Monday, January 31, 2011

Sunday, January 30, 2011

$2 sunset

Yep, that's what it cost me to go out late this afternoon and get a parking spot so I could shoot a sunset. You see, you can't park anywhere for free at Fort Myers Beach, and since it's a 30 minute drive from where we live, walking wasn't very practical either. Not that I minded, really, because if there was no fee I'm sure I wouldn't have got close to the place. So I plunked a bunch of quarters into the machine and got on the beach as the display began. And you know the thing with sunsets - they just keep on getting better as time goes on. I had to keep an eye on the time though because the machine only let me pay for an hour - and we found out a few weeks ago that there's not even a 5 minute grace period before they slap you with a $40 ticket (with a $15 discount if you pay it quick).

As time was expiring, per my watch, I hustled back down the beach, casting furtive glances behind me at the darkening sky. Although I did succumb twice and stop to make just a couple more photos, I didn't want to tempt fate. My timing was good  - no ticket, and several Sundays' worth of sunset shots.

Oh, and this isn't a contest between 2 photos - I just wanted to show what a difference 20 minutes makes (look at the fishing lines in the first photo though).

(both photos made with a 70-200mm lens at f14 - 1/200 sec and f13 - 1/125 sec and ISO200)

click on photos to enlarge

For more Sunset Sunday shots, have a look at Scott's blog.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Looking on the bright side

There's a bit of good-natured banter between our kids (in Canada) and ourselves when the subject of weather comes up. They tell us about the latest storm and how much snow they got and how cold it is. We try not to dwell on the warmth and sunshine down here, and while they ask about it, I don't think they always want to know. Yes, they may have to shovel snow, but on the other hand they don't have to pull weeds, like the one I found today, out of the flower beds. From my point of view that's a fair trade.

(60mm  f4.5  1/320 sec  ISO200)

Friday, January 28, 2011

Incongruous ?

I've been preoccupied lately with putting together a photo book of our Rhodes vacation, or actually 2, since I couldn't get my selection of photos to fit into 1 (I have something like 2,200 to whittle down from). So from time to time when I haven't been able to get out with my camera, I've been posting a shot from that collection. As I was reviewing some today, I came across this one. I can usually recall exactly where I was when I made a particular photo - on this occasion my wife had ducked into a shop, and as I was looking around I spotted something bright down an alleyway.

Over 6,000 people live in medieval old town Rhodes. It may be a huge tourist draw (and a fascinating place I would unreservedly recommend to visit), but life also goes on.

(10-22mm  f11  1/500 sec  ISO200)

Thursday, January 27, 2011

One man band

I believe I saw one of the most co-ordinated, even if not superstar-level musically talented, performers today busking for a pretty decent crowd near the beach. I mean, this guy could play the guitar, several cymbals, a couple of drums, and a few other instruments while singing, and keep everything in good rhythm. And when he wasn't singing, he could also play the kazoo. Didn't look like there was an ounce of extra weight on him either, what with all the hopping around he had to do to produce sound from his collection of instruments.

(10-22mm  f5.6  1/1600 sec  ISO200)

click on photo to enlarge
(70-200mm  f7.1  1/640 sec  ISO200)

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Come sail away

Ok, hands up all of you who've dreamt about leaving the 9-5 routine, life in the suburbs, the daily commute, the rat race ... behind. C'mon, sure you have - probably the last time you were in a warm place in the winter time staring at yachts in a marina ! Sell the house, sell the car, keep the kids and dog and just sail away.

Well, turn the volume up, click here, and pick your boat out on the photo below.

Happy sailing !

(10-22mm  f7.1  1/2 sec  ISO200)

click on photo to enlarge

Just foolin' around

We've had intermittent internet issues (practising my alliteration) over the past 24 hours and I wasn't sure if I'd get access tonight since it had been dead since before 3:30 pm. Thunderstorms set in early in the evening, and got a little intense around 8:00 pm. That's when we had one extremely bright flash of lightning followed immediately by a tremendous crash of thunder. The lights went off for 2 seconds and it was eerie to be in pitch darkness after such an intense flash of light. Everything came back on, and lo and behold, I had internet access ! It was as though God had pushed the reset button !

