Friday, January 19, 2018

Fiery Sunset

As I was leaving the office to head home after work, I noticed the colorful sunset. I suspected it wouldn't last so I hustled to get to the edge of Innovation Place where I'd get a clearer view. It was already fading, but still very colorful.


The railway bridge is often a good viewpoint so I ran down the hill and up the steps. Unfortunately, by the time I got there it was almost gone.


Wednesday, January 03, 2018

2018 Calendar

I made some calendars for family this year, as I have for the last few years. The hard part is choosing the photos. I try to take the audience into consideration when choosing the photographs, so no spiders :-) The Photos program on the Mac makes quick work of actually creating the calendars, and Apple does a great job of printing. Enjoy!

As always, let me know if you're interested in prints (or calendars) of any of my photos. I'm always happy to oblige.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Print of the Week


I was going through some old photos when I came across this one and thought it would make a good print. Usually over Christmas I escape the circus and get outside to take some photos, despite the limited winter subjects. But it was -32c this morning (below -40 with the wind chill) and even I'm not that dedicated! I did get outside for a run the day before Christmas when it was still a balmy -20c. This colorful flower closeup seemed like a good antidote for Saskatchewan winter.

It was from a batch taken at Springs Preserve in Las Vegas on a rest day from rock climbing at Red Rocks. Whenever friends are headed to Las Vegas we try to sell them on taking a break from their hotel and the strip and visiting Springs Preserve. Sadly, few take us up on it. 

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Print of the Week

plant under water

This was taken last February near Portal in the south east of Arizona, near the border with New Mexico. Off the beaten path, and a beautiful area. Once more, I was indulging my fascination with water and the abstract patterns of nature. Not reflections this time though, just a plant underwater, distorted by the ripples. The green of the plant contrasts nicely with the red rock.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Nanny State

Saskatoon sunset

A while ago "Trail Closed" signs appeared on the lower unofficial dirt trail along the river. That's my walking route to work, so I ignored the signs and kept taking the trail. Judging by the packed snow on the trail, I wasn't far from the only one.

It always annoys me when they attempt to close these unofficial trails. The city or Meewasin (I'm never sure who does what) didn't build the trails (I suspect they were animal trails originally.) They didn't open the trails and they do little to maintain them.

It annoys me even more when they "close" them for no reason. I never did figure out why the signs were there. There didn't appear to be any construction or washouts which were the usual excuses. Perhaps something had been going on and they just forgot to remove the signs after they were done (common).

It does make me happy to see that I'm not the only one that objects to these attempts to control the wild trails. When there was a landslide on the East side of the river there was a long term battle between the closers (the "stop its" as my father called them) and the trail users. When signs didn't work, they put up fences. When people went around, they put up more fences. When people knocked down the fence, they put up stronger fences. People still knocked them down. What was so wrong about people walking around the trail damage? Or was it just the control freaks don't like being ignored?

Bureaucracies, no matter how well meaning, like to control things. They probably view it as protecting people. Of course, recipients, like me, see it as meddling attempts at control.

Out on my run, I encountered new signs: "Natural area closed. Beavers active. Danger of falling trees." Again, like most people, I ignored the signs and continued on down the trail.

The beavers have been fairly active. But there are always beavers along the river. You never know where they will decide to feed. And the activity was mostly in the fall when they were presumably stocking up for winter. I haven't seen much signs of recent activity. Of course, bureaucracies move very slowly, this is probably a response to what occurred two months ago.

Our culture is afraid of nature. That's partly because we are so disconnected from it. I think it's also because we can't stand the thought that we're not in control, that we're not the top dog. We (humans) think we are the supreme beings, in charge of everything. We don't want to admit that we are never going to be in charge of nature. There's no doubt that we can mess it up, chop down the forests, plow up the prairies, poison the oceans, etc. But being able to destroy does not imply control. A bull can destroy a china shop, that doesn't make him in charge.

Our culture is also obsessed with eliminating risk. But no matter how much we think we can remove risk, it is always there. You could have a heart attack. The brakes in your car could fail. The brakes in the oncoming car could fail and hit you. You could slip on a patch of ice. We cannot put up a sign for every possible risk. Nor would doing so eliminate all the risks.

For the people who don't ignore the signs, all you're accomplishing is making them even more afraid of nature. Less likely to care about protecting it, and more likely to want to turn it into a playground. Next thing you know we'll have to "do something" about the "beaver problem". A euphemism for more attacks on nature.

