Thursday, May 18, 2017

On the Road Again

Sometimes size does matter. Without a specialty lens, my moose would have been a small speck in the landscape, instead of an up close and personal image.
I know some people who have had a really tough time adjusting to retirement. They find their days long, and miss the structure of their old work life. My husband was worried that I would miss my business after it sold, but no. Not me. When I retired, I never looked back.

There are so many things to do and never enough time to do them. Whether you volunteer, follow the political scene, or enjoy one or more hobbies, opportunities are limitless. One of our joys is to be able to jump in the car whenever we want, and take day trips. A couple of weeks ago, my husband turned to me and asked if I'd like to take a longer drive and follow the St. John River in New Brunswick. I had been wanting to take that drive for years, so of course I said yes.

I love that drive winding along the river, and enjoyed it every time we visited between our families in Ontario and Nova Scotia. But they improved the highway, and for many years we have been bypassing that stretch, opting to take the fast route instead. So, just a week or so after our return from our Ontario visit, we found ourselves backtracking to New Brunswick. We took the Trans Canada highway until we reached Jemseg, and then slowed down and enjoyed the sights.

The river was flooded, but not yet endangering anyone. I took countless photos of trees submerged in the flooded banks, their reflections making abstract patterns in the water. It was rainy and foggy, but just enough to make a photographer happy.

This trip was a milestone in our lives. I had to break down and tell my husband he was "right". He is always encouraging me to invest in good quality equipment, something that requires careful thought and a hit to the pocketbook. We usually spend a lot of time with him trying to convince me its worth it, before I break down and agree. He would be an interesting person to have on a split jury, because he would wear even the most determined person down and sway them to his way of thinking.

One of those purchases was a powerful zoom lens that is perfect for nature shots. I used it quite a bit earlier this year when we took many trips down to Baccaro in search of snowy owls. This trip it came in handy to photograph moose along the St. John River, my first moose images. I was over the moon, excited and happy when we saw a pair of moose on a small island a short distance from the road.

Ive written many articles explaining my belief that equipment doesnt matter, you can take good photographs with any camera, your phone or a point and shoot. But sometimes size does matter, and my nature photos this year wouldnt have happened without our investment in the proper lens. My moose would have been a small speck in the landscape, instead of an up close and personal image. I looked him right in the eye without endangering myself, or bothering the moose. And it was an awesome experience.
A new interest was discovered on the impromptu road trip, and I became intrigued by the bridges in the fog, framed by the flooded trees.

Moving slowly down the river, we stopped many times so I could jump out and take photographs of more flooded trees. I found a new interest along the way and was intrigued by the bridges in the fog. I experimented with trying to capture different angles and create compelling images.

Different things interest different people, and my husband couldnt understand why I wasnt taking photos of the homes being encroached by water. It wasn't a lack of interest, my heart went out to all the people who must have been filled with fear every time they looked out the window, wondering whether the water would reach their residence. But somehow it seemed an invasion of privacy for me to photograph their homes in danger, I felt I would be taking advantage of their difficulties. I did take photos of several barns, and was intrigued with a group of horses who were cut off from their field.

Driving down the road, with water up to the shoulders on both sides, made a more somber ride than the previous joy of seeing the moose. We meandered from Jemseg to Fredericton, and somehow the whole afternoon disappeared. It seemed we would have to revise our plans of driving all the way up to Perth-Andover. We found a room for the night and planned to go over some of the same territory again the next day, followed by a drive along the river down towards Saint John.

What would a trip be without having to turn around at least once? By looking at the map, it seemed like a simple plan to cover the same ground on the opposite side of the river, but using a photographer for a navigator can be a mistake and we did have to backtrack once, or twice, or maybe a few times. The weather had cleared up, along with my need to photograph trees in water, so as we headed to Saint John I focused on old farm houses and churches. Then a turn in the road brought us to a river, with a flock of double crested cormorants perched in and around some flooded trees and I was in photographic heaven again.

After a night in Saint John, we had adventures in Cape Enrage and at the Hopewell Rocks. Neither location was officially open yet, but we did receive a private tour of the sights at Cape Enrage, an unplanned stop for us. Hopewell Rocks had me climbing over a barricade to make it down to the beach at low tide, something I dont think Ill attempt again. But those adventures are a focus for another day.

Published in the South Shore Breaker, Dartmouth Tribune, Bedford-Sackville Observer - May 17, 2017

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Bird-Brained

An early morning photo shoot of local osprey was ruined by forgetting to reset my camera settings. The images were all three photo compilations due to my camera being set to take multiple exposures.
I had an interesting morning recently, in which I discovered that bird-brained can have two quite different meanings. In my meandering way, I will tell you a bit about both my experiences.

