Wednesday, April 18, 2018

It's been a while

Winter sunrises have been blah for a while. I was heading out last Sunday for BRBE to pick me up, when I saw the sunrise. I dropped the bag and headed back in for the camera. It was good timing, the perceptive of you will know those are are her headlights coming along. It was a good swim for all involved.

A while ago I'd promised a photo of Linda at the retiree thing, but that didn't work out quite as well as I'd hoped. The iPhone photo I was sent is brutal. This one is a photo of a photo, which is often fraught. The guy is the president of the union. When you're handing out a little retirement present, I guess you get to be in the photos.

It's been a long while since I've seen this part of the garden. This was still covered in snow yesterday. We've got some nice weather in the forecast, and it could well be one of our few weeks of summer. Break out the sunscreen!

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

The Amaryllis extravaganza followup

Thank you very much to my two commenters on the Amaryllis extravaganza , Janice and SPD. It was only after I read the comments and tried to follow along that I realized I'd been inconsiderate, asking people which photo out of 25 was their favourite, and then not numbering the photos! My bad.  In any case, I've gone back and numbered them. I hope my buddies don't look back and realize they miscounted. Interestingly enough, they agree on their favourite.

I'm a bit surprised by the choice, but this is why feedback is really valuable and interesting to me. The other one they agreed on, I'm not surprised about, it's up near the top of my list as well. Everybody brings something different to their photo experience. They might really like a certain colour, or a particular subject, or be repulsed by them so much it overwhelms their objectivity. Sometimes the viewer will see things the photographer didn't notice, which might be good or bad.

As the photographer, I get really close to some of the photos. I spend more than the usual time with some of them, tweaking the settings to be just right. Several times I've gone back to look at a flower to remind myself of what colour it actually is, then come back to the computer for editing. Reds and oranges can be really difficult to capture.

A lot of stuff happens to that beam of light along the way. The sun generates it, then it's modified as it passes through the Earth's atmosphere, it might bounce off something other than the subject, is modified again as it bounces off the subject itself, enters our eyes to excite the cells in our retina, and an electrical signal is passed to our brain, which provides an image to us the human. An ever so slightly different beam of light bounces off the subject, through a system of lenses, and is captured by a digital sensor, and converted to a long series of ones and zeros. From there all sorts of indignities could happen to it, to produce an image on a computer screen, where another beam of light starts the eyes and brain thing. It's a wonder any of us agree on what colour anything is.

Especially with flowers, texture is important. It's really easy to push the settings to produce an unbelievable image that just doesn't look right. Then there's the whole thing about the setting, and everything else. After a while during a deep dive editing, it becomes impossible for me to be objective about the photo anymore. A few times I've found myself trying to push the photo to be something I want, rather than what the photo wants. It's hard to describe.

People are difficult too. We know what skin and hair looks like, at least those of us who actually look at real people do, as opposed to those who think that Cosmo is a documentary magazine. I have not the slightest interest in taking photos of people made up with a trowel, as the saying goes. There's no humanity there anymore, one might as well be photographing a plastic doll.

I was photographing people at the local community association spaghetti dinner the other day. Most don't notice the camera, or try to stay out of the way. I want them to just do what they had been doing, and not look at the camera. One kid, about 10 to 12 years old (it's hard to tell now) was flirting with the camera looking at me, then away. I eventually got a shot I really liked, but it took a bit of doing, and looking elsewhere for a while.

There are some nice portrait shots, but that isn't necessarily what the community association is looking for. It will take a bit of learning to produce good shots they like and can use on their Instagram, Facebook, newsletter, and web pages. All a good experience.

In any case, you might want to go back and have a look at those amaryllis photos, now that it's easy to tell me which number you like.

Here's a couple of those spaghetti dinner photos, one cropped for instagram, one for Facebook.

