Saturday, June 28, 2008

Refrigerator Musings

When your menopausal spouse has as her primary degree a bachelors in English literature, it would be advisable for you to refrain from bringing home the Shakespearean version of Magnetic Poetry.

And, as you can see from the punctuation, she's not finished yet.

Friday, June 27, 2008

More Clark

June 2008

This would be a good picture for an insurance company ad, or maybe a bank. Some enterprise that wants to project a sense of strength, trust and loyalty. Reliability and sureness would be hallmarks of this advertiser, a stalwart, long-time pillar of the community. Reliance and dependability, as long, of course, as there are no sudden loud noises. If that's the case all bets are off; any such thing like that and he's off hiding under the sink in the basement.

Which might be why housecats aren't used very much as symbols of corporate stability.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Face Off

Does it seem like I'm taking a lot of cat pictures lately? It feels that way to me, but the days are longer for these few weeks which means I get a little more light late in the day in the back of the house. Since it's the only good light I get here, I might as well take advantage of it.

Two recent pictures of Legs (on the left) and Betsy. These were taken a couple of hours apart. Legs was shot at five in the afternoon, at 1/1000 seconds f4, ISO 320. Betsy at around seven that evening, 1/60 second, f4 ISO 200. Canon 5D, 70-200 f2.8L @200mm. Existing light, WB cloudy.

Saturday, June 21, 2008


After taking one look at Clark's picture, below, Legs could not contain himself. "What kind of pretentious crap does he think he's auditioning for? What is he supposed to be, some kind of hunter? Identifying his prey in the wild? Ha! More like Horton hears a Who! I could teach them all something, I tells ya..."

Thursday, June 19, 2008


I haven't posted any recent pictures of Clark because there haven't really been any recent pictures of Clark. Until this evening, at least. Betsy was sitting by the door, so I went downstairs for the 70-200 f2.8. The late afternoon light was very delicate; I needed the length and speed of that lens if I hoped to get any usable images.

But when I got back upstairs Betsy had deserted me, and Clark was testing the breeze. He moves around fast when he's sniffing open air, and it's hard getting focus on such a twitchy subject using a short depth of field, but at this point he was transfixed by something in the trees over my shoulder. I locked focus on his right eye and pulled off three or four shots. ISO 320, 200mm @f2.8, 1/50 second.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Niagara Trips, Falls

They are quite impressive, these waterfalls, especially from a hotel room 21 floors up. And the hotels are all on a cliff with the ground floors about another two hundred feet above the river itself, so the overall panorama, when you first walk into the room, is quite striking. Even on a hazy, overcast morning with the mist rising and obscuring the lower part of the gorge, the scene is quite overwhelming.

Later in the afternoon, when the sky has cleared, a rainbow rises from the basin as the sun lowers in the sky. I thought about going down to the gorge, but I wasn't sure whether the angle would be right to catch the rainbow. It would also have taken me about half an hour to make my way down there, so if there wasn't a shot, I'd lose an hour overall, as well as any chance of getting anything from this vantage point. What I don't like about this picture (and the one above) is that blue tarp-covered walkway. But there was no way to avoid it, save for waiting until dark...

Somehow or another, the hokey concept of shining colored lights on the waterfalls has endured for decades. Of course, like just about everything having to do with Niagara Falls, this looks better from the Canadian side. And they don't even light up the entire Horseshoe Falls, just the parts you can see from Ontario. Take that, New York.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Two-Eyed Fiona

We've been a week on the road, and I'll be reporting on the trip later on, it's just that I came home to some technical setbacks - a blown computer monitor, for example - and I had to shoot at a weekend-long soccer tournament that started the morning after we got back. I also was cat-sitting for Fiona, the semi-feral little gray monster that lives in my sister's garage. Fiona's been around for a long time, and I have an interesting relationship with her - our exchanges go something like this:

Neil enters the garage: "Fiona?" From the rafters there's a sound not unlike two strips of Velcro being separated at a moderate speed. "Tchshrrrrrrriiiisssssskk!" Neil: "Well, good morning merry sunshine!" Fiona: "Hissss!!"

She has it good, this little ingrate, and she knows it, too. She'll sit up there in the rafters, on her little wool-covered pillow, while I stand on the desk below and rub her ears. She really likes having her ears rubbed, though she'll make it a point to spit every now and then, just to keep up appearances.

As you see, she's got a sweet little duplex here, in a nice neighborhood with good schools. You think after all these years she'd lighten up. But then, it's hard to imagine her as a lap cat.