If you walk in a forest, there is a chance that a tree could fall. If you see that beavers have been chewing on the trees, then you can probably guess that there's a very slightly higher chance of a tree falling. Do we need to "close" a forest because there is a chance of a tree falling? If you really want to be a nanny state, then go ahead and put up your signs saying "Slightly higher danger of tree falling due to beaver activity." I wouldn't recommend standing among the trees in a windstorm, but that's regardless of whether the beavers have been around.

Of course, another reason for these signs is that we're also a culture that doesn't like to take responsibility for anything. If a dead tree falls on us because we stood under it in a wind storm, then we need someone to blame, preferably to sue. Because we're sure as heck not going to admit we did something stupid and paid the price. We sue MacDonalds because the coffee is hot. Really? On the one hand we think we're masters of the universe, on the other hand it's not our fault if we can't remember that coffee is hot? There is no limit to the extremes we will go to blame someone else for our bad luck or stupidity. And thus, we need those signs to supposedly limit liability, even though that's probably useless.

Realistically, what are the odds of a tree falling on you? I've never heard of it happening other than in a windstorm. But every year people get hit by lightning while they're golfing. They don't "close" the golf courses (except maybe during a storm). People get in car accidents all the time, but we don't "close" the roads. Realistically, I'm pretty sure I'm safer on the trail, even with the dastardly beavers, than I am walking and crossing icy streets, contending with drivers late for work with a phone in one hand and a coffee in the other.

let it snow

Monday, December 04, 2017

Print of the Week

Chromodoris marislae (nudibranch)

This is from our recent diving around Loreto, Baja, Mexico. It's one of the nudibranchs (sea slugs) that I photographed. (see Slugs and Worms). My underwater shots are seldom sharp enough to make large prints but this one isn't bad.

I often do more editing of photos prior to printing. This time I ended up rotating it to look more normal. Here's the previous version in the correct orientation i.e. it was on a wall.

Chromodoris marislae (nudibranch)

It was fairly deep and in the back of a recess in the wall, so there wasn't much light. I have an underwater flash (aka strobe) but I am terrible at using it. People get great results with flashes, so I know the problem is me. Part of the problem is that I don't go diving that much, so I don't have a chance to gain the necessary skills. This trip I pretty much gave up and quit trying to use it.

The flash is on a flexible arm so you can move it around, but that means you're never quite sure if it's pointing correctly. Plus I can never seem to get the exposure correct. A flash doesn't help with focusing in the dark so it also has a focusing light. Towards the end of the trip I found I had more success using just the focusing light (and not the flash), which is what I did for this photo. At least with a light you can see where you're aiming, and the camera can get the automatic exposure right. So for my next trip I'm looking for a constant light (like an underwater flashlight). They're not as powerful as flashes, but fine for closeups, which is what I mostly take.

Part of what made me choose one of my underwater photos is that I've been revisiting a set of underwater photography books by Richard Salas. He has so many amazing photographs that are so much better than mine. Definitely inspiration to keep working at it.

Saturday, December 02, 2017

Population is Number One Priority

When I read that headline I thought, "Great! Finally people are recognizing that the overflowing human population is destroying our finite planet."

Of course, when I read further I discovered that the number one priority was actually population growth (according to a Saskatchewan politician). The city of Saskatoon is no better, hell bent on raising its population. Why can't we focus on "better" instead of "more" and "bigger"?

I should have known better. Our civilization is based on the impossible dream of never ending growth. It amounts to the biggest pyramid scheme ever. And we know what happens to pyramid schemes, in the end they inevitably collapse.

Even most environmentalist are afraid to raise the subject of limiting or, god forbid, reducing the population. Some people will try to argue that it's not population that is the problem, it's consumption. I've never quite figured how that helps. So we can keep growing the population (for a little longer) if more of us (or preferably "them") live in poverty. But isn't the average standard of living also rising? It seems to me that convincing people to lower their standard of living is even harder than convincing them to have less children.

One of the sad statistics I came across recently was that people that describe themselves as "environmentally friendly" have higher rates of consumption - because they tend to be people with a higher standard of living. Economists may be happy to hear that higher income means higher consumption, but it's not helping the planet. Of course, economists don't care about the planet, it's an "externality". Would they think the same if it was their house they were burning down? Oh, I forgot, it is their house they're burning down.

Even sadder, I'm guilty of it just like everyone else. I buy too many cameras and computers. I travel too much. I try, but it's hard to escape the culture you're embedded in.

It's one thing if humans destroy themselves, but unfortunately, we're doing our best to drag the whole planetary ecosystem down with us.