Thursday, November 23, 2017

A Throwback

Along path of contemplation I've been on lately, I started wondering about some of my earliest images. I picked out the ones I thought were best at the time, using whatever criteria I was using then.

But I got to wondering, how many had I passed by because they had flaws I couldn't fix at the time, and I could fix now. Or realizing they aren't flaws at all. Merely features. (Maybe only my developer buddies will get this one. You do know what the definition of a feature is, don't you? A bug with seniority.)

Or, I wondered, were any of them better now than I thought they were at the time for whatever reason? I determined to go back to the beginning (2016-06-11) to look through old files in date order and find out how long it would take to find an image worthy of the blog, that is not a bad image with an explanation.

And here we are, a lost star from 2016-06-22. I can't imagine why I didn't do anything with this. In the meantime enjoy this reminder of summer.

I'm going to continue on in my spare time, such as it is, filled with retirement activities, and see what I find.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Calling all iron-critters

Ok, so this post is mostly wanting to know about your Ironman experience, or more specifically, the post-ironman experience. In this post I mean Ironman the race distance, not any dealings with the corporation you may have had. For the non-Iron readers, you're welcome to read along, you might get some insight into obsessed people.

We're talking about a 3.8 K swim in open water, then ride your bicycle 180 K, then run 42.2 K all within 17 hours. I did mine in 2010, in Penticton. You can read about it here if you like. Some of my readers are new and have never heard of such a thing. They are probably backing away slowly, wide-eyed, wondering how they came to be reading the blog of a madman.  Lots of people I've talked to cannot imagine doing such a thing, and that's the first hurdle.

So you've done an Ironman. Any of them. The Challenge races, and the non-Ironman branded ones count. It's the distance, not the brand that counts. When did you do it/them?

I want to know about your life since then. Some people get in the groove and do several, even many of them. Others, like me, it's one and done. You?

Some get through and do a cartwheel at the finish line (she knows who she is), or they do a happy dance of joy (she also knows who she is). Some fall down in a heap like someone cut the strings. Some collect their medal with a big grin, then go eat their face off and put their feet up (me). Some give it everything they have and just make the deadline, others cruise along but are cranky they didn't break into single digit hours.

The full on glow is still there the next bunch of days, but you're getting used to having a life again. Your spouse and kids are getting used to having you around again. The glow happens when you think about it, or you wear some finisher gear. Or maybe it was a brutal experience you'd rather not recall. Or maybe you've done it so often they run together in your mind.

Life goes on. This is what I really want to know. Are you still active? What are you doing? Same three sports at shorter distances? Injured and given up? Burned out and moved on to other sports? If so, what and why? Are you still proud of doing it? Or would you still be married if you hadn't done Ironman (you think)? Did you get a tattoo or not? What is it? Do you still love it, or regret it? If you've sold your gear, was there a pang of regret, or was it good riddance to clutter you no longer needed? You probably made friends during the training, are you still friends or buddies with them now?

Do you ever wear the finisher gear, or did you wear it out and retire it? Do you still have the medal? Is it framed and hung with pride, or clumped in with all the other medals, or stuffed in a drawer somewhere? Did you want to do another one, but life (kids/job/injuries/money) prevented it, and now you're "too old"? Or maybe you've just started training to do another one now that those issues have been addressed. What difference did it make in your life?

There's a joke most Iron-critters have heard. It goes like this. You walk into a room filled with fit looking people. How do you know which have done an Ironman? Answer. You don't have to, they'll tell you. (bada-bump!) Do you find a way to tell people you've done it? Or only if they bring it up?

Really, I'm curious, tell me whatever you'd like about your post ironman life. Feel free to comment below, or add it to the facebook post. Or email me keith at nucleus dot com and tell me if you want your comment private or I can post it in the blog comments.

I'll even go first. IMC 2010, one of the last in Penticton. One and done, though Linda surprised me by saying it was a better experience than she expected, and a do again was a possible thing. I'm still active swim bike run, though this last summer was a bit of a struggle. I haven't done many races, but then I've never really thought of myself as a racer. They aren't that much fun. I am seriously thinking about doing an Oly distance next summer, but getting consistent training in needs to happen first. I'm done with doing races just to finish, I'd like to be finishing mid pack or so for my age group.

I'm so glad I did it! I remember the glow, and still feel the joy of crossing the finish line. You'll note that photo is still at the top of this blog. The most important part is that it got me active, with all the health benefits that go with it.