I got the camera out and started doing a little experimenting, something I hadn't done indoors in a while. And it's not even Phriday yet.

(60mm  f6.3  5 sec  ISO200)

Monday, January 24, 2011

Cordaline in bloom

The subtropics are playing havoc with my sense of timing in the plant world. Back home (Canada) I know that absolutely nothing flowers outdoors in the winter time. Flowering time is confined to spring, summer, and fall. Plants have to race against the calendar to grow, flower, get pollinated, and produce seed. But down here I have no idea what to expect. Hibiscus seem to bloom whenever they feel like it, and I've already shown you all the little 'weed' flowers in the lawn. We bought a couple of jasmine plants before Christmas and one of them bloomed just after we returned. Our neighbours have all sorts of flowering plants, but there are lots of other plants that aren't flowering. yet.

I noticed that some of the cordaline plants out front had 'flowers' in them. Now I must confess that I had to go look that name up again from last June when I had posted a photo of its foliage (thanks to Katherine who came up with the name then). It's much more famous for its bright pink/red leaves than its 'blooms'. I'll keep an eye on other plants growing around here and reset my (very limited) knowledge base.

(60mm  f4.5  1/8 sec  ISO100)

Sunday, January 23, 2011


I went out for a little while early this evening to a favourite spot. One of the reasons it's a favourite is that it seems to offer almost limitless photo opportunities. If someone has been there a few times and looks with non-discerning eyes, they might remark that they've seen it all before. Ah, but they would miss so much. Sometimes I need to stand back there too and look around with fresh eyes - then I need to get into the right frame of mind. And once I do that, it's like a brand new place.

Another reason it's a favourite place is because no one there hassles you about having a dog with you. In fact, there are doggie clean-up bag dispensers there ! So Sasha, of course, keeps me company and doles out great advice - mostly silence interspersed with the occasional howl. Here are a couple of shots I made - the second for Sunset Sunday.

(70-200mm  f11  1/6 sec  ISO200)

(18-55mm  f9.0  1/5 sec  ISO200)

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Rhodes revisited

It was a (for s/w Florida) cold and blustery day today. I checked the weather late this evening and there is an official 'wind chill warning' for overnight ! I think the warning is meant more for farmers so they can take precautions for their crops. However, it felt like perfect hockey weather (minus the snow) so we took in an ECHL game tonight - the locals lost. You might be surprised that there is enough hockey talent in Florida to have a team in this league, but I found out that 60-70% of the lads hail from Canada.

So when we got home tonight I dug into my archives for another in the Rhodes' series. I shot this one from the balcony of an abandoned monastery after we had toured the church in the background. It was about 32C/86F there at the time !

(10-22mm  f11  1/500 sec  ISO800)

Friday, January 21, 2011

Phun beats Phrustration

Today was one of those days that could be classified as almost-completely-frustrating. You've all experienced that kind of day, dealing with unbendable bureaucracy. I had obviously overestimated the penetration of technology in the banking world. I thought that money moved at the speed of electrons these days, but even after resorting to handwritten notes transmitted via facsimile we discovered that it would still take 3-4 days to move some money to the US. Argggh!

So, since I had no time to get off a shot or two today, I decided to look in my Rhodes archives once again, and have some phun in honour of Phun Phriday. Here's what came out of that.

(10-22mm  f11  1/640 sec  ISO200)

click on photo to enlarge

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Castle with a view

It's been about 5 months now since we were in Rhodes, and on occasion I like to view the photos I made there - it brings me right back to the experience. When I was doing the 365 project last year I limited my daily posting to (usually) only 1 shot. But now, when I haven't been able to get the camera out on a particular day, I may get a photo from the archives and use it here.