There was a bingo game after. I haven't played bingo, or even been to a bingo game since I was a child.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Macro Monday 26, should've been 25

Part of the challenge, and fun, of photography is to come up with ideas and go hunt for the corresponding photo. A blog is always looking for ideas, and ways to tie things together. So for instance, it's snowing really hard out today. We've had several cm of snow already. (Sigh, and more expletives deleted.)

I didn't have to go anywhere, and I didn't. There I was, busy with a coffee, a cat, and a laptop, when I had a sudden idea for Macro Monday 25. The idea will become obvious shortly. However, once I edited the photos and looked at my blog it turns out that 25 was a few weeks ago. No tie in to 25 at all, unlike what today's blog would have done.

A quarter is 23.88 mm in diameter, or just a hair under an inch for those who think that way. It's made almost entirely of steel, with a bit of copper and nickel, and yet it's all scratched up. I like the texture it gives the photos.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

The retiree thing

Most of you know that Linda retired last year, after 36 years with the City. CUPE Local 38 puts on an annual dinner for the people that retire each year, and last night was it. Let me just say the Winter Club puts on a good spread.

We invited our friends Gord and Gail (Gord worked with me when I was at the City, and he was there almost 30 years), and Linda's cousin Terry and his wife Donna, (with Donna working at the City for 33 years, I think.)

We did that so we'd have someone to talk to, just in case, but it didn't turn out that way. A buddy of Gord's showed up and joined us. I had seen the name of a person I knew of, who was a mutual buddy of someone else I know, and with whom I had corresponded several times trying to arrange a video swim. I texted my photo to my buddy, who texted it to her, which confused the heck out of her for a few minutes. Anyway, she came looking for me, and it turns out that she knows Donna. Small world some days.

The last time I went to one of these I ended up seeing people I had worked with, oh so many years ago, but no such magic this time. A few faces might have looked a bit familiar, but it's hard to tell. The one that looked most familiar was not in fact the person I thought it was. Oops.

They called up the retirees one at a time to celebrate them and their accomplishments. Survival being the main thing, to my way of thinking. Several people had retired after 40 years of service, which just amazes me.

It used to be that if you wanted to make more money and risk periods of unemployment, you went with the private sector. For even more money and more risk, you went into the oil patch. For less money, and virtually no risk of unemployment, you worked for the City.

Well, all that is changing. There have been massive layoffs at the City. If Linda had not retired, she certainly would have been let go, probably late 2017 at latest. Lots of her colleagues are being let go, and it's a very traumatic time for them.

In a couple weeks we do it again, this time at Heritage Park, for the City's version of feting the retirees. That will be all City people, so I might see someone I know. I'll have to keep a sharp eye out, mentally recalibrating for their age. I, of course, look the same, just with shorter hair, and a nicer tie.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

The Amaryllis extravaganza

It's snowing again, after ice drizzle. The streets are a nightmare, but at least I don't have to go out. I've never really thought all that much about the amaryllis that's about 2 m behind me as I write this, but it's been about the only spot of colour recently.

There was a set of 3 blossoms, and I got an ok shot of it. Then another stalk came up, and I conceived the idea of a little photo project. The idea was to capture the bloom from bud to needing to be dead-headed, without moving the plant. I hadn't known when I started but there ended up being 5 blossoms on that stalk. I started March 20, and took the last photos today.

The light is challenging, with a north facing bay window. Rather than taking a series of shots that might as well be extracts from a time lapse movie, I wanted to try to capture a nice angle for the exact state of the blooms. Sometimes that meant shooting directly towards the window, meaning the back of the blossom was in shade. I did a few HDR shots, but only one turned out the way I wanted. Other times that meant crawling into the bay window, or moving chairs.

