Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Chicago quickie

Quick post. We got back from Chicago Sunday night and I'm leaving for the rest of the week tomorrow.

Here are a few photos I took in Chicago. It's a nice city, but I wish there was more to do downtown.

Red seats
Hidden frog
Chicago Clock Tower
Lake-side tower

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Buying prints

Jim Goldstein is currently running his annual "Buy Prints" project. He is encouraging photographers and others to contact their favorite photographers and buy one or more of their prints. He sums up the project better than I could:
One of the unique aspects of digital photography is that we’re now able to enjoy photographic work with out viewing it in printed form. More so now than ever before supporting a photographer is shown almost exclusively online through photo forums, blogs, and other online communities. While viewing photographs online is easy and relatively inexpensive it is a hollow experience by comparison to holding an actual print from a photographer you respect and admire.

The goal of this project is to introduce fine art photography, photography books, print exchanges, and other photography related products to photography fans of all walks of life. It is also to spur photography fans to think in terms of financially supporting talented photographers so they can continue to do what they love.

I wasn't able to participate in the project last year, but I'm hoping to this year. A brief look through my Flickr Favorites turns up quite a number of photos that I would be happy to hang on my wall. And even if I pick something that my lovely wife doesn't approve of, I have 3 and a half walls in my cubical at work that are open for photos :).

Real prints are a different beast then digital photos. It's one thing to have a photo as your desktop, but something entirely different to have a tangible photo handing on your wall. A well printed photograph can evoke emotions that a digital one can't. It's not that digital photos are inferior, just different.

I don't know how many of the photographers represented in my flickr fav's are professional photographers. The ones that are probably have photos out of my price range (the range isn't huge to begin with). But it doesn't hurt to ask, and it can only help the photography community if people start recognizing talent with more than just a comment about the photo.

While it may seem like it, this isn't a request for people to buy my photos. Buy art that you like, that speaks to you, that makes you feel warm or challenged or reminiscent. Don't buy art out of some ill-conceived duty to the artist. Buy it because it speaks to you.

Photo above by I, Timmy.

Sunday, October 04, 2009


We put Fez down today.

It wasn't an easy choice but it was obvious. He hadn't been eating much lately, he hadn't be moving around much and he was getting sick to his stomach more and more frequently. We had done everything we could for him and further procedures would have only prolonged his discomfort for our sake. It was time to let go.

Fez was the youngest of our cats. He was another rescue from the Humane Society; scheduled to be put down the day Tara brought him home to 'foster' him. He quickly became a member of our family, bossing the other cats and owning the joint. He ate whatever was dropped on the floor often before he could tell what it was. He never learned to hiss. He frequently came to the door to greet you after a long day of work (although, that may just have been him wanting to be fed). Always a great photographers subject, I have over 200 photos of him at last count.

Goodbye Fez. You will be missed.

Friday, September 04, 2009

The weekend where everything went wrong

We drove up to Tara's parents cottage last weekend for a little retreat. Just Tara, myself and Sarah, one of Tara's resident-mates. We had a grand 'ol time, but a number of things went quite wrong.

a. We got up to Arnstein (25 minutes from the cottage, 5 hours from home) when we realized we forgot the key to the cottage (and Tara's folks were in Ottawa).
b. After 15 minutes of calling, we got a hold of Tara's parents. Turns out they don't have a key hidden at the cottage and the only person around that would have a key is Steve the plumber. Steve is supposed to be putting a sink into the basement bathroom of the cottage. Tara's parents didn't have his number with them.
c. Steve the Plumber's phone was busy (we looked him up n the phonebook), but the nice people at the general store told us where he lived. We drove out of town looking for a "double driveway with a gray house on one side and an unfinished house on the other". Surprisingly we found the house.
d. Steve wasn't home, but his wife was (we never did get her name). She didn't know where he kept his keys for the cottages and houses, but told us we could find Steve by going back into town, turning at the gas station and looking for the green half-tonne. We drove back into town and, surprisingly, found Steve.
e. Steve didn't have the keys on him; they were back at the house. So we drove back to his house. Once there, he gave us a tupperware full of keys because the cottage key wasn't labeled. We had about 25 keys from different houses around the area in the container..
f. We drove to the cottage and, thankfully, one of the keys worked. We labeled it before returning it (another 20 minute drive back into town and the 20 minutes back to the cottage).
g. That afternoon we discovered that we left Fez's medication either at Tara's parents place (where we spent the previous night) or at the mechanics where we dropped our car off that morning for an inspection. We called Tara's mom who gave us the phone number of Marcel, a neighbor of Tara's parents. We called Marcel who graciously went over to see if we left the medication at the house. Thankfully we did. Tara's parents brought it to us the next day after coming home from Ottawa.
h. After a wonderful time at the cottage, we drove into North Bay on Monday to pick up our car, and then home stopping in Trout Creek to see Tara's grandmother. When we got to Guelph to drop Sarah off, she realized that she had forgotten her house key and nobody was home!
i. Sarah called her fiancee to see if he was around. He was at a local resturant and came to the house fairly soon after. He was all worried because he thought we were supposed to be home Sunday night and not Monday. He didn't even have the cottage number to call us! He looked quite relieved to see us.

