Sunday, October 23, 2016

Tracks in the fog

Some tracks are easy to miss. It used to be a valuable skill to be able to follow the tracks animals left behind. Maybe it still is, I don't know these things. But some tracks are unmistakable and unmissable, like the ones down the middle of Calgary, and many other western Canadian towns and cities.

It used to be the railway station was the center of town, and if the town grew, it grew around the station. It was common for a train to block traffic. Even now in downtown Calgary, there are only 8 ways to cross the tracks by car or bike, with underpasses at 4th St SE, 2 St SE (Macleod Tr North),  1 St SE (Macleod Tr South), 1st St SW, 4 St SW (one way north), 5th St SW (one way south), 8th St SW, and a level crossing at 11th St SW.  There are a few +15 pedestrian bridges, a couple of which are cunningly concealed within buildings or parking structures. If you have nerves of steel and don't mind trespassing, sometimes there are gates left open, which let me get this shot. Having buildings disappear into the clouds is an interesting effect.

The underpasses have gradually become eyesores. The homeless hang out in them. They are narrow and dark.  Lots of people hate going through them, but have no practical choice. Calgary is finally spending money to upgrade the underpasses and about time.

Sometimes it can be very frustrating to get around downtown, what with the limited railway crossings, one way streets, a couple scramble crossings to be careful of, and pedestrians who don't seem to understand they are taking their lives in their hands by stepping off the curb.

There have been discussions about moving or elevating the tracks, but the expense would be astronomical. Even after decades of growth, there are still empty lots beside the tracks.  The way the economy is these days, if there isn't a building going up on those lots now, it's going to be more decades till another one is started.

In a real sense these steel tracks were the first bones and sinews of Canada. That used to be the only way to travel long distances. Now it's difficult and expensive to travel by rail in Canada, which is a pity. The scenery along the rail line is often stunning. It's much more civilized than what air travel has become. I miss the trains in Europe, where even cars that look old and shabby on the outside are nice inside and travel 150 Kph at least. Some are much faster, and why don't we have them here?

Every now and then people bring up the idea of a bullet train between Calgary and Edmonton, but I don't think the market is there yet. Southern Ontario, from Montreal to Hamilton should be a natural. I remember when I first moved to Calgary there was rail service between Calgary and Edmonton, most days. It was called the dayliner, and ended service in 1985. It seemed that every week there was a news story of someone driving their vehicle into it or thinking they could beat it. Oops.

Now the bones and sinews are air routes and internet links. Airline travel used to be civilized. I flew periodically as a child, and remember men wearing suits, and women wearing nice dresses. Real  steel cutlery.  Airports were fun places to be. Not anymore. Given a choice I'd travel by rail over air any day.

A few weeks ago I was shooting downtown from beside the tracks, and was astonished how many trains were rumbling past. I probably spent more time listening to trains than not. One was so loud I was wishing I'd brought hearing protection. All freight trains though, no passengers. It's an interesting vantage point, but I don't think I'd do it again.

I suppose if I'd been really careful, I might have been able to capture the rail lines meeting at a point off in the distance, in the fog. Maybe next time.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

I photospectathaleted

The original plan for today was to run a marathon. I didn't. I didn't even do a half. Don't feel sorry for me. I overdid it in August and am still recovering from extremely tight and cranky legs. Maybe next year.

I knew one of my buddies was running a half so I had committed to cheering her on and taking photos. I'm going to babble about the photo bit for a minute, feel free to skip a couple paragraphs. When I was taking photos of Michelle, Antje, and Amy at the 70.3 this summer, I was using a 100 mm lens. The shots turned out beautifully, but with such great subjects what else could happen? The only problem was I had to be a long way away from them to get the various posing shots that happen, and people were walking in between. That lens doesn't zoom.

This time I was using the new lens, a 70 to 200 mm zoom lens. I love it, though it weighs a ton. Even at 70 mm I still needed to be a little further away than I liked for the pre and post-race 'milling around' shots. It worked beautifully for the out on the path shots. I just need to get better at framing the person I'm shooting. I'm still aiming too high. Plus when I'm starting to shoot at 200, I need to remember I can zoom in and continue to shoot. Several times I stopped shooting and looked up only to realize they were still a long ways away.

One of the better shots of the day happened before the race as I was dialing in, figuring out what settings to use, and saw this couple trying to stay warm. I've no idea who they are.

This was a challenging shoot for me, so it was good experience. Pre-race was cloudy, so that's one set of settings. I rode my bike to meet Patricia at Crowchild so she could drop any extra gear. That's under the bridge and really dark with construction scaffolding, so another set of settings. Then I waited for her to come back outside, with light cloud gradually clearing, so another set of settings. Then back to the finish line, under clear sunny skies, for another set of settings.

I spent some time trying to figure out how to get the classic finish line photo. From a photographers point of view it sucked. Shooting from the corral to the finish line, it was really hard to include both the clock and the finisher in the photo. If you were back there waiting you had essentially no warning your athlete was coming. You were shooting towards the sun so your athlete's face will be shadowed. Let's just say I'm not happy with the finish line shot. When we got to the front of the line for the finisher's podium the shadows were unfortunate. There are some shots I'm happy with, and I'm sharing them with the appropriate people.

I've been on a bit of a tear, both taking photos, and going back to develop older ones. One image in particular was in my head for a bunch of reasons. It's a shot of downtown at sunrise, but everything at the base of the image is dark, so it looks like the buildings are anchored in darkness, and rise up to the light. Perhaps it's an allegory of some kind; feel free to speculate in comments. This isn't quite how I had it pictured in my head, but pretty close.