When shooting in lower light you have 4 options. One, mount the camera on a tripod and hold the shutter open as long as desired. This works as long as nothing (like a cat, or warm air from the heat duct, or the photographer's heavy breathing) moves the flower even slightly. Two, raise the ISO to make the sensor more sensitive. This tends to introduce more digital noise in the darker areas of the photo. Three, open the aperture wider so more light comes in while the shutter is open. This is a mixed blessing. On the good side, one can get nice shots with a deliciously out of focus background, which I like. The downside is that it can become tricky to get all the desired elements clearly in focus. Four is to cheat and add artificial light wherever or however desired. I decided not to do that, and shoot only with natural light, and not use a tripod. Finding the sweet spot for ISO, shutter speed, and aperture for the image you see in your mind is what photography is all about.

These are in time order. Scroll through, enjoy the different state of the blossom, and try to pick up on the different camera angles and techniques I used. Which is your favourite?











If you can't tell, this is the HDR shot. It's one of my favourites. 12














Which is your favourite?

Tuesday, April 10, 2018


Some days you just get into it, whatever it is. You get up and you get into. Sometimes even before coffee, heretical as that might sound.

Then there's times when it doesn't seem quite right to get started. One might really need a coffee. Or you're waiting for something. This can be all well and good, if the thing waited for is well defined, and the delivery time is clear.

Typically, however, the time frame is not clear, as in service will be attempted between noon and 5pm. Occasionally the opposite is true. I once had a colleague faithfully promise to deliver a requested query precisely and approximately at 2pm. The timing didn't fuss me, but I had grave doubts about their understanding of what was desired, well founded doubts as it turned out.

Then you have the situation where you are waiting for something, but have no idea when or even if it will arrive. Worse, you don't know what it looks like or where it is, so you can't go looking. It might or might not be something you recognize when you see it.

For writers, inspiration often falls into this group. I've had some success lately in making progress on my writing, but there's a chunk that's needed, and the words are on the tip of my fingers, but alas they aren't making the jump to the keyboard. Plus, one of the tasks I need to do for my own sanity is map each specific chapter on the timeline, as opposed to the main events within them. What I'd like to do in Scrivener is have one document with each chapter in date order, then later split them out into the two novels happening with a substantial time overlap. I know Scrivener will let me put them all in one document with whatever titles I want, in whatever order I want. I'm just not sure if there's a way I can tag them so I can pull out only half the chapters. For some reason I've been putting this off. Maybe because I've been holding chunks of the novels in my head, and putting them in this format is making them more real, and closer to a state where I have to decide about publishing.

The blog has been suffering from this a bit, and on another front. Put bluntly, I'm sick of winter. Spring is supposed to arrive sometime this month, but is generally considered to be overdue. The pessimists of us point out that it has snowed in Calgary during every calendar month. I'm sick of photos with white in them.

I'm finding it hard to find the mojo to get out with my camera. Well, with two exceptions, the amaryllis and the music concert. The last amaryllis bloom is fading, and I should be able to put up a big amaryllis extravaganza soon. The concert photos have been delivered, and nice things said. All I need is a bit more spring, and I'll be out there in the mud, camera in hand.

In the mean time, here's a couple from the concert that I like. Yes, Bebo Grove plays a suitcase along with more traditional instruments. Their drummer isn't with them now, and they had to come up with a solution. I love that creativity. Clearly they didn't wait around for a drummer.

As you know, I'm not a big portrait or person shooter, but I turned around and saw the light falling on this guy, and I couldn't get the camera to my face quick enough.

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Demoralizing but fun

More snow!! At least it wasn't the 10 cm forecast, and it's melting fast, but it's been steady off and on snow flurries since you last heard from me. I would not be surprised to find there are people in Calgary near to ending it all in despair.

They do not have Curtis, the most photogenic cat in the world. How could anyone repine when there are paws like this to tickle?

The exciting news is this.

Yes, a cell phone. Be still my heart. It is still being domesticated. We are trying to be gentle with her as she joins the modern era of communication. Her previous cell phone, if it can be called that, was essentially rocks and string. Texting is beginning to grow on her.

Today was the fun part. I'm the volunteer photographer for my local community association, and today was my first gig. They put on a concert, with Two Late for the Party opening for Bebo Grove. They're both on Facebook if you want to look there. Lots of people showed up and it seems a good time was had by all.