So that was our crazy weekend. Even with all that we had a great time - mostly just relaxing and reading and eating (recipes to follow!).

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Attention RSS Reader Users: Crispy bits side bar

To all those who track this blog through an RSS reader (and I suspect that's most of you): there is a new sidebar called "Crispy Bits: The Good Stuff on the Web". It's a collection of the interesting and funny stuff I find while surfing (which I do probably more than I should).

Right now there are links to a Beach Boys cover on a ukulele, an interesting way to use an exercise ball and a musical flow chart. All good stuff.

If you use a RSS reader, you won't get an update when I update the list. So come here every once and a while when you are bored - there will probably be at least one interesting thing in the list.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Wasp photos

I took down the wasps nest today (see post). It broke as it fell open and I grabbed a few photos.

AwakenCan you call it honeycomb when it was built by wasps?
Plugged upQ-Tips

Even though I sprayed the nest over two weeks ago, some of the wasp larvae were alive and starting to emerge from their cocoons. I don't know if they would have made it out with the residual pesticide and with no family members to take care of them. The nest also stank pretty bad - I should have taken it down right away I guess.

I don't really like wasps around but I have nothing against them living. If they didn't build their nest so close to my house I won't have bothered them at all. The nest opened up when it hit the patio and the inside was pretty interesting. I'm amazed at the structures that they built. Really quite awe-inspiring.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Reading material

I love Amazon.ca. Click click click and your books are delivered to your door within a week. Delivery is free, the selection is pretty good and browsing is easy.

I picked up a few books with my birthday money. Three books for three hobbies.

Mastering the Art of French Cooking is a classic. It translated and delivered regular french cooking to North America. Recipes range from simple (Sauce Béchamel, white Sauce) to the complex (Coquelets sur Canapés, Roast Squab Chickens with chicken liver canapes and mushrooms). Butter, cream and wine are featured prominently in many of the recipes. I'm either going to have to take it easy on them or increase my meager (read: non-existent) exercise routine.

Light: Science and Magic is the definitive beginners guide to light with respect to photography. It has real world examples of lighting scenarios and enough theory to let you apply the scenarios to situations not covered in the book. How do you avoid glace when photographing people with glasses? How do you photograph shiny objects? How does the size of the light source affect the photography? All this and more await!

Working with Handplanes will hopefully help me achieve more success with my wood working projects then I am currently experiencing. Handplanes are mysterious creatures; when they work well, you feel like you can do anything. When they don't you feel you can do nothing. I'm hoping to move from the latter to the former.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Bon Appetit - Julie and Julia

We just came back from watching Julie and Julia. If you are a foodie or a fan of Julia Child you should really go see it.

The movie is based of the book of the same title which follows Julie Powell as she tries to cook through the Art of French Cooking in a year, with flashbacks to Julia Child's life in France. The book is based on a blog that Julie Powell used to track her progress through the book (the blog is still available, though the last entry is from 2004). Meryl Streep plays Julia Child and her portrayal is really quite uncanny. The movie is funny and interesting and makes you hungry - what more can a movie do?

I never really watched much Julia Child as a kid - Canadian television played more Yan Can Cook and the Urban Peasant (and who can forget Just Like Mom) but her impact on North American cooking is unparalleled. My copy of the Art of French Cooking is on it's way from Amazon.ca. I'm looking forward to cracking it open and trying the most involved recipe in there: Pate de Canard en Croute.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Eat Canadian

Hellman's put together the following interesting video about how much food we import into Canada. It feels like a bit of propaganda (it was commissioned by a profit-driven food company after all), but if even a quarter of the statistics are accurate, we import a lot of food into this great country. I know I will keep a better eye out for grown in Canada food (easy to say in the summer I know).

