Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Odds and ends

Half marathon recovery has gone well enough that I ran today. I achieved a big goal at work and I rewarded myself with a mid morning run. The only problem is that I somehow turned on auto-pause for almost the entire run, or my phone lost track of the satellites. I figure it was 4 k, 26 minutes, feeling pretty good. Downtown must have got quite a bit of hail and rain. There were leaves and little branches all over the path near Stampede grounds, and technically, the path under Macleod Trail was closed because of high water. I ran there anyways. It was only a little damp.

I don't spend a lot of time concerned about my readership stats. This blog is to amuse me, and if it amuses others that's a nice bonus for them. I'm still surprised at what gets the readership. Sometimes I know. The NIMBYISM post got lots of retweets, and the issue hit the news. The followup had some retweets but didn't do anywhere near as well. The children of the canola got ONE, count'em ONE retweet, but that was enough to power it into 4th place for overall readership, and slowly inching towards third.

Stock at Large is by far the earliest post in the top 10, and I'm pleased to see it holding it's own. I know why, but I suspect many of you don't. Any guesses?

Once upon a time, "Boobs, a rant" was proudly the second most read post. Lately it's fallen out of the top 10 where it's harder to see readership. I'd mentioned it to one of my buddies, who was in shock they hadn't read it. There you go, happy early birthday.

I could wish Blogger was better about stats. I see page views for individual posts, and an overall page view number, but the latter is usually far bigger. Lately I think I've been hit on by bots that artificially inflate the count. I tried Google stats, or whatever it's called, but there's something I don't get about it.

So far it hasn't rained today. There's been a lot of that lately. My lawn is turning into a jungle, but it's still too wet to cut. The garden has had a little more hail, but seems to be doing ok. Here's a lily leaf hanging in there.

I like this contrast between the plant and two pots.

There's a tonne of photos I'm working on processing. Even though I knew the RAW format size was huge, I'm surprised how quickly it ate my laptop hard drive. This is the first time ever I've had to think about hard drive space. Some photos have already been shuffled off to an external drive. I need to figure out if I want to keep any significant number of the photos I take, or just the ones that have been tweaked in Lightroom. Still thinking. The latest batch of photos are 25 to 30 MB each. EACH. I took nearly 1000 in one weekend. That's 25 to 30 GB, which is a good sized chunk even on a TB sized drive. Good thing they aren't expensive. Also thinking about just how big a dedicated photo drive and backup needs to be. Lots of fun. Still lens shopping. Any advice?

Saturday, July 16, 2016

MEC half marathon

It struck me I hadn't done a race report in a while, which I suppose is the inevitable result of not racing in some time. In some senses today was a very cerebral race for me, so I thought I'd talk about the whole experience.

I'm what you call an adult onset runner. I ran in high school, then nothing to speak of till about 9 years ago. It's been a long slog, trying to build milage. I'd get to about 10 K, then it seems I'd push too hard and have to rest.

I was a swimmer, but as the triathlon saying goes, you can't win a triathlon in the swim, but you can lose it. You can win it with a strong run, which I don't have. Again and again I'd get out of the water in a reasonable time, and then everyone would pass me on the bike. The only reason people didn't pass me on the run is they had already finished.

For whatever reason I've wanted to do a stand alone marathon for a while. This year I got serious about running consistently. As I got to a long run of 10 K, I stayed there for a while, till it felt comfortable, then started adding distance again. It really helps to have a run buddy who is amiable about distance, doesn't care about route, and naturally runs about the same pace I do. (Hi MC!)

Gradually the distance grew, and the times got a little faster. One of them she snuck in a faster pace on me because I hadn't been paying attention, which sort of got me off the plateau I'd been on. All good. Then the 10 K earlier this year was essentially an hour, which was a surprise to me. My weight had been slowly creeping up a bit since Ironman, but this year it's been sliding back down. That helps the running too.

This race was a big step for me, to see what my time was, see how I felt. I've no need for another medal or shirt, so the MEC race was the right venue and the perfect time. This is the first one of their's I've done, and I'm impressed. The race experience was flawless! It started on time, there appeared to be enough volunteers, the aid stations were where expected, and a good time appeared to be had by all. There was the faintest rain shower during the race, and shortly after I finished it started coming down cats and dogs.

I didn't have specific goals, though my recent training had me thinking I wasn't likely to be faster than 2:15 (a 6:24 per K pace or so) and I wanted to be faster than 2:30 (just over a 7 per K pace). I pretty well nailed it, so I'm quite pleased. I deliberately hadn't looked up previous half marathon times, and it turns out this is only a few minutes slower than my fastest one. Yay me again!