I've still got finisher gear, and the light jacket is my go-to cool weather jacket. There was a hoodie that was perfect for yoga savasana and cool summer evenings, but another hoodie I've hardly worn. The actual finisher T shirt is nice cotton but a blah beige, I wear it periodically. The bike shirt I've hardly ever worn even though it fits well. There's a velour sweatshirt thing that scratches my neck so I don't wear it much. It collects cat fur like you would not believe. All the active wear is hung up in the basement and I rotate through it. Some of the finisher shirts are beginning to look a little worse for wear because they've been worn a lot. The one I like the most is from one of my first races, the Chinook Half. It's a lovely light white material, with reflective threads in the weave, and fits loosely. Well, it was white, it's sort of going gray in places.

All the medals are hung in a bunch beside the computer, the IMC one at the front where I can see it. I even kept the wrist band.

Some of the habits carried over into the rest of my life, especially the organization and planning that are needed. Thinking through what's going to be needed in what order. Thinking about what could go wrong, what needs to be done to mitigate the risks, or cope with it in the event of. Probably the most important habit was to just do it. Get up and get it done. Don't obsess about the weather, just prepare for what might happen and deal with getting wet. So many workouts started feeling clunky and ended up being good. Get the most important thing of the day done early, then it doesn't matter what happens. So much paid work has happened because I dived in to get it done, then moved to the next thing.

I thought about the tattoo, and doodled what I'd get, but decided not to. A chat while giving blood with a Red Cross nurse about the risks of it made up my mind.

I'm still buddies to one degree or another with some people I got to know during the training. Some I only met virtually through blogging for social media. Others I know in person even though they might live far away, or have moved away. I see my coach, the famous Katie fairly often at the pool and we'll chat if we're water running. Or if my swim is in the groove I'll try to keep up. That doesn't usually last long. We go for coffee every now and then. I Facetime with Susi and do Facebook chats/comments with some other people that don't live nearby. I see a few regulars at the pool enough to say good morning and ask how they're doing. A few people drifted into my triathlon life because of Michelle's training, and those people likely will drift out of it again, but you never know. But most of the people I knew have moved on and are not likely to ever see this blog.

Even though I'm an adult onset runner, I've come to love going for a run. It relaxes me, I think about stuff in my life. Sometimes the blogs write themselves while I'm running, or I'll figure out a piece of the novels I'm working on, or I think of photo projects. I'm a bit more focused on swim technique just now, but there's lots of times when I let my body swim, and my mind would be busy thinking of something else. Yes, I knew exactly how far I'd swum, and how fast to the second, but keeping track of that is easy with my trademarked method.

What brought this up, you ask? My BRBE Michelle just completed her Ironman and had a fabulous day out there. I hope it was everything she dreamed it would be. She might or might not blog about it. I'm curious about where she goes from here, and that's what got me started thinking about where I went, and wondering where all you went after your race.

Please do comment, even if it's just that you never think about it.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Macro Monday 13, industrial

Here is another common object in many homes.

1. 2x mainly so I could get enough of the word in so you could read it.

2. 1x getting a feel for the light on steel.

3. 3x It looks clean to the eye. Really.

4. 3.1 x Love the texture so much I had to shoot it twice.

5. 4x

6. 5x You'd cut yourself very easily on that edge.

7. 5x

And here we are, what it looks like in real life. The LED light is right above it. I shot about half the time with the LED on, which gives a brighter look with some yellow. The other have was just the flash and ambient light, which gives a more metallic look.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Looking at you

Today is a reflective post, and might be long, so you probably want to go get something to drink. It started with my realization that 2017 is my most prolific blog year to date. The previous best was in 2013 when I posted 283 times for no particular reason I can remember. This one is number 285 and I will probably top 300 blog posts for the year. (The peanut gallery and their comments about quality and quantity can stifle themselves.)

When I started photography as a serious hobby about a year and a half ago, I had no idea where it would go. You might remember a goal I set myself to try to post a photo a day from the good camera. It's safe to say I've exceeded that goal by far, and I've learned so much doing it. My readers have said many nice things about my photos and thank you very much. Maybe I've posted too many photos and some of you are bored but are too polite to say so.

I'm getting a bit more reflective about my photos, though. I'm trying to think through what makes a good photo, and being a bit more thoughtful about clicking the button. Sometimes of course, it's a no brainer. I'm not talking about those. I'm talking about more ordinary scenes that need a bit of thinking  to find the angle, to find the light, to find the hook that drags people into the photo. Why lying on my belly instead of standing up? Why this lens or that lens? Why one particular set of exposure settings and not another? Why edit it this particular way and not any of the nearly infinite other ways of doing so?

