optics , but in a previous job he was an arborist for the city with a special interest in fungi, and I learned a lot about trees and fungi in a very short time from him.


As part of the Culture Days events of the past week-end, the Museum of Antiquities at the university held a medieval festival which I found greatly entertaining. The Museum invited various groups involved in the Society for Creative Anachronism, and we were able to view representatives of "re-lived" groups from Vikings to the early Renaissance. 

Shot three shows an overview of the event, with the Viking encampment in the foreground, and the late-medieval/early Renaissance tent to the right. Unfortunately for all concerned, the previously hot and sunny weather turned chilly, overcast and windy for the weekend, but at least we were spared rain.


Another shot of the Viking area, complete with two young Viking girls with their anachronistic cell-phone. 

I particularly liked this couple who so perfectly portray their characters and the age they represent. There was a lot of very nicely done chain-mail in evidence at this event. One of the odd and unexpected businesses in the rural outreaches of the city is a major chain-mail ring factory, located a few miles east of where I keep my horse, about a half-hour out of the city. I assume this is one of the reasons that so many of the re-enactors were so well clad in chain-mail. 


Monday, September 22, 2014

Thank goodness---

I'm happy to report that my annual invitational art show has survived another year and yet another change of venue. This was year seven for the show (hard to believe!) and our third venue to date. Each of the others lasted three years. I hope this will be our final relocation. Solar Gardens lived up to and surpassed all hopes and expectations. Artists and visitors alike seem unanimous in a big "thumbs up" for this year's event. We could have done without the extremely high and gusty winds on the day, that challenged the ability of our tents to withstand the blasts on occasion, but that aside, the day was sunny and warm and a good time was had by all. 

Shot one shows some of the treeline on the little ridge to the west of the show site. I took this shot on the morning of the art show, and I swear the trees had more yellow showing by the end of the same day! Fall colour is developing nicely both in the city and the countryside, with the warm days (had to have the air-conditioning on again today) we've been having, and no killing frost to date. 


Shots two and three show some of the action on site during the sale. Photo credit for these goes to my grandson Mark. I was pretty much trapped in my tent all day dealing with customers so I couldn't make a break for it to get my own shots. It's hard to see the artwork for the customers, which is exactly how I like it. There were ten artists in the big tent, and four smaller tents off the south end, not all showing in this shot.


This shows the pottery and photography tent on the upper deck, and the pizza lineup on the right at the commercial/teaching kitchen. Solar Gardens brought in extra help to keep up  with the gourmet pizza demand, and they were hopping the entire day. All the artists were lucky enough to sample the wares, which I highly recommend.



Sunday saw Jim and I questing after an elusive tree on the riverbank by the university campus. We are part of a group doing a rewrite of a tree tour guide of Saskatoon, with me as the photographer. We followed the instructions given as best we could, but never did find the tree we were after. I got this shot of the little island in the river, filling up with Canada geese as they gather and work their way along their migration routes.


Today I was on campus picking up some horse wormer (oh, the glamour of owning horses) at the vet college, and decided to pop over to the gardens at the nearby Innovation Place. This magpie was poking around at the bark on this branch, I suspect in hopes of finding some bugs that would make good eating. He seemed strangely non-flighty, so I actually got a decent shot of him. I have a feeling he might be a "this year" magpie, hence young and not as frightened of people as he perhaps should be.


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.