Novel progress is continuing. A trip to Costa Rica for research is desirable. I should have gone in January. There is even progress on the bike!

Thursday, April 5, 2018

A raw chunk

I'm not sure if it's the warmer weather, or more sunshine or what, but some of the novel writing has been flowing again. I've had several new scenes come together, and several more get rewritten to fix timeline issue.

All along I've known that Dwen and Les strike sparks. Several times she's said she isn't sure if she wants to shag him senseless, or just punch him out. Les has his own issues, and I'd also known there was something that Dwen said or did that helped him to resolve those issues.

When looking at the timeline I realized that a funeral service was scheduled, and that would be perfect timing. So here's a portion of that scene for your delight. Copyright Keith Cartmell, of course,  no other usage is implied or authorized.

Les and Dwen got out of his car, and joined the other people walking to the top of the hill. Unlike her usual casual disregard for the weather, Ronnie was bundled up in a parka, complete with hat, scarf, and mittens against the raw March wind. She was still sick, and Belinda hovered nearby.

Les shook his head. “Poor Ronnie. She still blames herself.”

“I know,” Dwen said. “She doesn’t want to listen to anything different. I think when your time comes, it comes. If she’d been awake and had her visit with Audrey, maybe the driver of that truck would have been delayed too. Or if not that truck, it would have been another, or something else. Something Audrey said a few weeks ago, I think she believed something like that too. I’ve never met anyone so serenely happy.”

“The whole death in Samarra thing. Yeah. At least it was quick. More than anything else I fear getting captured by the medical system, kept half alive, too sick to live but not allowed to die.” Les shivered, and it wasn’t just the wind.

Dwen thought about it for a few steps, then reached out to tuck her hand into Les’s arm. She pulled herself in close beside him and curled her arm around his, holding it firmly.

Les didn’t know what to think. “Are you ok?”

“Oh yes. Times like this it’s nice to be close to someone. It’s your first funeral, isn’t it?”

Les just nodded.

“Not me, and I’m sure it’s not my last.”

“I suppose so. I didn’t know Audrey that well, but something about her friends is different. The polite thing to say is that I wanted to pay my respects, but  - “ Les trailed off.

“Yeah. I think it’s important that she introduced us to her friends. I don’t know how I know that. Maybe not so much you and me, but Ronnie. I was watching her during that first party and some of the occasions since. Maybe this is melodramatic, but I think knowing these people is life or death for Ronnie. She needs something or someone, and I think one of these people is it.”

“I got a piece of that too. I liked them all and got really good vibes from Ed. I don’t think we’re going to be best friends or anything but there’s a connection. With Ronnie, it’s like I could feel a puzzle piece, knowing it belongs but not quite fitting in. I hope it happens.”

“That’s a good way of saying it.”

They joined the small crowd, standing next to Belinda and Ronnie. All of the lab and office staff from the plant were nearby. There were some other people from the City as well, plus people assumed to be friends and family.

Two people were huddled tightly around Audrey’s husband Thomas, and their two small children, Erin and Jordan. Dwen knew they were Audrey’s best friend Betsy along with her husband Edward.

When the time came, Betsy stepped up to a small folding table. It had an urn and a condolence book on it.

“Hello everyone. I’m Betsy. Thank you for coming. Nobody wants to be standing around in this wind any longer than we need to, no matter how much we loved Audrey, so I’m going to get on with it.”

She gestured to the tall man near her. “Thomas asked me to speak for him; he is still overcome.”

“Audrey was my best friend and the freest spirit I’ve ever known. Some people are weighed down with the burdens of life, but Audrey was the opposite. She brought happiness into the life of everyone that she knew, and made it easier for them to carry whatever burdened them. It seems only appropriate to scatter the remains of her body to the wind and sunshine, where her spirit already is.”

She picked up the urn and carried it over to Thomas. Together they walked over to the edge of the hill.