The way to get better at anything is to practice being better, and not be content with the same old, same old. There are books to read, photos to look at and think about, photographers to talk about the craft with. Then go practice some more. This is the main reason I started doing Image of the Month, to make me look back over the month's work and think about what images are best and why. I suppose if I wanted to get carried away I could do best within categories, such as best landscape, skyline, sunrise or sunset, reflection, action, or macro, just to name some of the things I've photographed. But really, a good photo is good, no matter what category.

Part of all that is thinking about what I want to accomplish. I'm slowly narrowing down to deciding I want to be working with the limitations of the real world and my camera equipment. So for example, the full moon rising over downtown. I've been out for this shot a few times, and have never been entirely satisfied with my results. It being hard is what makes it worthwhile.

I could shoot a full moon against a dark background, blow it up to any desired size, and composite into a shot of downtown. If I did it just right it would look real. Do it sightly differently and while it would look stunning, people would realize it wasn't real. Done slightly badly and it becomes one of many photoshop fails.

Since my photoshop skills are nearly non-existent, I'm not going to do that. If you see a shot of mine with a moon and the downtown skyline, it's going to be what you would have seen standing there, within the limitations of my skills on the camera equipment I'm using that day.

I happen to really enjoy discovering new locations to shoot from, or discovering new things to shoot at locations I know of. Looking at the work of other photographers is great for that. It's always giving me new ideas. If I asked nice, I could probably get my photo buddies to show me their secret sites, but I'd rather discover them for myself. I'd like to think other photographers wonder where some of my shots are done.

There's a fine line here. My buddy Neil Z has produced some stunning work, and no, it's not luck. He researches, he plans, he gets his butt out there in all weather at all times of day to get the shot. Now, some of his shots I know to within a few inches where he was. Any local photographer would know. I could set up there, and take an identically framed shot, but it would look different. The sky and weather would be different, and if they're in the shot the skyline and water would be different. That camera and camera settings are different, and I would edit it differently. Am I a plagiarist? No. The world is there for us artists to interpret. Trying to pass it off as a Neil Z work would be a clumsy forgery.

People will see a particular scene slightly differently, given the exact state of their eyes, any corrective lenses, and how their brain interprets the signals the eyes send. Now we add camera equipment in, and things can get really different. A JPEG from an iPhone might look better than a RAW from my camera, or maybe the iPhone won't get the shot at all. Then we add in software to manipulate the data and who knows where that will end up?

My choices now are to generally try to make the scene look like I remember seeing it. Every now and then I'll push the software a bit to make the scene look like what's in my head. Usually this will mean pushing the colour and brightness a bit, but I try to keep it to what it could look like given specific lighting.

Then there is art, usually an abstract. I haven't worked on any of these for a while, and I'm looking forward to getting back to them. I'll push the software and change colours, sometimes running things through again, and pushing it even more, just to see how it turns out.

It's a different sort of creative process than writing. To write something you have to choose specific words in a specific order for the readers to make sense of it. Writers are making something up out of nothing. Photographers start with the world, and tweak from there. In either medium, if well done there is always something more for the viewer to enjoy.

I got this shot of Curtis while experimenting with the then new tripod and head. I totally love the way the camera can click in and click out of the head. Of course, any shot with Curtis in it is likely to be good because he's the most photogenic mammal in the house.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

The downtown wetlands walk

Earlier this week you know I went on a frosty wetlands photo ramble. Some of you have probably figured out it was Prince's Island, at the very east end. From the photos alone, you'd never know it was in the heart of Calgary. Well, there are a couple shots with some clues if you look really carefully. I took these photos the same day, but they would have given away the location.

It's a beautiful walk, and I'm going to have to go back there to work on reflection shots. Last time I was on the island for that, the wetlands were fenced off. I think at the right time of the year it would be good for sun or moonrise shots along the river.

Here's more of the geese. They seemed unusually skittish and most flew away as I walked by. Normally geese are obnoxiously belligerent, standing their ground, giving people the stink eye, almost demanding a toll to let you pass.

I like how the tops of the taller buildings disappear into the clouds or vapour from other buildings.

I knew the camera would struggle with this, but I wanted the image to just barely see the lines of the buildings, have the vapour from the top of The Bow be dark and foreboding, with the sun poking through just enough to complicate things.

 The buildings, clouds, streams of vapour all riding on the wave of the building facade amused me a great deal.