Every morning, without fail, I am awakened by two impatient dogs who want to get started with their day. I cant be irritated with them, even if they decide its time to get going while I am still in a sound slumber, because they are just so deliriously happy that it tends to rub off on me. Okay, its time to get up and start the day. This involves letting them out, letting them in, feeding them, getting the coffee ready, feeding the cat and cleaning her box, getting the paper, and on it goes. When I finally get to relax with my coffee, I usually take a look at our backyard birds.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

When there's no turning back

A postcard from Lake Ainslie sent back to Ontario by my mother in 1967, during my first trip to Nova Scotia.
Do you ever wonder what could have been? If you had made a different choice, or followed a different path? If you stayed put instead of moving on? Or if you said yes instead of no to a new life challenge?

 

We are all making choices constantly in our lives. Small choices, like what to have for breakfast. Or big life choices, such as changing jobs or changing life styles. It's all the constant decisions that we face that can sometimes become overwhelming.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Stretching our abilities

"Eye of the Beholder" - my image for the South Shore Stories exhibit at the Margaret Hennigar Library, Bridgewater during the month of May
Learning any type of craft is good for the mind, and can be a lifelong learning journey. For me, a love of photography started early. I'm not sure whether I loved it more for the documentation process or to help cover up my shyness. For years, the only photos I took were what I would call documentary, chronicling life with my family and friends. Looking back, I think one reason I did this was to help with my memory, which has always been bad. 

When I was in my late teens, I was talking with my friends and reminiscing about early high school. They were laughing about something that happened and I didn't remember even being there. No, there were no drugs or alcohol involved. Forty years later,

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Reality versus illusion

If you are of a certain age, you may remember the advertisements with the tag line "does she, or doesnt she?", referring to hair colour. For the record, I dont, and am naturally "silver". It amazes me that young women purposely dye their hair grey. Does that mean I am fashionable? I doubt it.
 
These days, sometimes its difficult to tell if something is real or manufactured.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Repetition Doesn't Mean Boring

Going back to the same location time and time again can lead to a series of interesting images with quite different results. Timing is everything – a few hours after this photo was taken, the hay rows were gone.
Have you ever found yourself doing the same thing over and over again, expecting the result to change? Of course, doing the same thing countless times without variation leads to the same conclusion, even if we continue to hope for something different.

As so often happens to me these days, my mind goes back into the past and remembers long forgotten details. Many years ago, when we purchased our first computer we had one of those frustrating experiences that new technology often brings. Back then, setting up a new computer was a lot more complicated than it is now. We painstakingly followed the instructions and had no success. Over and over, line by line,

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

The Dichotomy of Life


cover photo from the portfolio I created for my application to NSCAD University
I am thrilled. I am scared. I am ready.

Recently, I had to write a one page essay and those were the words I ended with. Those words could be applied to any kind of new challenge in our lives, don't you think?  No matter what new activity or project or life experience, I believe that a lot of people would agree to having mixed feelings. 

Excitement about the opportunity. Wow, I can't believe this is happening to me! 

Fear about the unknown. I don't know all the answers or if I can do this!

Ready to try. I might be ready to dive in, or sometimes drag my feet, but I'm willing to give it a go.

Not many things are all good, or all bad. Usually joy and frustration go together

Monday, March 13, 2017

Hummer of a painting

In this internet age, people are introduced into our lives in unexpected ways. I "met" Helen a few months ago when she stumbled across my blog while researching the high tides in Nova Scotia. We corresponded many times and she seems like a kindred spirit.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

How does your garden grow?


On a cold winter day, fun can be had by photographing flowers taken from a bouquet of roses. Well, it was actually a bouquet of carnations but my husband thought he bought me roses.
One day in January, my husband arrived home with a bouquet of flowers in his hand. Once I picked myself up from the floor, I asked what the occasion was. He knows I like flowers, he said, so he bought me some. Twenty five years together, and I dont need all the fingers on one hand to count the number of times I received a bouquet of flowers from him. Not on our anniversary. Not on Valentines Day. Never. So, miracles do happen.

Friday, February 17, 2017

obsessions

We all have our little obsessions. My current obsession with photography is playing with photos and combinations, namely feathers and birds. I don't think I have it quite right yet, but the root of my idea is to create images that use feathers to represent trees. Here's what I have so far (keep in mind that I am just learning how to combine multiple photos into one image). 