The pace right from the start was surprisingly fast. Within the first K I was running nearly alone, a few behind me, most out in front. It took a few K to settle into the groove, and I chugged along averaging about a 6:10 pace. I was happy and comfortable, and would have been able to chat, if there was anyone to chat too. For most the race I was leapfrogging a woman doing a walk run, but we didn't talk.

About 9 K I was getting some chatter from my legs and I slowed down a little, then about 12 K my pace fell again to about 6:30. K's 14 to 18 were tough sledding, with my pace falling to 7 per K. I was focussed on keeping my legs moving, thinking about my posture, trying to keep my hands and arms relaxed. I was determined to run the whole thing, no walk breaks. The cadence stayed about where it was, but I could feel my stride shortening and becoming stiffer. I got passed by a couple people that had been staying behind till then. I still wasn't breathing any harder, but my legs were starting to protest. I kept moving. There was a funny niggle up the outside of my left thigh to behind the hip bone. Never had that before, but kept my feet going. It got a bit easier as I got closer.

I tried staying with the people that passed me, but they ever so slowly pulled away. Sometime during the last mile I got another wind and my legs picked up, so the last K was a 6:20 pace.  Photos and buddies and bananas at the finish line!

Overall, my phone thinks I ran 21.56 K in 2:19:56.  The big surprise of the race is that the 5 K best pace was 30:36 and the 10K best pace was 1:02 which is essentially the pace I ran the 10 K in. Maybe that means I started too hard, but it didn't feel that way. My legs liked the pace and my lungs were happy.

The phone thinks the half marathon pace was 2:16:57, which is nearly exactly what I ran the 2010 Hypothermic half in.

I think it's clear I need to work on leg endurance, to be able to keep running at a desired pace. Core. Hill work. Hope it doesn't snow for Oct 22, MEC race 7.

Here I am finishing, photo credit Patricia.

And a couple more, credit Ken. This qualifies as a focussed look, I think.

My buddy Patricia, happy after a great race.

Thursday, July 14, 2016


Number 35798 on the MEC race 5 program, but number one in your hearts!


Number one in your hearts?

Come on guys. Number one. No?


Picked up my race package tonight, and chatted with a buddy I chanced to meet who is also doing the race. She is speedy and will almost certainly finish before me. Good for her. Will I see you out there on Saturday to cheer me on, amidst all the other Stampede revelry?

The other number is 5999. It's been that way for a while. I burn to see it change, but it's not up to me. It's up to you, hint, hint.

The children of the canola has vaulted past almost all my posts to become the 4th most read post. It hit the top 10 in about 12 hours. Such is the power of a retweet by Neil Zeller. Hope some of those readers return every now and then.

I'm planning on sleeping in tomorrow, and spending the day puttering around. Learning more Lightroom functionality sounds like fun.

What are you up to on the weekend?

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

That first night shot

Untouched. You saw this in  Monday's blog. What you didn't completely get was how gobsmacked I was after following the process. It's night, set the ISO that way. Open aperture all the way. I just guessed at exposure settings. Then to get this image out of the camera!

Yes, there is stuff wrong with it. Note the slight tilt of the buildings. The trees along the river are kind of murky, and the the clouds are blah. I'd like it if the reflections in the water were sharper. But as a first attempt at a night long exposure! Wow!

After a few Lightroom tweaks.

A few seconds in Lightroom have cleared up those issues, along with a few other tiny tweaks, and I've cropped it a bit. I think it looks much nicer.

I'm hardly an expert with the tool. These are very basic adjustments, and an expert might do things quite differently and achieve quite different results.

Here's another tweak, with a slightly longer exposure, and somewhat different cropping and adjustment choices. Note the bright lobby windows are a slightly different shade of yellow, though I may have brightened it slightly too much. The vertical brown strip off to the left seems a bit clearer. I think the photo over all is a bit crisper and brighter, at least that was the intent.

One could do this all day. At the moment, I like this one best. The future me after learning more about composition and Lightroom tweaks might gag and hide my face.

I'm taking a break from swimming this week. I'm doing the MEC half marathon race on Saturday, so this is taper. Plus parking overall is brutal the later it gets in the day during Stampede. I had a short clunky feeling run on Monday, 5K 33 minutes. Oddly enough, the fastest K was the first one, when I was feeling most clunky. Then I slowed down. No surprise.