A temporary crane in East Village. For all there's a downturn in the economy, there sure are a lot of cranes working. The difference is that only a few of them are on office buildings in downtown proper.

East Village used to be a place nobody wanted to be any longer than necessary to get their fix. I felt sorry for the elderly people living in a couple of the buildings there. Now the place is exploding, with new buildings going up left and right. I was in one of them for a photo shoot, and it was surprisingly big. The ones I'd seen in showroom model for looked cramped and utilitarian, aimed at young adults. The building I was in was for well off adults.

There have been a lot of those sorts of condos going up in Calgary. Yes, there has to be a market for those empty nest boomers to move into smaller and more efficient spaces, but who knew the market was this big? Then again, I wonder how many out of all those new suites are actually sold to people that actually live in them, as opposed to people that bought in the hopes of flipping them. Always a dangerous game in the Calgary market.

I did a U turn to come back and get this shot. The light isn't quite as good as when I first saw it, but I liked how the buildings emerged from the fog and clouds. Oddly enough, the white building on the left was the sharpest clearest part of the image when I first saw it, looking like it was ready to explode into the camera. I'd never seen white on white looking quite like that.

Friday, November 17, 2017

A frosty wetlands walk

There was a grumpy email about process failures. Originally there was going to be a long and detailed rant here, but the email made me feel better enough, and the actual process that the grumpy making process was hindering went well enough that I'm feeling better, so there is no rant here on that topic. Sorry about that, I know you guys like my rants. The whole thing involved my nearly perfect blood and enough said about that.

After that was a short fun walk through a wetlands beautiful with frost. That helped me feel better. Most people would be surprised to learn where this is.

Someone else had the same idea I did.

It being a wetlands, nobody should be surprised there were lots of birds, especially geese and ducks.

Still a surprising amount of colour.

 This wasn't part of the wetlands proper, but I was quite charmed. There didn't seem to be any birds in residence.

I'm not sure what it is, but this scene really struck me. I enjoyed the view a few minutes, then moved around to find the perfect shot. You may have seen it on Instagram

For at least a few of my readers, this and the next photo are a tip for location. I loved how the light broke through the mist and really lighted up that first tree. The wetlands are only a short walk away.

I'd known there was a Canada 150 thingie, but I hadn't seen it. I came across it, and the first thing I thought was that it would be fun to take the photo from behind it, so it would be a mirror image. The only problem is that you'd have to use a really wide lens, or be willing to stand on lagoon ice of unknown thickness. Not me. I got a conventionally boring shot, only 4.5 months late.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Night gritty

Last night I published some of the moody shots from a night shoot over the weekend. These ones are taken along the way, just a little (a lot) more industrial. Still, I suppose they evoke a mood as well, but I didn't want to bore my readers putting them all in one blog.

I think this machine shreds metal; it would be fun to see it in operation.

Some of the shimmer of plastic and rock shows up, but not like I saw it. The plastic looked almost like a layer of water on the rocks. The orange facing on the trailer was glowing.

This was a tough one to get framed. There is a building right behind it, and I didn't want any of it in the frame. It looks like a panorama, but no, I just chopped the top third of the image off. I can't help but think it's going to be a while before someone rents this office, but I wouldn't be surprised if it had nice wood flooring and spacious offices. The brick facing is handsome, and with a nice awning put up on that framework, it might even look pretty classy. In the meantime it just looks sad.

This is the source of the funny smell you sometimes get in that area.

A couple people inside gave me funny looks along the way. I suppose from their perspective, seeing a little car pull up, and a big guy in a big parka with reflective stripes on it get out, might make them a little nervous. Then I zoom off, and they probably wonder what the story is.

Places like this I don't mind going alone because I'm on public streets in well lighted areas. I was thinking about going down to the river to get some reflection shots, then thought about it again, knowing that the homeless like to set up camps to avoid going to the shelters. They might get unhappy were I to disturb them.

Of course, there's always the risks of stumbling around on rocks, at night, when it's below freezing, near a river, when a simple slip and fall could turn out very serious. If I'm going to do night river stuff, I'm going to look for company. Maybe I'll call you. Or you could call me and set up a date.

Next up will be some from a photo ramble in an unexpected location. Unless something else comes along and I change my mind.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Night moody

Night shooting is fun. We can play all sorts of games with the camera settings to make the scene look like daylight, or so the viewer can barely make anything out. I like to edit the shots to be dark like my eyes saw it, but bring up the colour a bit, and sometimes show effects our eyes don't see.