Same feather and bird images as above, but with an photo of ice used as the background
 


I'm trying to create a feeling of release and/or freedom. Any thoughts?

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Anticipation - It's Worth The Wait (snowy owls)


Female Snowy Owl visits the lighthouse
Unlike our local owl populations that are nocturnal, snowy owls hunt during the day and prefer rodents. They prefer open land with tall perches.
If you are a certain age, you may remember the ketchup commercials from the 1970s that play the song "Anticipation" in the background. An announcer ends the commercials with the words "the taste thats worth the wait". 
 
I dont remember what I did last week, but I do remember commercials from forty years ago. I wonder what that says about me?

In any case, its true. Some things are worth the wait.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Use It Or Lose It - photographing eagles

crows and eagles in Sheffield Mills
"Use it or lose it" is a commonly used phrase that Ive heard many times over the years. I never gave much thought to the origins of the meaning, but it gets applied to my life on a frequent basis these days.

For decades the term has been used to describe the best way to deal with the issues that come with aging. If we keep exercising (or maybe for some of us, if we actually start exercising) then we keep in shape. Likewise, if we keep exercising our brain, we continue to think better. 

Monday, January 9, 2017

Go Amuse Yourself

Do kids ever say they are bored these days? I'm not sure. Even young children seem to be online all the time, gaming, texting and whatever else. However, I imagine that most readers of this blog will remember the days when kids would say "I'm bored". And you all know what the answer from our parents was..."go find something to amuse yourself with".

For me, that usually meant reading or drawing. I did have three siblings, but they were much older than me. And I did have school friends, but they lived a fair distance from me and I wasn't able to get out and play with them as often as I would have liked. We lived on a busy street and although we all walked everywhere back then, most parents didn't want their kids walking by themselves to my home on one of the busiest streets in the city. 


The end result of all of this was that I became quite able to amuse myself with hobbies and imagination. I'm not sure whether I started out as an introvert, but I sure ended up that way.

Something interesting that I've noticed is that some of the same challenges apply as we age. We often have to find something to fill our time. I was a little shocked recently when it occurred to me that I have been retired for nine years now. Part of me wonders, where did the years go? And part of me is pleasantly surprised by the fact that I have been quite happily amusing myself for almost a decade.


I wasn't unhappy when I became an empty nester. And I certainly wasn't unhappy to sell my business and retire nine years ago. There are so many things to do! And never enough time to do them.

However, that is not to say that every day is a day of excitement and adventure. 


Some days I have to follow that old advice and find something to amuse myself with. One of the good things about being a photographer is that I have lots and lots of raw material to play with. Even bad photographs can turn into something interesting with a little bit of imagination and a tad of luck.

I am an anomaly in this age of selfie taking, but was tasked to take one for a photography challenge our club was assigned last summer. I had a vision in mind that I wanted to create, and took a trip to my local Frenchy's to find a skirt that would billow in the wind. I couldn't find what I was looking for, and had to settle for something different. Not quite my usual style, it was leopard patterned sheer with a small black slip. It made quite a statement. With my apologies to the original owner, I wasn't about to wear it until the moment I was ready to take the photograph. 


Even though this was a selfie exercise, my husband was willing to tag along so we headed to Hirtle's Beach with the dogs, camera, tripod, and outfit. I picked a spot and pulled my new to me skirt over my jeans and set up my camera on the timer mode. John held the dogs and watched me as I ran back and forth in my leopard skirt and tried to get two scarves to flutter in the wind. A lack of wind, incorrect exposure setting, a photo bombing dog, and the fact that I forgot to take off my Blundstone boots, all contributed to a set of selfie images that weren't quite the artistic vision I had in mind. 
The "before" photo - too dark, photo bombed by Riley, not enough wind, generally a bad photo!


I did manage to capture something similar to what I had in my mind's eye when we had a second excursion to Beach Meadows a few days later. No photo bombing dogs, and a better location suggested by my husband helped me achieve the look I was going for.