Which leads me to keeping track of photos so I can find them again when I have imagery thoughts. One of the things that kills me in Apple's iPhoto and whatever they call the current abomination for collecting photos, is finding a particular one. Lightroom offers sophisticated ways to group photos in collections, and using keywords, and star ratings, and perhaps there are other functions I haven't explored yet. I haven't taken advantage of any of them yet, wanting to see what I actually end up shooting, and how I'd think about it after. I'm thinking I need keywords for this one like; skyline, downtown, sunrise, from bluff above Inglewood Golf course. That narrows it down to several hundred photos now, and there might be more next week. I need to start putting some thought into this. It might well be the first major project once I get Lightroom going on a new iMac. Soon.

This other one was shot just across the road a few days ago. It's a little overdeveloped, but I was looking for a bit of a painting feel.

While I was watching all the other runners, and I was surprised by another buddy I hadn't known was running, I was thinking it's been an excellent year for running. I was consistent, I built gradually, I had the support of the best running buddy in the world, and ended up running better than I've ever run since I was about 17. So that's all a learning to carry into next year. My legs are feeling better, enough so that I was thinking about a run this afternoon or tomorrow. We'll see.

Oh, and my buddy? She did awesome! A new PB at this distance, and missed her A goal by a minute or so. If she wants to blog about it, I'd be happy to guest blog her. (Hint, hint.)

Late update, no guest blog. But here she is, running strong just past the half way point.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Buildings and bridge yes. Sky no. Sigh

Being in a reflective mood this morning, after I dropped Linda off I headed over to Princes Island. I'd hoped for a sunrise shot along the river, but where I wanted to go was fenced off. The sky was looking promising for sunrise sky reflections off the water, but that didn't work out like I hoped.

After a quick plan change I got these.  There's a few others that I'm working on.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

A walk in Fish Creek

Last night I attended a camera launch event. This is a first for me. How cool is that to be doing something for the first time at my age? Part of the evening was to mill around, chat to a Canon rep, and hold some very, very expensive cameras and lenses. I'm suspecting he had brought along equipment worth more than $100K. Anything I picked up I held very carefully. The 6D felt very nice in my hands. Just saying.

Part of the evening was a presentation by a rep from The Camera Store extolling the many virtues of the Canon 5D MkIV. It seems to be a very nice camera, best one ever produced by Canon, if you believe what they say. I happen to know it retails for $4700. Not going to be picking one up any time soon. That kind of money is going into a computer upgrade soon.

The last part of the evening was by Tod Korol. It was a bit of a surprise to me that he wasn't trying to sell the camera. He liked it, and displayed some amazing photos he'd taken with it, but his bigger point was that it was the photographer, not the camera that produced great pictures. Still, the colour he was getting out of the camera was stunning.

I was feeling a bit itchy and decided to wander around to see what colour I could find today. I haven't played with the colour on these, just cropped and tweaked exposure.

These guys are tiny, and I'd never really noticed them before, living in the flower boxes for the lodge.

Loved the mossy greens.

The light kept changing on me, making this one a bit tricky. Still not entirely happy with it, but the swirls of the wood reminded me of an ear.

Is it a bridge to nowhere?

This is as red as it got.

And as blue as it got.

Scoped out what might be a nice spot for sunrise shots tomorrow, if the clouds cooperate.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

To cheer you up on a cool foggy overcast day

Your weather is probably different. I'm seeing some gorgeous photos of Nova Scotia, but what I see outside is overcast. Almost foggy. Trying to snow. Just below zero. Kind of dank by Calgary standards.

In January this would be considered warm and pretty nice. But it's October. Blah. So to cheer us all up, the photo of the day.

The rest of us should be so sensible.

Come to think of it...

Monday, October 17, 2016


You might recall a photo from Saturday of a pair of rose buds. One person loved the "failed" rose photo, thank you very much. I admit, there have been a number of my photos that I didn't like, but other people did. In any case, this is the photo I was intending to take. Go ahead, it's worth embiggening. All three of them are, IMHO.

Rather than being a red smear, the buds are in focus. You can see some of the detail in the bud structure. It just took a slight tweak to the camera settings, and making sure the focus was right. It doesn't take much to get a shot that's almost but not quite right.

Here's a couple other examples of getting the focus right. The cactus live at Lougheed House.

You saw the screen shot I took while processing the image, here's the whole thing. Remember, the big hens and chicks is about 2 inches across.

It's a good reminder to me about focus in daily life. It doesn't take much to miss the intended result. Sometimes the consequences are trivial. Sometimes not. I sometimes find myself losing focus in the transition between one thing and the next. One of my coping strategies has been to try to minimize the number of such transitions. There is a metabolic and results cost to switching our attention between tasks.

Now that  I'm mostly retired, I find myself thinking about what is important for me to accomplish during the day. Then I try to get at it, and get it done. Totally done and put away, before moving onto the next thing. Sometimes it's good, even necessary to have a slack day. But too many of them and you turn into a couch potato. There's lots I want to get done.

A practical example of focus changing other things has been running more this year. I put a lot of effort into training for a marathon, and I overdid it in August. But it was a good experience, even though my swim suffered badly.

The swim mojo is coming back! Today I was slow getting into the pool, waiting for some lane space to open up. Then 500 m in 8:55! That's one of my fastest times for that distance, and it didn't seem like I was working. 3x 100 m on 2, done in 1:35(!), 1:43, 1:43, then trying an all out 100, in 1:31. A few drills and a bit of water running rounded out the morning in the pool.

I think the thing that triggered the speed increase was reviewing some of the subtleties of the arm stroke with Michelle on the weekend. Thinking about that, doing the stroke better, focussing on it, made me swim faster. Gotta love that.


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