Hellmann’s - It’s Time for Real from CRUSH on Vimeo.

QA geek note: The video does a really good job of presenting statistics in an attractive and informative manner. The charts are pleasing to the eye and contain a significant amount of data. The graphic designers and animators did a real bang up job. I only wish the software I test looked as good at this does.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

World Wide Photo Walk 2009

Saturday evening I participated in Scott Kelby's world wide photo walk. Scott Kelby is a big name in digital photography and he came up with a fun idea - organize a multi-city photo walk and then share the results. This year over 900 groups formed and walked with an estimated 30000 people attending.

I was at the Kitchener one and it was well attended. I think we were close to 50 people. Our leader came a little late so things were disorganized, but I think most of us had a good time anyways. Everyone was friendly and I met a bunch of new photographers. Our route had a good amount of stuff to shoot and it ended up in Victoria Park during the Beer and Rib fest.

I shot both digital and film, but I mis-loaded my first roll, so all my film photos from the first half of the walk don't exist. That's ok - I'm sure there were no winners in there :)

There are prizes for the photowalk. Everyone gets to submit two photos. I'm having a hard time choosing mine. Below are my candidates - any suggestions? Click through for larger photos.

Created with Admarket's flickrSLiDR.

Sunday, July 19, 2009


We have wasps. Bald-faced hornets to be exact (but IANAE*). Thankfully they are outside, in a tree. But now I have to go and remove their nest. Their nest is 15 feet high. Does anyone have any good methods for killing wasps that high up? I'm thinking I'll use that raid stuff that shoots a jet of killing foam whilst standing on a ladder.

*I am not an entomologist.

Our Fez is sick

We got the news last week that our cat Fez is sick. Quite sick. He has intestinal cancer - large cell lymphoma. The doctors give him 6 months at most.

Fez is our most personable cats. He loves people and loves to be around us. He's clumsy and he eats anything. We love him. The next few months will be hard.

We are going to try chemo-for-cats. We are taking a middle of the road approach - not to aggressive, not to passive. Tara has started a blog to track his progress: Will my cat go bald?

There is a somber mood over our house. We are trying to enjoy all the time we have. That's good advice regardless of the health of your pets.

Monday, July 13, 2009


We got some sad news about one of our pets today. Nothing I want to talk about right now, so I'm posting some photos of animals that I don't need to worry about. Sometimes you need a distraction from the gloomy side of life.

This is one of the herds of sheep at the University of Guelph. I was at the fence for 5 minutes with the sheep ignoring me and then a couple walking their little dog walked by and all the sheep ran to see the dog (or the couple). Taken with Ilford FP4+.

This cute little monster is digging holes in our lawn and under our interlocking brick. He also likes to eat our garden and the cherries off our tree. His only redeeming quality is that he doesn't mind posing.

This is a bunny at my sisters place. He/she was pretty skittish - this was take at 300mm.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Ginger bread cake

In the summer, when it's warm out, I'll reach for a light dessert after dinner. Maybe something with berries or something airy. Ice cream is always nice.

But our summer here in southwestern Ontario is MIA. We've only had one week of hot weather, the rest has been highs of 20C-25C. Not weather where I was to sit out on a beach with a nice piece of angel food cake and a whack of strawberries. These days I've been craving something with a bit of heft to it.

I used the excuse occasion of my sister and brother-in-law staying with us for a few days to make a nice winter cake in our cool summer. Behold the Ginger Bread Cake!

This is a nice dense cake that goes well with a nice hot drink. It's packed with flavour and can stand up to a rich ice cream with ease.

Note that I have not been able to get the cake out of the pan without at least some part of it sticking. I've tried both silicon and metal bundt pans. I don't know what I'm doing wrong - perhaps I need to to make the cake at a higher temp at the start? If you have success, let me know what you changed.