I'll do another short easy run with some faster bits on Thursday, and hopefully that will set me up for the race.

All that is in between looking around for photo opportunities.

Monday, July 11, 2016

The children of the canola

882 photos later. My eyes are tired.

No, I'm not going to make you scroll through that many photos. Many, perhaps even most are experiments with camera settings; some wildly over or under exposed, some are essentially duplicates with slightly different settings, some are badly composed, or have other problems. Some are successful experiments in trying to produce a particular effect but are otherwise uninteresting. A few seem promising to work on as actual photographs.

No, this one isn't mine, you can see me off to the left. This is a screen shot of a Neil Zeller photo showing all of us hard at it, practicing our craft.

No, we aren't trampling canola, there was some patchy dirt where we were standing.

What an awesome weekend though!  Saturday was classroom theory and practice, then doing some evening city shots. Sunday was road trip day. After the car show in Alderside, we headed down the Cowboy Trail, till Neil got excited and yelling "stop the van, stop the van!" I never knew canola could do that to anyone. Still, we all piled out and started clicking. As we were getting in after, there were some corny jokes about 'children of the corn' and that's where the blog title came from.

So back to the beginning. You knew I'd bought a camera as the first step to exploring photography. I've bumped up against the limitations of the iPhone camera, and wanted to better control what was going on. I have to admit all the settings on a camera with manual controls are just a bit intimidating. A lot intimidating.

I explored for a bit, and though I understood what ISO, aperture, and shutter speed were, and knew they were related, I didn't really get the relationship. Nor how to go about getting some of the neat effects I've seen. My explorations weren't a waste of time, but I didn't get very far.

Neil and I have been buddies for a while, and I still get people that find my blog through his dormant barefoot running blog. When he opened registration to a weekend course to learn how to actually use your camera in manual, I snapped it up. It's the best value I've had in a training course ever. I loved the combination of theory and practice. This is really the only way to learn, by actually using your camera and twiddling with the settings. There is no rush. You have all the time you need.

There were just a few off-hand things (for Neil) that were major aha moments for me. I was afraid I'd get stranded deep in the menu and mess up some settings, and didn't know what most of them were. Or why. Some are still a mystery, but that's ok. Start with the basics and move on.

The class was 10 people, essentially all beginners, and a couple of more advanced people showed up a bit later in the morning. Neil has a ton of his own gear, and brought some loaner gear as well. I had always thought camera gear was delicate and would break at a cross look. It is delicate in some ways, but surprisingly durable. Looking at Neil's gear you can see it's been used hard in the real world. I'm still going to be careful with it, of course. Everybody that borrowed an expensive lens was walking very carefully on the rocky ground near the falls.

The difference between my kit lens and the professional lenses was astonishing to me. I came back after one sessions wanting to buy all the lenses! I spent a bit of time today at lunch shopping and reading lens reviews. What fun!

The evening trip around Calgary was 4 different places. We were a bit disappointed in the sunset over the Weaselhead, but several of us noted the next day that the photos looked way better on a computer, and the sunset had more interest than we thought. Poppy Plaza blew my mind. Here's the first long exposure shot of the night for me, dark skies, straight out of the camera raw, no processing at all. (Did you notice the pun?) Nothing special for a lens, just the kit 18-55 mm.

Now that I look at this a little more, I might fix it up in Lightroom just to be able to show the difference in a later blog.

I'd thought of going there just after buying my camera, but it would have been a waste of time. I see now I had a fundamental misunderstanding of how it works, and there would have been no results. We all had a blast trying different things, and were astonished at the results we were getting. Of course we walked downstream a bit and shot the Peace bridge.

It was just as well we were done for the evening, because I couldn't shut my left eye and look through the viewfinder with the right anymore.

Sunday we were off again for a road trip. Alderside, through Nanton, over to Chain Lakes, down to Lundbreck Falls, the Burmis tree, Frank Slide, then several sites near the Oldman River dam just because the light was astonishing! Your trip might be somewhere else, based on weather, time of year, or what Neil hasn't seen recently.

Here's two waterfall shots, one a few seconds after the other to show the difference settings can make. Same lens, same spot, completely different look. This is a screen shot straight out of the camera, no processing at all.

I could go on and on about images. But really the weekend was about learning, experimenting, and having fun. Neil had a great way of explaining why the smallest f stop number is the biggest opening.  I always had to think about it. Then you get to experiment. He completely removed the intimidation factor from the camera, and showed how much fun it was to go out and photograph stuff. Even if I do hold the camera wrong, and he winces every time he sees that. Something else to work on.