This one was taken near the edge of a 236m/780' sheer cliff on the hill where the Monolithos Castle was built back in 1480 by the Knights of St. John. This stronghold was never conquered. Some restoration work has begun on the castle but a lot of it still remains as the ravages of time have taken its toll. As you can see, the coastline on the west side of the island of Rhodes is quite rugged and there are few beaches and few resorts near here (our kind of place). And if you really squint, you might make out the coastline of Turkey in the distance.

(10-22mm  f11  1/1000 sec  ISO800)

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

It was a warm and windy night ...

... when I made this photo just a few weeks ago on our last trip here. There's something magical about seeing trees swaying in the breeze especially when they're palm trees and the breeze is warm. Having lived through many cold winters 'up north' I appreciate the warm weather here in southwest Florida. I can't honestly say I miss the cold and ice and slush, but I do enjoy how a fresh snowfall is like hitting the refresh button on the landscape. I'm glad we were back for a few weeks to experience it. If only winter could be 3-4 weeks long I think a lot more people would enjoy it. But then there wouldn't be a need for snowbirds !

(18-55mm  f8.0  8 sec  ISO200)

click on photo to enlarge

Tuesday, January 18, 2011


This year we joined a subspecies known as snowbirds. Just before the onset of winter, this group packs up and heads south to warmer climes, and when spring is in the offing they migrate northwards again. They're somewhat indistinguishable from the native southern species until they open their mouths and are betrayed by their northern 'accent', or by their habit of ending most sentences with "eh". Snowbirds are a subspecies of the species 'Can-eh-juns' - as pronounced by the southern natives - or more properly as Canadians, and hail from Canada - spelled 'C eh N eh D eh'.

A close analogy to snowbirds is the Canada goose - the ones pictured below are obviously not snowbirds.

(70-200mm  f13  1/125 sec  ISO200)

Monday, January 17, 2011

Vicarious living

A long, really long time ago, I worked for the post office, sorting mail. Manually. As in by hand. Before postal codes (that goes to show you how long ago). One of the things I still remember sorting lots of, especially in the cold, dull winter months, were the gorgeous postcards of Florida's beautiful beaches and spectacular sunsets. They were sent by the fortunate to the less fortunate, some no doubt with a motive to elicit envy.

Well, with no motive other than to share what I think is a lovely scene, I'm posting this shot taken on one of our trips here last year. Relax and soothe yourself with strains of 'Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds', adapted -

"picture yourself on a beach near the water,
 with waves at your feet, and colourful skies;
 somebody calls you, you answer quite slowly,
 it's really quite tough, to open your eyes ..."

(18-55mm  f8.0  1/1600 sec  ISO200)

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Sans artificial light

I may have mentioned a little while ago that I got a (paid) photography assignment via the business where my son works designing custom kitchens and bathrooms. They needed to update their portfolio for use in sales and marketing and wanted someone to shoot some of the work they had done over the past few years. I was a little leery about taking this on since I have zero/zilch lighting equipment and it's close to impossible to get exposures correct indoors with bright outside light streaming in through the windows, without lighting up the interior. To make a long story short I did more research into HDR (High Dynamic Range) software - around the same time Scott and Karen were experimenting with HDR - and trialed a product called Photomatix, which allows you to blend multiple exposures into an HDR image.

Now, after about a week of using it to blend the many interior exposures I made doing the assignments, I'm far from an expert. There are a lot of options to experiment with and I have a lot more to learn. I have been able to produce images though where the interior is exposed properly and you can also see a properly exposed view out of the window.

But - all of this preamble was just to say that while I was out at the harbour this evening looking to shoot a sunset, it dawned on me (no pun intended) that I should try shooting multiple exposures and blend them with Photomatix.

Here's the result.

(shot with a 18-55mm lens at f8.0, ISO200 and shutter speeds ranging from 10 to 30 sec)

Oh, and I didn't forget about Sunset Sunday either. If you click on the shot you'll notice snow in the foreground - no, not in Florida - I shot this the week before we came down here.