Recipe: Ginger Bread Cake (modified from Smitten Kitchen's recipe)

1 C stout beer (I used Guinness)
1 C molasses
3/4 tsp baking soda
2 C flour (all purpose)
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
3 tbsp finely grated fresh ginger (or 2 Tbsp ground ginger)
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg (fresh grated is best
3 eggs (large and at room temp)
1 C brown sugar (packed)
1 C white sugar
3/4 C vegetable oil

1. Combine stout and molasses in a sauce pan and bring to a boil. Remove from heat, add baking soda (warning - it will foam up - keep stirring) and cool until it is just warm (or cooler).

2. Preheat the over to 350F. Butter and flour the inside of the bundt pan.

3. Mix the flour, baking powder and spices together in a large mixing bowl.

4. Whisk the eggs and sugars together in a large bowl until well combined. Add oil and molasses and whisk again until well combined and mostly homogeneous.

5. Add liquid mixture to flour mixture and whisk to combine. Pour into bundt pan and bake for 45-50 minutes. Cake is done when a skewer comes out mainly clean (a little under baked is fine, try no to over bake).

6. Cool on a rack for 5-10 minutes and then turn cake out of the pan and cool on rack until cool.

7. Serve to your friends with a fine vanilla ice-cream and a steaming coffee or tea.

Friday, July 10, 2009

First rule of film photography

Today I learned the first rule of film photography.

Rule 1: Make sure there is film in your camera.
Corollary: If it takes less effort to wind the film in your camera than usual, see rule 1.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

More Killarney Photos

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Camping in Killarney

Tara and I spent the first half of last week at Killarney Provincial Park.It was the first time either one of us had been to the park. The park is just south of Sudbury and just north of French River Provincial Park; about 5 and a half hours from the KW region. It's a fairly new park, only 45 years old. The Group of Seven petitioned the provincial government to set the park aside and protect it from logging and development. It truly is breathtakingly beautiful.

I've been car camping at a number of provincial parks and this is one of the best. The campsites and trails were clean, the underbrush not trampled down and the park staff very friendly and helpful. I give it two thumbs up.

The weather was great while we were there. Highs of 28-30 and sunny all week. The nights were a little warm, but nothing we couldn't deal with.

There was a fair amount of wildlife in the park. We saw a few foxes (one with a chipmunk in her mouth) and a couple of bears (one a little too close for comfort - 15 feet and startled, but I think he was more afraid of us than visversa). Lots of chipmunks, squirrels, and woodpeckers. Oh ya, and raccoons.

Embarrassing story: I stayed up late one night to try to get some star photos. Only the sun doesn't really set and get completely dark at the end of June in the park until well after 11:00. So I'm sitting on a rock face with my camera by myself, the day we saw a bear up close, and I start hearing rustling in the the bush behind me. I flip on the flashlight and it's just racoons with their tiny reflective eyes, watching me. I turn the flashlight off. Two minutes later I hear more rustling. I turn on the flashlight again and all I saw are the eyes. The smart part of my brain knew I was safe, but the stupid part of my brain didn't think so. I got one 14 minute exposure and I high-tailed it back to the safety of my tent. That was the last clear night of the trip.

Our only problem was the bugs. There were a lot of bugs. Blackflies, mosquitoes, deerflies, and horseflies were out and hungry like I haven't seen in a while. They forced us to wear our bug jackets all the time, except for in the noon sun, at the top of a hill or in the middle of the lake. Both Tara and I had countless bites all over; Tara suffering more than I. When we go back to Killarney, it will be in the fall or very early spring, when the bugs are happily sleeping.

We rented a canoe and had a easy paddle around George Lake. The lakes in the park suffered from the acid rain in the late 80's (the park is downwind of Sudbury and it's smelters). They are just coming back to life now, but are still pretty clear. We tried fishing on George Lake, but only caught a couple of large-mouth bass (out-of-season unfortunately). They are trying very hard to rehabilitate the lakes - maybe in another 10 years the fishing will be better.

We went on a couple of really nice hikes. Both the Chikanishing Trail and the Granite Ridge Trail are not to be missed. The trails themselves aren't too difficult (if you take your time) and the scenery at the end of these trails is simply breathtaking.

If you do end up going to the park, you must make the trip into the town of Killarney for the fish and chips. At the end of the hwy 637 there is a fish stand with the most incredible pickerel I've tasted. Trust me and make the trip - you won't forget it.

Like I said, I think we will head back to the park in the fall (not this year -maybe next). I hope this review encourages you to as well.