Betsy looked around and said, “We’re downwind of you all, but mind the eddies. We love you Audrey.” Thomas opened the urn, and scattered a handful of ashes to the wind. Betsy did the same. The two children were coached to do so as well, then Thomas and Betsy scattered the rest of the ashes. They swirled on the wind, spreading out down the hill.

Dwen could feel the tension in Les’s body. She turned to him, and whispered in his ear. “Whatever it is, Les, let it go on the wind. It’s dead. It has no hold on you. Let the wind scatter it like Audrey’s ashes. You are free.”

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

An actual run. Really.

Much of my workout life has been in the pool lately. This getting old isn't for sissies. I wouldn't have called myself injured over the last year or so, but there's been a lot of cranky body issues, mainly involving almost everything from low back to knees.

I've mentioned my swim getting back to what I think of as normal, which is nice. Often I include some water running, and some core in the pool. Let's not even talk about the bike. I was on it for an easy spin last week, and while there wasn't actual pain, there wasn't any actual strength either.

My legs have been feeling much better lately, so even though it isn't quite spring yet, it's nice enough I've been wanting to get out for a run. Regular readers will recall that I've often been out in seriously minus WTF temperatures. None of that this year. There's been lots of ice under the snow what with the way the first few snowfalls went, and the slackassery of my neighbours. Plus a big helping of slackerpants attitude on my part.

But today was the day, at last. Good footing with all the sun melting off the sidewalks, and temperatures about zero. I was really good about getting my legs warmed up in the house, then a much longer walk than normal to warm up.

The business end of the run was 3K in 20:52 for 7:13 or so per K pace. That was way better than expected. The first K felt pretty good, in a clunky stiff way that was no surprise for not really running in months. I was pleased at the pace number, since I thought I was running really slow. The second K felt even slower and clunkier, with my right hip talking to me a bit, but was almost exactly the same pace. A long even downhill will do that for you. The last K is mostly uphill, and was (surprise surprise) the same pace, or very slightly quicker. Imagine that.

Then a medium long walk to cool down, and a long session of stretching, rolling my legs with the gear, and feet up the wall.

It all still feels pretty good much later in the day. Let's see how it feels in the morning.

I'm hoping to try to get more regular with the running again. Last summer wasn't much, but the year before was really good. I was really enjoying getting out for some of the longest runs of my life, and while I don't plan on going as far, I'd like to be enjoying it as much. I had the goal of running along all the Calgary waterways, and did almost all of them. The only significant part I missed was the canal to Chestermere, and now there's some new paths.

Part of that regularity is going to have to be paying really good attention to how things feel, and stopping before I have to stop. More shorter runs are going to be better than fewer longer runs. The weather getting nicer is going to make it easier. I'd love to settle back into 5 to 10 K runs feeling good again.

I've run past this view a number of times, and even at that time of year, but this one was during an early March photo ramble in Edworthy park.

Monday, April 2, 2018

So I'm eager, but garden dirt!

The snow mounds are shrinking not rapidly enough for the people I've been chatting to lately. After taking more Amaryllis photos I was looking out into the front patio, and realized I could actually walk around a bit without needing snowshoes. Even better, the snow has receded enough to expose actual garden dirt and the plants left over from last year.

Of course I had to take photos. There's still a bit of snow in the photos because that can't yet be avoided. Soon, though. Soon.

If you look closely, there's a tiny bit of green in there, left over from last year.

Dirt! It's a measure of how excited I am, that I'm taking a photo of actual dirt and cedar mulch. We're going to drink wine with supper tonight to celebrate.

I think this is a day lily. Parts of the front flower box are emerging from the glacier. The side yard still has several feet of snow mounded up, and let's not talk about the back patio garden.

This is the rose that had that one hip I photographed here. It's still there, just out of view at the top of the photo. That's how much the snow has melted.

In Amaryllis news, since I know you are all panting with eagerness to see that photo essay, the blooms are starting to fade. Be patient. I've been enjoying the delicate red more than usual.


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