(70-200mm  f32  30 sec  ISO200)

Saturday, January 15, 2011


A funny thing happened on the way to the waterfront late this afternoon, where I had hoped to go make some sunset photos. A few clouds had moved in a little earlier and I thought they were taking up their positions to create a beautiful sunset. Then, as though a giant hand was put up in the east, the clouds started to pile up above us and it became obvious that there would be no visible sunset. So I didn't go to the waterfront after all and I captured this view of the sky from our backyard. (I brought out the blue somewhat to accentuate the clouds). I'll see how things shape up tomorrow.

(10-22mm  f8.0  1/125 sec  ISO200)

Friday, January 14, 2011

Joining in the phun

If you've been here before you might have seen me mention Scott's phun phriday theme. Well, I don't get to participate too often, mainly because I forget too often. But I remembered today and decided I'd join in. Even though I did go out and shoot a few photos on our walk this evening, I  played around a little with a shot I'd made just before the end of last year - actually I played around with a bunch of them, just phor phun - and chose this one. Hope you had phun with photography today too.

(60mm  f4.5  1/40 sec  ISO200)

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Imminent extinction

Our lawn is a good news/bad news story - the good news is that it's relatively green; the bad news is that most of the green is due to weeds - more specifically, an abundance of dollarweed. While I was pulling weeds out of the lawn a couple of days ago I grabbed my macro lens and captured some of the tiny but exquisite blooms I discovered. After filling 2 recycling buckets full of weeds from only a part of the backyard, however, and feeling the pangs of advancing age in my back from a few hours of bending over, I decided this was a job best left to the pros.

So today a truck arrived with a tank full of what I hope the weeds will come to regard as a witch's brew. While I won't mourn the demise of the dollarweed, I've discovered a few specimens of the 'nicer' weeds (see below and here) doing nicely, tucked away in a flower bed (I did some checking but couldn't find a name for this one; anyone ?).

(60mm  f5.6  1/50 sec  ISO200)

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Weather vagaries ...

... or, whatever happened to weather you can count on ?

Let me begin by saying that this is not a rant. I am merely making an observation.

We're in the process of acclimatizing ourselves. We came through what we hoped was winter's last blast (for us) a couple of days ago, and were treated yesterday to some of the best of what the south has to offer, weather-wise, that is - sunshine and 24C/75F. Today is a different story - a blustery wind and 16C/62F and tonight promises to drop down to 3C/38F. Now, for people trudging through another blizzard in the northeast or living through truly frigid winter temperatures this might seem downright balmy. But I think our perception is very much related to our expectations.

So, before I feel even a tinge of disappointment, I just have to be reminded of what we left behind (see below). The forecast calls for improvement here in a couple of days. I hope that wherever you're huddled - assuming it isn't in some balmy spot - you will get a reprieve too.

(10-22mm  f10  1/320 sec  ISO200)

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Another world

We had planned an orderly return to Florida - it was anything but ... We had booked a hotel room for Monday night, having planned to leave early Monday morning, and then finish the remainder of the trip on Tuesday. However, when I did a final check on en route weather conditions Sunday afternoon , I found that a major winter storm was expected for Monday. We decided to try to outrun the storm.

The car was hastily packed with items my wife had already set aside. A last check was made, Sasha eagerly jumped in the car, and we were on our way by 5:00 pm. The journey proceeded uneventfully and by 05:00 the next morning we thought our quick departure was paying dividends. Not so. At the same time, we both thought we saw some snowflakes and mentioned it to each other. Couldn't be, we thought - we were in North Carolina where snow is supposed to be rare ! Sure enough, the few flakes quickly changed to a full-blown blizzard !

In no time the roadway was covered, and before long we came across cars that had slid into the median or ditches along the interstate. Lane markings were covered and we judged where we were based on hearing the rumble strips along the shoulders. Fortunately there was little traffic at that time. We searched radio stations for weather updates, and these indicated that later in the day worse was expected further along our route, in South Carolina and Georgia. We decided not to stay in SC as planned but to head further south.