These pictures were shot with a 17mm lens on the full-frame camera.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Toronto Report: O.P.P on Patrol

Traffic was at an absolute standstill on Her Majesty's Highway 404 south this morning, so it was safe for me to snap a quick shot of our friend posing atop the barrier. (Click for a larger image) This is a severely cropped section from the 12.8 MP camera, as I obviously did not want to wait until I got close enough to shout 'Bonjour!'. 'Tis been a long time since I had police on the business end of my driver's door, and I didn't want to distract him any from his real task: looking for single drivers in the HOV lane just south of the 401 exits, where the Don Valley Parkway splits off. He pulled someone over not long after this, too, so let's be careful out there.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Back in America's Hat

Centre Block and the Peace Tower, Parliament Hill.

The changing of the guard ceremony doesn't start till later this month, so I was left to wander the grounds of Parliament on Monday morning. The same heat wave enveloping the east coast of the US is blanketing Ottawa, only with a bit less humidity than down in New York. You still sweat, just with eight percent less on the exchange. This is my new favorite shot of the Center Block of Ottawa's Parliament complex; it was made with a 17-40mm lens (at 17mm) on the full-frame 5D

There have been two items of great public controversy here, first 'The Apology', which will have PM Stephen Harper in the house of commons on Wednesday apologizing on behalf of Canada to the aboriginals for the appalling treatment and abuse they underwent at state-run residential schools. Peaceful today, the grounds here are sure to be a frenzy on Wednesday.

The other huge national controversy is the - it seems - now-resolved battle over the theme song to 'Hockey Night in Canada', a 40-year long staple of Saturday night television. CBC TV, which paid about $500 a week for the usage since 1968, lost the rights to rival CTV. If you're really interested, Google it. We're here to talk pictures, remember?

Ottawa is a city full of old stone and new glass buildings, which give plenty of opportunity for a combination of the two. Here the facade of 240 Sparks Street reflects the imposing stone of the government's Confederation Building on Rue Wellington, about a block from Parliament.

This is a bad name for a restaurant. A very bad name. I do not want to go somewhere and be made to eat yesterday's food. (But good for them on their punctuation.)

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Two Cats, Two Cameras

I've used Canon digital SLR cameras since 2004, and my choice of film camera maker for the twenty-two years before that was Pentax. My only experience with Nikon was the Coolpix 990 and 995 I used for shooting real estate a few years ago. But since the studio I work for partners with Nikon for digital imaging, if I'm shooting something that corporate is going to print, it has to be shot with a Nikon.

Which is why I found myself taking home a 10 megapixel Nikon D200 and an SB-800 speedlight on Monday, with two days to play (er, familiarize myself) before the shoot on Wednesday. Quick review: Though overall quite comfortable to hold, the control dials are located in such a way that changing settings becomes awkward at times. Nikon also likes to put function buttons and switches all over the camera back and top deck, which I find distracting. So I'll be sticking with my Canons for a while longer. But Nikon has the coolest and most distinctive sounding shutter. I can always tell a Nikon shooter in a crowd. I just can't tell him much...

The 10.3 megapixel CCD sensor delivers very good color range and excellent detail as evinced by the shot of Molly, above. It's hard getting detail in such a black cat, but I was very happy with these results. (D200 - AF-S 18-70 @70mm - f8 - 1/30 second - 200 ISO - Flash bounced off ceiling)

We adopted Legs about a year and a half after we got the triplets. He started hanging around the back door in Long Beach around December of 2000, and we took him in and cleaned him up just before Christmas. He seemed, and the vet seemed to think, too, to be about the same age as our kids, which was around two.

But in the last year I've begun to have my doubts. The gray patches of his coat are flecked more and more with stray white hairs. He moves a lot slower than the others, he sleeps more, too. While he's always been an extremely lazy cat, I'm thinking he may be at least two years older than the others, if not more. The triplets were nine this spring, so I think he's closer to 11, maybe 12. It's been suggested I start giving him glucousimine supplements, which I'm going to look into.

Do you think portrait above makes him look like a wise old sage? Like Betsy's picture here, it was taken out the back door. Unlike Betsy's picture, the light was overcast, and so better suited to the short depth of field. Keeping the sharp focus isolated on the eye and surrounding fur and whiskers adds a sense of murk and mystery. Or you can think of it as 'Emo cat poses for his MySpace'. (Canon 5D - 70-200 2.8L @200mm f2.8 - 1/320 second - 320 ISO - existing light)

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Rhode Picture

Sherry's rhododendron began blooming last week in their tiny patch of temporary sunshine along the front walk. I happened to catch them during their brief morning sunbath the other day. The light is a little harsh, but in this location it's the best I'm able to do.

I used to think all rhododendron were poisonous, but apparently there are only two species to avoid, and those are found in northern Asia Minor and Istanbul, Turkey. I don't know if it applies to domestic breeds of the plant as well, but Wikipedia also tells us that honey made from rhododendron pollen is slightly hallucinogenic. With a bit of a laxative effect, too.