I've always wanted some shots of the cone of light from beneath the streetlights, stretching off into the distance. Preferably with a curve in the road, but when I saw this I didn't complain.

Yes, a house in an industrial area. I suspect it's an office, or a storage area, but at one time I'm pretty sure that people lived there. Zoning might have been different back then.

This was shot at the same place I got the nice panorama yesterday. If you missed it, go back for a look, you won't regret it. Third one down. A few nights ago I was trying to get a long streak across the sky, but had an equipment adventure. This night was better, but still not quite what I have in mind.  I'll keep working on it.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Night and contest results

I was out for two nights in a row in one of the older industrial areas that isn't far from one of the places I used to work. I drove past it and marvelled at the changes. I'd love to get in there with my camera, but suspect all the people I ever worked with are long gone. It's been 27 years since I left there, after all, so I don't think there's much chance of an informal tour. Still, maybe I'll drop in one day and ask nice.

Along the way I relearned a photography lesson. Take your time, explore the shot. This one, for example was taken the second night, just before packing it in.

Yes, yes, you say, a nice shot of the skyline. Ho hum.

Compared to this one, taken the first night.

The same shot, you say, what's your point?

They're not the same shot. The top one was taken a little bit further to the left, maybe 50 feet, so the foreground changes from that nice railway line to seeing more of the highway. Pity, I liked the railway. Pity I blew the shot because I rushed. On the plus side, I get rid of the distracting bright area in the lower right. You might not be able to tell from the web version, but the camera was moving ever so slightly. I suspect the tripod wasn't completely anchored, and was still settling as I took the shot.

It looked in focus on the back of the camera, but I didn't look that carefully, and I didn't take another shot. At least this time I could get back, and capture the Tower lined up with the new Brookfield Place building. Sometimes you can't go back and have another go at the shot.

The real winner in the skyline shot sweepstakes is this panorama taken the second night. It would print out 42" x 12" at 300 dpi or 5' x 1.5' at 200 dpi, which is still going to come out very nice.

 There I was, wandering around a deserted industrial area, looking for photo possibilities. No cars, no people. I'm all set up on a railway track and as soon as I press the button, I get this.

Here's the other railway shot I like from the night. Some of you may have seen it on Facebook or Instagram.

Plus an industrial selfie, just because.

And the contest results you're all waiting for! Not many entries, and thank you to those that played along, or commented. Here's a bigger view of the whole thing.

Two people said 'cat brush'. The judges have conferred, and decided that is a winner! Sophia and Michelle can contact me and arrange a time to decide which photo they want. Coffee, tea, or wine will be supplied as desired.

More night photos coming.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Macro Monday 12, contest, diamonds

I was thinking Sunday midnight for the entries to close on the contest, but the actual text says Monday at midnight. Oops. That's today for those that have are reading this now. Which could lead me down the rabbit hole of discussing what 'now' means in an asynchronous world, but we won't go there. Today. Maybe a different now. For all I know 'now' I'll come back in the future and put a link there.

So, one more last clue, a somewhat less zoomed in version of the object. Scroll down.

Wine diamonds are rarely found in commercial wine. They are made up from Tartaric acid binding with potassium, and are generally held to be an indicator the grapes were on the vine longer, and the wine fermented longer. The red ones have just been stained by the sediment.

What puzzles me is why the red ones are curved and ridged, but the white ones are more crystalline. In any case, they're tiny. These were not attached to the cork, so I had to figure out how to get them positioned and stable so I could capture the images. These are all at between 4 and 5x mag.

I managed to get them set up so that some of the crystals were in the morning sun, plus an LED light, plus the macro flash of course. The combination sometimes produced a lovely glow that doesn't really come across well in the photos. By the time I got to some of the other crystals the sun had moved.

And your last, really, no fooling, not kidding around this time, clue. Remember, several other recent blog posts have clues, most particularly, this one. Remember, the prize is to choose one of my 35K plus images and get a file suitable for a desktop screen or printing out fairly big, though the printing is on your dime, but printing is cheap. Many of mine will look lovely on canvas and then you don't need to frame, though putting canvas in a float frame looks stunningly good.

It just occurred to me that my out of town readers will not get quite as wide a selection, unless they want to come here. In that case I'll roll out the red carpet. But they can choose between any of mine that have appeared in this blog over the last year and a half or so, or more recently on my photoblog. Most of the images on Facebook or Instagram came through my good camera, but not all. We'll work something out.


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