We 'plowed' ahead through the snow, which eventually became freezing rain, and finally rain - which turned the fallen snow into a thick, steering wheel-grabbing slush. After 5 or so hours of this winter driving, the roads were finally clear of snow, slush and ice, and we proceeded in the rain. I needed a few 1/2 hour catnaps along the way to prevent open-eye hallucinations. After awaking from my last catnap in Jacksonville, FL, I felt like Rip van Winkle emerging from a long long sleep - the weather was quite warm (21C/70F) and the sun was shining. The ice that had accumulated on the car was long gone as was all the salt which had been washed off by the rain. And, after 27 hours on the road, we made it !

Today I spent some time pulling weeds out of the lawn and did my best to prevent getting a sunburn ! Here's an example of some I pulled. Oh, I checked it out - it's known as Emilia fosbergii, or Red Florida Tassel Flower.

(60mm  f5.6  1/60 sec  ISO200)

(60mm  f11  1/80 sec  ISO200)

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Party Time !

Wow - has it already been a year ? The days may seem to go slowly but the years go fast ! It seemed only just a short while ago that Graydon made his entrance into the world, and there we were today celebrating his first birthday (well, a day early but let's not quibble). There's definitely more time to watch a grandchild grow up than your own child, since you're not involved in the daily routines.

It's incredible to see how much a child learns in the first year - moving from a helpless baby to a child on the road to independence. And today was the day to celebrate the first milestone on that journey - with a party, balloons, and ... birthday cake !

(50mm  f2.0  1/60 sec  ISO200)

Friday, January 7, 2011

A sight-seeing day

Our (w)interlude back home would not have seemed complete had we not experienced a bit of weather typical for this time of year - snow, driven by a 40km/25mi wind. I had another couple of photo shoots this morning, one of which took me about 40 miles downriver - by car. Once that was finished, I managed a leisurely jaunt back home, taking the old 2-lane highway along the St. Lawrence River. Due to the slick roads and time of day, I encountered almost no traffic - rubber-necking opportunity at its best ! I was able to pull over occasionally, brave the elements, and make a few shots.

I think this one will give you an idea of what the sight-seeing was like.

(70-200mm  f11  1/200 sec  ISO200)

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Standing out from the crowd

I don't know what you call these plants growing in your neck of the marsh (they don't grow in the woods), but we usually refer to them as bullrushes and occasionally as cattails. My assignments this week took me through some scenic areas near the St. Lawrence River, where of course you'd expect to find beautiful waterfront homes. Fortunately the timing allowed me to take a few minutes here and there to make a few photos. I'll share some more over the next little while, especially on those days where I may not be able to make any photos. And I won't be able to get 'real' winter scenes after this week as we head back to Florida again next week.

(70-200mm  f7.1  1/400 sec  ISO200)

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Caught in the morning sun

"There is no hope for a civilization which starts each day to the sound of an alarm clock." (Author Unknown)

You might have guessed that I'm not a morning person. It's not that I don't like mornings - I do, very much - since I'm still up early most mornings and then go to bed. And this week I've even been getting up early to do some photo shoots. So this morning I found myself driving through the countryside looking sideways more than straight ahead. And since I had my camera with me anyway I could just stop in the middle of the road and capture a scene that I wouldn't normally be up to see.

Even though I have some (relatively) early morning work this week, I still subscribe to the wisdom in the quote above - my wife (definitely the early bird) wakes me up !

(10-22mm  f11.0  1/100 sec  ISO200)

click on photo to enlarge

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Project 365 - 'rule' #2 or carpe diem

Our recent 'balmy' weather, which was responsible for the little snow we had to completely disappear, has in turn been replaced by more winter-like weather. Not that I expected it to remain, but it reminded me of this song. Of course, like all of you would, I saw this as an opportunity to capture the beauty of a fresh snowfall.

Now I didn't rush right out, camera in hand and Sasha in tow. I was fortunate to pick up a bit of paid photography work this week - I've been asked by the business where my son designs kitchens to build a photo portfolio of their finished work; I'd shot some of their work on a trial (read 'non-paid') basis and it looks like they've liked it enough to pay me for some more shoots. So - on my way home early this evening from a shoot I spotted a scene, right in town, that I hadn't really noticed before (yep - even after all I learned from doing a 365, I obviously still have to practice closer observation !). At least I put rule #2 into practice.