Now, what has that all got to do with where we started in this article? Well, on a recent snowy day with no tasks that needed to be done, I was finding something to amuse myself with. I was organizing all my images from last year and came across the photos from my selfie session. Since playing with photographs is a lot more interesting than digitally labeling and filing them, I picked one and started editing. The photo bombing dog got cropped. The clunky boots got cropped. I adjusted the exposure and decided to discard the colour. And then I played with a preset effect on some computer software. Voila, I had an image I was happy with, creating something out of an image I was going to discard.
The same photo with a bit of editing - I was going to discard the original photo, but I love it now!
I know not everyone is a photographer, and not everyone has the same luxury of time. But now and then we all get bored and need to amuse ourselves. And even a boring bit of organizing can turn into something interesting to focus on.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

A Blank Page

Published in The Chronicle Herald - Nova Scotian on January 16, 2017 and the South Shore Breaker on January 11, 2017
Facing a new year is a little like looking at an empty journal. Its exciting because its fresh and new, open to all possibilities and with the potential of greatness.

But it can be a little intimidating too. Some of us put a lot of pressure on ourselves to create something wonderful and memorable. Bigger and better than last year. A new me, a new future, a new start towards surpassing past results.

We want to get in shape, lose weight, have big vacations, accomplish spectacular goals. Anything seems possible at the start of a new year.

But what if we looked at that blank page and decided that we don
t have to fill it with a story that climbs to the top of the New York Times best sellers list? What if we contented ourselves with a quiet read full of every day things and every day life?

In years past, I used to spend part of New Year
s Day writing my goals for the coming year. My husband could never understand this and wondered why I had to write things down, why I couldnt "just be". I'm starting to come around to his way of thinking. Maybe its my advancing years, or maybe its just that twenty five years with this man has got me thinking more like him. (oh, the horror).

Seriously, I
m not sure Ill ever totally stop my list making. Thats just part of who I am. A planner. A dreamer. A believer that sometimes writing things down can be the first step toward dreams coming true. On the other hand, a long list of "to dos" can become an anchor that weighs us down and holds us back from living in the moment. If we take lists too seriously, it can backfire and become de-motivating and disheartening if we dont accomplish our goals. If our lists are too demanding, they can set us up for failure and become a tool for our minds to reinforce a feeling that we just arent good enough.

If we lack self confidence, a long list of difficult goals could lead to more stress and less faith in our abilities. The key for me when making my own list is to keep it real, keep it light and manageable, and keep it personal. And you know what? I did make a list last New Year
s Day, but I have no idea where it went. My almost total lack of memory means that I dont know if I accomplished what I wanted to or not. I guess Ill mark that down as a success. My list obviously didnt give me any self imposed stress!
If you had told me at the beginning of last year that I would write and publish thirty five articles, I would have laughed at the crazy thought.
I do remember one of my goals was to create a photo book of my favourite images to commemorate the end of five years of drug therapy for cancer. Although we did celebrate five years of being considered cancer free, I didnt work on a book. Instead, I went down a totally different road and started writing a weekly column for this paper. If you had told me at the beginning of last year that I would write and publish thirty five articles, I would have laughed at the crazy thought. Its an example for me that no matter how much I plan, being open to what the world throws at me can bring me great satisfaction and personal growth. It can also bring trepidation and fear, but that can be a good thing in small doses. If we accomplish something that scares us a little, it can stretch us and boost our confidence.

Some people like to give themselves an annual challenge, and one of mine was to read 50 books each year. Then I thought that setting a goal to read a specific number of books made it seem too much like a chore to tick off my to do list. I thought maybe it was more important to read at no particular pace and no particular time. Some days I sit and read for hours, and some days I don
t get a chance. Since I am a list maker, I keep track of the books that I have finished and make a note of which authors I enjoyed. And I do try to alternate my need for familiar authors with stretching my mind to new authors and writing styles. The library is truly one of my favourite places.

A lot of photographers join daily challenges, but I have never jumped on that bandwagon. Well, I should be honest and say I did try it briefly in the past, but stopped fairly quickly. I find that having to take specific photographs doesn
t usually work with the way I like to capture images.

As I contemplate 2017, and look at the blank page that is my coming year, I wonder what it will bring. If I was to write a list for myself, what would I like to see happen?

Of course we will continue to day trip around Nova Scotia with our dogs, traveling the coastline and finding new beaches to explore. I hope to finally visit the Kejimkujik Seaside Adjunct this year, and maybe capture an image of some seals. Another item on my photographic wish list is to find a snowy owl. 


At the top of my list will be - "Just Be" - and perhaps that will be the biggest challenge of all.
At the start of a new year, some of us put a lot of pressure on ourselves to make lists and set goals. bigger and better than last year. Perhaps more of us should try to “Just Be”.
Whatever your hopes and dreams are for the coming year, whether you write them down or keep them in your head, I hope this year brings you the things you truly need in life - good friendships, laughter and love. For those are truly good things for us to focus on.