-- Click on the photos for more detail. --
-- Watch this space or my flickr page. I'll be posting more photos soon - I tool a roll and a half with my trusty FM10. Hopefully at least one of them turned out. --

Monday, June 15, 2009

Garden Gnome

Quick photo from the weekend up in Ottawa.

This is Julie and Peter's gnome. Scary little bugger if you ask me.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Kickin' it old school

(Yes I know, the phrase "Kickin' it old school" is now old school itself)

A few weeks ago I purchased a second hand light meter off kijiji.ca. I'm hoping to improve my portrait photography skills and a light meter will surely help with that. Now I need to spend some time learning exactly how to use it :)

The light meter came with an Nikon FM10 film camera (plus three lenses and a flash*). The FM10 is an entry level film camera. It is almost entirely manual and mechanical; everything is manual except for a rudimentary internal light meter. It doesn't even need batteries if you want to fore go the light meter.

We had an old roll of FujiFilm 400 in our fridge. I don't know where it came from - I think Tara brought it into the marriage (7 years old!). I popped it into the camera and brought it to work for a few days, just for kicks and to get used to using the camera.

The FM10 has a completely different feel compared to my D70s. It's smaller and lighter (550g vs. 800g). It's metal instead of plastic. The shutter is mechanical as is the film winding mechanism - there is a distinct vibration when you wind the film and distinct sound when the shutter is released.

Additionally it comes with a knowledge that each frame has a cost associated with it. With digitial, you shoot and shoot and sort out when you get home. With film, you need to think about what you are shooting becuase you only have 24 or 36 exposure before you need to pay someone to develop your film. I knew that it would cause me to slow down, but I didn't realise how much it would. It spent three or four days got get through 24 exposures (contrast that with blowing through 100 shots when I go to the barn on my D70s).

After I got the camea, I picked up three of rolls of film**. I finished one off today and now need to get it developed and scanned. I'm pretty excited to see what I photos I took.

Below are three best frames from the 7 year old film. Thanks to George for scanning them for me. Not to bad for 7 year old film, eh?

For my photo friends --
*The three lenses are:
MF Nikkor 50mm f/1.8
MF Nikkor 35-70mm f/3.5-5.6
MF Tamron 70-200mm f/4-5.6
The flash is a Vivitar 2800

** Two rolls Kodak Portra 160VC and one roll of Ilford FP4+ 125. I just finished the FP4+ today (and now need to find a place in Kitchener Waterloo that will develop and scan E-6 black and white film without costing me an arm and a leg - let me know if you know of such a place).

Friday, May 29, 2009

Splish Splash

While waiting for my lovely wife to come home for dinner, I set up the following photos. My go-to lighting blog, strobist.com, has a fun post about creating water droplet photos. Head on over if you want to learn about how to do this. If you have a SLR, a flash and a small amount of time (< 60 minutes), you too can take photos like these.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Flower photos

While I'm putting the finishing touches on the remainder of my photos from my trip out west, I've put a few flower photos on my flickr site.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Sixty and counting

I was in southern Manitoba this past weekend helping my grandparents celebrate their 60th wedding anniversary. That's right, the big 6-0.

We had a party for Grandma and Grandpa. All of their surviving brothers and sisters showed up, along with some of their kids (my dad's cousins) and some of their kids (my second cousins?). All told, there were about 60 people there; most of them beyond the age of 65. And let me tell you - it was one loud party! There was more laughing and carrying on than I expected from a bunch of old people elders. Some people get grumpy and crotchety in their old age -- not my family!

My grandparents are doing well. They are still living in the the same house that I always remember them in growing up. Sure they are slowing down and have the aches and pains that show up when you are over 80. They don't move as fast as the used to and they don't always remember things as clearly but that's all expected. My grandpa is still pretty active in the gardens and in the workshop. A short while ago he built a grandfather clock - that's not something a lot of people can do when they are his age.

I'm sure things weren't always roses and butterflies for my grandparents. My dad talks of his childhood as a childhood without much money or conveniences. Grandpa built houses for a living- not an easy job. But the marriage survived. They survived six children and nine grandchildren. They survived their kids leaving their community. They survived floods and droughts and Manitoba mosquitoes. They still laugh together, cry together and love together.

When something like 50% of all marriages these days end in divorce, it's a blessing to have a legacy of love, friendship and commitment in the family. I pray and hope I have their genes.