(18-55mm  f9.0  30 sec  ISO400)

Monday, January 3, 2011

On the way home

Sasha and I went to the vet today - she got the shot, I paid the bill. Sasha doesn't mind if I go on photo shoots, as long as she gets to ride along. I took a different route home which passed through a little-traveled area, where I hadn't been in some time. I decided that I could get a better view by venturing onto the ice - recall that we had 'balmy' temps of 11C/52F here the past couple of days.

Fortunately the area was fairly secluded so there were no passersby to see me gingerly test the ice near the edge of the creek. It seemed safe enough, despite some ominous looking cracks. Screwing up my courage I decided that an even better view might be had by lying down on the ice. I had visions of the ice giving way leaving me to dog paddle back to shore with a ruined camera and a bruised ego. But, I breathed and moved cautiously, and all went well.

Somehow my photo shoots don't produce that glow of accomplishment if I haven't turned it into an adventure of sorts.

(note: all 3 shots made with a 10-22mm lens at f11.0, ISO200 and shutter speeds of 1/125, 1/320, and 1/250 sec)

Sunday, January 2, 2011

The Master at work

The weather was downright balmy (11C/52F) the last 2 days (we had a couple of colder days than that in Florida in December !). And those temperatures were achieved without the benefit of the sun, in fact, the skies have been mostly overcast for the past 2 weeks. That has meant that there have not been (m)any opportunities to capture a sunset.

Many of you are familiar with Scott's Sunset Sundays. I think Scott and Chad have the corner on almost-out-of-this-world sunsets. Since I haven't been able to capture one these past 2 weeks since we returned, I got this one from my Florida archives. I think that the Master paints these all over the world, for our viewing pleasure.

(18-55mm  f16  1/15 sec  ISO200)

click on photo to enlarge

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Post Project 365 - day 1

Calvin:  “You can't just turn on creativity like a faucet. You have to be in the right mood."

Hobbes: "What mood is that?"

Calvin:    "Last-minute panic.”

I came across that quote today whilst surfing some photography sites - pretty much captures the feeling some days while doing a Project 365.

Life felt a bit different today - no glances out the window when I woke up wondering what might become my photographic 'subject' for today (although the thought did cross my mind as I glanced out the window).

I jotted down a few recollections on my experience doing a Project 365. I imagine there are countless similar posts out there already, and I looked at a few before I started, but, as with many things in life you have to participate to really experience it. I'll add more in future posts as I recall them (I have a good memory, but it's short).


1. ABC - Always Bring Camera - a cardinal rule that will avoid regrets, trust me

2. Carpe Diem, or act when the opportunity is there - it likely won't come back

3. develop new eyes for seeing the world; stop just looking at it

4. get to know your camera - get out of Automatic

5. experiment - with light, angles, camera settings, subjects, day, night, weather, etc

6. take 20,000 (at least) photos this year - that's less than 55 per day

7. shoot every day, post every day if possible

8. keep notes of potential opportunities - don't rely on mental notes like I tried

9. learn some rules of composition and try to apply them

10. visit other photographers' and photography sites and learn as much as you can

11. don't get so engrossed with capturing the moment that you forget to enjoy it

12. oh, if applicable, get your 'significant other' onside, preferably before you start

There were days when I had enough different photos to fill a month and other days when I relied on panic (see quote). I stuck to posting photos I'd shot on that day only (with a couple of unavoidable exceptions) - which meant I revisited places to shoot subjects I had captured previously but had not posted.

Sorry for the long(er than usual) post, but I did get some shots yesterday while out for our last walk of the year. These were found hidden in a little area amongst the cedar trees well back of our house.

(18-55mm  f8.0  2 sec  ISO200)

click on photo to enlarge

(10-22mm  f5.6  1 sec  ISO200)

Note: I set the white balance to 'tungsten' to get the blue effect for better contrast for the next shot.

(18-55mm  f8.0  2 sec  ISO200)