So if you have a camera that has lots of buttons, or maybe a dial with an M on it, and are afraid to play with, sign up for Neil's course. Now I'm going to go look at those 882 images to see what I can learn from them, and play with some of them in Lightroom. If I'm not back in a while, send a search party.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

The inukshuk is gone

A few days ago I was in shooting photos in Fish Creek, and found a little inukshuk. There is a photo of it in this blog.

I ran past there this morning and it's gone. Such is life. Things are here, then they're gone. Flowers bloom, then the blooms fade or fall off. Or get eaten by a critter. Or there's a hailstorm. The lilies have been beaten up a bit by hail, and the peony bloom was getting on so it was past it's best before date. At least the hail wasn't so bad that the buds were damaged. (crosses fingers and hopes not to tempt fate.)

In any case, flowers are still pretty even when they are past their prime. You may expect to see flowers in all stages.

The point here is that there really is a season for all things. You have to enjoy it while the enjoying is good. Stop and smell the rose. Play the age appropriate games with your kid and don't worry about your dignity. Cuddle your cat and wave the laser pointer. Take your dog for a walk and throw the stick.

That TV show will always be there, immortalized on Netflix or on DVD. Get out for a run instead to enjoy the day. There will never ever be another sunrise or sunset quite like this one. Or go for a walk or a bike ride, whatever makes you happy. To date, nobody on their deathbed has said they wished they spent more time in the office working.

I had lunch today with a buddy, and we had a wonderful time. She's got a book on the go, and there is a deadline. (A sequel, I can't wait till April!) She's put a bunch of other stuff on hold till that's done, but still made time for me. I'm quite flattered. I've got lots on the go as well, but no deadlines at the moment. What was important is that we found a quiet place with good food, and had a lovely wide ranging chat. People time is important.

Todays run was what running is all about. 10 K, 1:05:30, for a 6:32 pace, trying to run nice and steady. It was warm but not hot. My legs were happy to run, which is a good feeling. I'd been thinking about running yesterday, but there was no way. My legs felt dead, and I ended up napping for 4 hours in the afternoon. I've been working hard on the running, so the drained feeling wasn't a surprise. Time for a rest day. I'm going to miss my long run on the weekend while I'm in a photography course. This should be lots of fun. If I pay attention and apply what I've learned, you should start seeing nicer photos here. Stay tuned.

Friday, July 8, 2016

All about the bees

Bees, not bass. And no treble!

Now that we're all on the same page.

Once upon a time as a child I was stung by a bazillion wasps. I was watching a neighbour plowing, and he offered me a chance to ride on the tractor. Duh! So I was jumping from rock to rock in the ditch to get to the fence. One of the rocks turned out to be a wasp nest. Things get a little hazy for me then.

The odd thing is that I have no fear of them, or getting stung again. I've only had one sting since, when out for a bike ride. I don't blame the bee. There it was flying along minding it's own business when it's clipped by an inconsiderate human.

One of the things that really pleases us about our garden is the little ecosystem we have going now. There's always been a few bees and ants. Now we've got at least three species of bees (with photo proof yet!), several different kinds of birds, ants, lady bugs, and I don't know what all else. It's so nice to sit there with a glass of wine, watching and listening to the activity. Even when we're hunting the disgusting lily beetles the rest of the critters don't seem to mind us.

I think one of the bee's nest is under the driveway, another is between the blocks of the retaining wall and probably into the hollows of the block, which would be a lovely safe place for them. I don't know where the other species is nesting.

Some of you will know that I love honey and have ever since I was a child. My mom's dad kept bees, so I got honey straight from the source, partially crystalized, which is the right and proper way for it to be. On home made bread. I'm not sure if the butter was churned from their own cream or was store bought. A couple of my readers might know.

Lately bees have been under threat. They've been dying in droves, and that's very much too bad. There is discussion about the problem being pesticides, mites, or other diseases. Considering how important bees are to the ecosystem and us continuing to eat, I think it's prudent to err on the side of caution. Cutting back on the profits of big-agra doesn't bother me one bit.

Here's the three different kinds of bees. I like taking pictures of the flowers, and if I get the chance I'll chase the bees. This isn't talent, to get the bees in focus. This is luck. Shoot enough photos and you'll get a useful image sooner or later. Later today I want to go clean out the images where the bee is a smudge, and the lamb's ears are in perfect focus. I've got lots of those.

Without further ado. Any of my readers know which species these are?


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